'Tough Call' For Sturgeon In Event Of Brexit

24 April 2016, 11:27 | Updated: 24 April 2016, 11:29

Nicola Sturgeon will face a ''tough decision'' on whether to call another Scottish independence referendum if the UK leaves the European Union with a Heart poll suggesting support has dipped.

The SNP leader has cited a UK vote to leave the EU against Scotland's will as a material change of circumstances from 2014 which would ``almost certainly'' trigger another independence referendum.

But Brexit would only push support for independence up slightly - from 47% to 50% - leaving Scotland split down the middle, a Panelbase poll for Heart and The Sunday Times has found.

Support has dipped from 52% who said they would vote for independence if the UK left the EU in a similar poll in January.

John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, told the Sunday Times: ''Although Scotland apparently remains determined to vote by nearly two to one in favour of remaining in the EU, this does not mean that a UK-wide vote to leave would necessarily clear the way for Nicola Sturgeon to hold and win a second independence referendum.

''Such an outcome is more likely to leave her with a tough decision as to whether to call a second referendum at all.''

Mr Curtice said a 50:50 split on independence would leave Ms Sturgeon ``well short of the 60% support for independence she says she would want to see before calling a second referendum''.

Panelbase interviewed 1,021 adults resident in Scotland from April 6-15.

Support for the EU remains higher in Scotland than in England, with 63% supporting continued UK membership of the EU and 37% supporting withdrawal.

Almost twice as many (38%) people believing withdrawal would weaken the economy than those who believe it would be stronger (20%).

A quarter say Brexit would strengthen UK democracy but almost as many (23%) say it would be weaker.

About one in five (21%) believe Scotland would be at less risk of terrorism after Brexit, while 14% think it would be more at risk.

Nearly a third (32%) believe immigration would go down if Britain leaves the EU, and only 10% expect it to go up.

Almost two thirds of Scottish voters (63%) believe that the UK is likely to vote to remain in the EU while just 22% expect Brexit and 15% are unsure.