Scottish government ‘obsessed with independence’

By Adam Bienkov

The Scottish government risks looking obsessed with independence, after a new poll found most voters want them to focus on other issues instead.

Sixty-one per cent of the public say Alex Salmond's government has the wrong priority for the country, with almost half saying that independence appeared to be the government's number one concern.

Of those saying the SNP-led government had the wrong priorities, most said they should concentrate on jobs, the economy and healthcare instead.

The findings were reflected in the poll's headline figures, which found that 65% of the Scottish public were opposed to independence, with just 26% in favour.

Despite these findings, the Scottish public still has a more favourable view of Holyrood than Westminster, with voters judging that MSPs do a better job of representing them than Scottish MPs.

However, most respondents were unsure of what the Scottish parliament actually did. Four out of ten said they had "very little idea" which parliament did what.

Policing was highlighted as the main achievement of the Scottish government so far with free dental care and prescriptions also highly valued.

However, voters were less sure of proposals to give extra powers to Holyrood. 59% said that plans for so-called "devo-max" would lead to their taxes going up.

The poll found that first minister Alex Salmond is still dominating Scottish politics, with four out of ten voters saying they had either never heard of, or had no opinion of Labour leader Johann Lamont.

Scottish Labour said the poll showed voters saw the independence campaign as a "distraction" from their real concerns.

"This poll reinforces what Scottish Labour has been saying for a number of months: the SNP has put Scotland on pause while they focus on breaking up Britain. Scots know that this is a distraction from what really matters to them," deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party Anas Sarwar said.

Lord Ashcroft said his poll highlighted the weaknesses in the campaign for independence.

"The uncertainty about Holyrood's existing powers, apparent lack of serious alternative leaders, concern about its priorities and reluctance to trust it fully with the purse strings also help explain why 65% opposed Scottish independence. Besides, as one of our participants put it, Alex Salmond has quite enough power as it is," he said.

Campaigners for independence this morning accused the No campaign of trying to misrepresent the results of the poll.

The SNP said independence was the only way to address voters' concerns.

"The reality is that the only way for the Scottish Parliament to achieve the job-creating powers Scotland needs is with a Yes vote next September," SNP MSP Sandra White said.