Support for Scottish independence has dropped in recent months and stands at its lowest level for two years, according to a poll.

The Panelbase survey for the Sunday Times found 48 per cent support for separation and 52 per cent backing for the Union when undecided voters were excluded.

This represented a four-point swing since a poll conducted in April produced the opposite result. It also showed the lowest support for independence in a Panelbase poll since 2019.

Prof Sir John Curtice, Britain’s most eminent psephologist, said the results indicated "a cooling of the independence ardour" since the Holyrood elections last month. Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP won a fourth term in power but fell one seat short of a majority.

The poll also found only 19 per cent of Scots think there should be another referendum within the next year, down three points on the last survey, while 35 per cent said it should be staged within the next two to five years.

The remaining 46 per cent said a separation vote should not be staged in the next few years. A total of 1,287 adults aged 16 and over were surveyed between June 16 and 24.

Ms Sturgeon has said she wants a referendum by autumn 2023, after the immediate health crisis has passed but while Scotland is still recovering from the pandemic.

However, Michael Gove told the Telegraph last week that Boris Johnson will not grant another separation vote before the 2024 general election.

Prof Curtice said the SNP cannot afford the independence debate "to be off the boil too long" and needed a campaign to win over more Scots.

"Otherwise, Ms Sturgeon might find herself stuck with a promise to hold a referendum that she has little hope of winning," he told the Sunday Times.

Pamela Nash, chief executive of campaign group Scotland in Union, said: "The UK’s broad shoulders have helped every part of the country through this crisis, from protecting jobs to a successful vaccination programme, so it is not surprising that more people are recognising the benefits of remaining part of the UK.

"The Scottish Government should listen to what voters are saying and focus on the Covid recovery, which will take many years, and not reopen old divisions."

An SNP spokesman said: "The people of Scotland have delivered a cast-iron mandate for a fresh independence referendum when the Covid crisis has passed.

"Scotland must have the right to decide our own future, so we can choose a better path than Boris Johnson’s shambolic Tory government and continue to build a fairer country."