Nicola Sturgeon has backed away from her threat to hold a new independence referendum this year as a new poll showed support for leaving the UK had fallen to its lowest level in 18 months. The First Minister launched a blueprint on Thursday setting out key actions her government will take in the first 100 days of the new Holyrood term, if she wins re-election. It includes no mention of seeking negotiations about a new vote on leaving the UK. Senior SNP figures have repeatedly claimed that a new referendum could be held as early as this year if the party wins next week’s election. Ms Sturgeon had previously refused to rule out a snap vote in late 2021. However, the omission of any early independence drive in the document was seen as a sign that she would not immediately seek to organise a new referendum, and instead stick to the 2023 deadline in her manifesto. Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, claimed Ms Sturgeon knew her referendum push was unpopular so she was “pretending” she would not demand one straight away. A new Savanta Comres survey found that support for independence had slid to 42 per cent, the lowest level since the last UK general election in 2019, with support for the union at 49 per cent. “They’re claiming to be pausing independence for three months and expecting us to be grateful but they’re not being honest with voters,” Mr Ross said. “Everyone has seen this act before. “All the evidence from past elections confirms that the SNP are deceiving voters and they’ll ramp up their calls for another referendum the first chance they get.” Experts had already raised significant doubts about whether there would be time to hold a referendum this year, even with UK Government cooperation, despite key Sturgeon lieutenants such as Ian Blackford and Mike Russell encouraging activists to think a 2021 vote was possible. A delay of more than three months between the election and entering talks over a referendum effectively rules out any chance of it taking place this year, while the UK Government has said it would not grant powers anyway.