NICOLA Sturgeon’s leadership of the SNP has brought more women into the independence move-ment, an expert has claimed.

New research has found Yes supporters feel both more Scottish and more European than the public as a whole.

The strength of feeling is even more pronounced amongst members of Yes organisations. And though fewer women than men backed Yes in 2014, the Glasgow University team found there is now no difference between the sexes.

The findings follow surveys of more than 1300 people at independence rallies in Aberdeen, Perth, Edinburgh and Glasgow between August and November, including The National’s own event.

Data gather from these was used along with information from the latest British Election Study, which was carried out this summer.

Michael Heaney, who led the work, says Sturgeon’s ascent to the SNP leadership has changed the make-up of the Yes movement. He said: “We don’t see any gender division at all in these three levels of mobilisation –  support for the cause, attendance at demonstrations, and membership in movement organisations.

“When you have a woman at the top of the party, you are going to get a different kind of leadership than when you have a man at the top of the party. I think that’s reflected in these numbers.

“If there was in the past a difference between men and women, that is clearly no longer present.”

In 2014, post-referendum polling suggested almost 60% of women had voted No, while more than half of men voted Yes.

READ MORE: General Election: New poll predicts Labour wipeout and SNP gains

Last year work by Women For Independence (WFI) suggested that policies brought forward by Sturgeon’s government on childcare, domestic abuse and gender-balanced boards were making a “huge difference” to women’s stance on the constitution.

The organisation said it was “seeing that difference” from 2014, when Alex Salmond was first minister, SNP leader and Yes campaign figurehead.

While Heaney’s team said the independence movement has been “on the rise” this year, the newly published study is groundwork for further research in 2020, during what he expects will be a “pivotal” year.

Sturgeon has vowed to call indyref2 during this period, but Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn have said they’ll refuse to grant a Section 30 order to make the vote legal – something key to gaining EU membership as an independent country.

Heaney said the policy constitutional conflict “really raises the stakes for the movement”, adding: “Even though the movement has been resurgent this year, I think that next year will see that intensify even more. There’s a lot on the line.”

Heaney says the position of the UK-wide party heads is a “direct challenge” to Yes movement leaders, and the SNP in particular. He said: “If the SNP leadership is not able to produce an independence referendum, then their position of leadership is really called into question.”

The new work found “significant associations between political identities and mobilisation into the Scottish independence movement,” adding: “People who were progressively more involved in the movement considered themselves increasingly more Scottish and European in their political identities.

“Conversely, people viewing themselves as being more British tended to have less involvement in the movement.”

The paper further states that the results “may be of strategic value both to supporters and opponents of independence”, adding: “For example, supporters of independence might benefit from knowing that their efforts to link Scottish and European identities have been effective among their strongest supporters but not among the general public in Scotland. The movement might benefit from revisiting its public messaging on this point.

“Similarly, opponents of independence might benefit from creating messaging that emphasises how British and Scottish identities are compatible with one another. Indeed, it seems that the struggle over independence will depend heavily on citizens’ understandings of their political identities.”

Predicting an upsurge in No campaigning after the General Election, Heaney said “both sides could stand to broaden their support among young people” and forecast a rise in engagement amongst people who have not taken part in the constitutional conversation as of yet.

He said: “Hundreds of thousands of people have participated so far, but that’s not everyone. Participation will broaden to people that previously have seen themselves having less of a stake in this.

“The number one determinant is being asked – if you want people to participate, you have to ask them.”