A new poll on Scottish independence might give a sharp shock to those would consider a ‘No’ vote a virtual certainty in a touted second referendum.
The Ipsos-Mori poll for STV showed that 50% of Scots would vote for Yes when don’t knows are removed, the same number as those who would back No. It remains to be seen whether this poll is an outlier, or whether Nicola Sturgeon’s dream could be realised by Theresa May pursuing a ‘hard Brexit’ from the European Union.
That vision will become clearer before the end of the month, when the Prime Minister is due to trigger Article 50 that will allow Britain to formally leave the EU.
It goes against the stated will of the Scottish Parliament, where MSPs voted last month on a motion to reject Article 50.
That divergence could be the ‘material change’ in Scotland’s circumstance that Sturgeon warned could trigger the second referendum.
How do these polling numbers compare to the opinions of Scots at this stage in the September 2014 referendum process, which concluded with a win for Better Together?
The poll might be part of an emerging trend, tallying with a BMG poll last month which showed No with a razor thin lead over yes, with 51% backing the Union while 49% wanted to go it alone.
Nicola Sturgeon has said that she is leaning towards the timescale favoured by her predecessor Alex Salmond, who has pencilled in Autumn 2018 for another referendum.
In polling terms, it could be an entirely different circumstance. Polls in 2012, in advance of the inter-governmental Edinburgh agreement put support for independence as low as 28%, and never higher than 37%.
It is, of course, too simplistic a reading to assume that the Yes campaign can add nearly 20% to their polling figures like they did between 2012 and 2014.
However, that doesn’t mean today’s poll isn’t significant. Alex Salmond still bemoans a shock poll 11 days before the 2014 vote which showed Yes narrowly ahead.
To his mind, that sparked into action a previously lax British establishment who had been confident they were on the verge of a comfortable victory.
In the end, the margin was relatively tight at 55-45 in favour of remaining in the UK.
Yes campaigners, will need no reminding of the dangers of complacency if a second referendum is called.
No matter how sunny the polling pictures looks for the SNP and their colleagues, they must recruit a far better campaign leadership than they did ahead of the 2014 referendum.
Theresa May’s speech to Scottish Conservative Conference showed that the Prime Minister has the stomach for a battle against the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon.
A Tory MSP even took to the airwaves this morning to say that even the upcoming local council elections could be used as a vote against another referendum.
Still fights to have
Both major opposition parties used today’s First Minister’s Questions to bash stand-in John Swinney over the SNP’s pre-2014 predictions on the Scottish economy.
While a ‘summer of consultation’ and a ‘National Survey’ on a second referendum don’t appear to have sparked perhaps the enthusiastic reaction that Sturgeon and co desired, it’s a safe bet they are working hard behind the scenes.
With this buzz of political activity, it still seems a major announcement from the First Minister is still on the horizon even as jubilant nationalists and cautious Unionists combined considered today’s poll as a ‘game on’ moment.
There are warnings, positives, and negatives for both sides from today’s huge poll. And it might still be remembered as another turning point in Scotland’s constitutional history.