JUST before the SNP conference this month, Alex Salmond trumpeted the results of a ComRes poll that reported that 49 per cent of people in Scotland were now in favour of independence, while only 37 per cent were against.
Moreover, this came after a TNS-BMRB poll conducted at the end of August, which stated that independence was now narrowly ahead in the referendum vote.
It was little wonder the SNP felt it could claim that, following its stupendous election victory in May, the pro-independence tide was now finally flowing in.
Alas, what Salmond did not point out was that the ComRes poll was a Britain-wide survey that only interviewed 146 people north of the border. Or that the TBS-BMRB poll has consistently found much higher support for independence than most other polls, and that its 39 per cent pro-independence reading was no higher than it had uncovered on more than one occasion before.
Now today’s YouGov poll puts support for independence at just 34 per cent. That is towards the high end of the range within which the figure has oscillated in the same poll before, but is still no higher than was recorded on more than one occasion in the run up to May’s election.
Moreover, the finding echoes that of two other recent polls that reported considerable anti-independence majorities. It seems that the independence bandwagon still has to generate much momentum after all.
There is one section of the Scottish public above all that the SNP still has to persuade – women. Like those of many other companies, YouGov’s polls have persistently found that women are relatively reluctant to back independence. Our latest poll suggests the gender gap is now very large indeed – just 27 per cent of women say they would vote for independence, compared with 41 per cent of men.
Equally, Salmond still has to win over many middle-class voters, a group perhaps for whom fears about what independence might mean for Scotland’s economy are particularly salient.
Only 31 per cent of middle-class voters back independence, compared with 36 per cent of the working-class electorate – a gap that echoes that found in many previous YouGov polls.
John Curtice is Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University