So it is important to note that the Ipsos-STV Scottish Political Monitor – which found that 56 per cent of those “very likely to vote” would back independence in a referendum, compared to 44 per cent against, excluding undecideds – has a margin of error. Based on recent polls at general elections, Ipsos said there was a nine-in-ten chance that the true value was within four points of its estimates. Also, few would bet the house on the basis of one survey.
And there is the possibility, as Ipsos suggested, that this could be a “temporary bounce” following the Supreme Court ruling against the Scottish Government’s plans for a referendum next year.
However, such caveats aside, these figures are another wake-up call to unionists, not just in Scotland, but across the UK, some of whom appear to have been lulled into a false sense of security by years of SNP government at Holyrood without their main cause being significantly advanced.
There were also some gloomy figures for the SNP. The top issues were, predictably, the NHS and the cost-of-living crisis, while independence was tied with education for third. And public trust in the SNP to manage the health service fell by 18 percentage points and the economy by ten points compared to last year.
But despite this, the SNP were up seven points on 51 per cent, compared to May, with Labour up two on 25 and the Scottish Conservatives down six on 13, suggesting Labour is continuing to assume the mantle of defender of the Union.
The Scots Tories may feel justifiably aggrieved, given they have done little to warrant such a decline. Instead the problem has been with Westminster, where the chaotic governments of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss have rocked confidence in the UK.
Rishi Sunak has undoubtedly steadied the ship but, even in these hard times, he now needs to develop a positive vision for the UK – one based on cold, hard reality, not empty rhetoric. People in Scotland need to hear it. He should start by getting real about the economic damage of Johnson’s hard Brexit. Whether support for independence is as high as Ipsos suggests, unionists who become complacent risk conceding the field to their opponents.