The anti-independence campaign have spent the evening making an unconvincing attempt at looking thrilled to bits with the news that a regional ComRes referendum poll has shown them ahead in the Borders and Dumfries & Galloway, which is about as surprising a result as a constituency poll showing that the Tories have the lead in Windsor. It of course tells us absolutely nothing at all about the national picture - these two local authorities have a combined population of just 265,000, or roughly 5% of the population of Scotland as a whole. They're also just about the only parts of the country where the uber-unionist Tories can be seriously regarded as a major force, and in the 1997 devolution referendum the Yes vote there was approximately 12.5% lower than the nationwide figure. So it's not remotely unexpected that the Yes vote in this poll is some 9% lower than the current national average of 33.0%, and that the No vote is just over 10% higher than the national average of 48.8%. These differences are mirrored in the finding that Scottish national identity is somewhat weaker in the region than across the country as a whole...
ComRes figures for national identity in the Borders and Dumfries & Galloway (with YouGov's most recent figures for national identity across Scotland as a whole in brackets) :
More or wholly Scottish - 45% (54%)
Equally Scottish and British - 35% (27%)
More or wholly British - 19% (14%)
So although the most popular identity is Scottish, there is considerably more of a British loyalty in these two local authorities than there is across Scotland as a whole, and the extent of that difference is uncannily similar (and almost certainly directly connected) to the headline differences in voting intentions.
This poll also further muddies the waters with respect to the state of play among young people, because 16-24 year olds seem to be both the second-most likely age group to vote Yes, and the second-most likely to vote No. The apparent paradox comes about because there are fewer undecided voters in that age group than in any other - an entirely counter-intuitive finding that can probably be explained by the small sample size. The findings are more clear-cut in terms of national identity - a bigger percentage of 16-24 year olds feel mostly or wholly Scottish (51%) than is the case among any other age group. Not much comfort there for Jan Eichhorn and his wildly implausible theory (which was earnestly reported as hard fact by the Telegraph) that exposure to Facebook may somehow be making young people more "British" than their elders!
It's worth noting that the poll's billing as the "first full poll on attitudes to independence in the south of Scotland" is grossly misleading (if admittedly not technically inaccurate). It gives the false impression that the poll was conducted throughout the entire South of Scotland electoral region, whereas in fact the Borders and Dumfries & Galloway comprise significantly less than half of that region in terms of population, and are by far the most Tory-oriented part. So it's not even possible to make a direct comparison with the regional breakdown for the South that has been provided in recent TNS-BMRB polls.
Basically, the overall summary is "nothing much to see here". It may seem distinctly peculiar that the first voting intention poll of referendum year was confined to respondents in just two out of Scotland's thirty-two local authorities, but in fact there is a kind of logic to it. The 5% of the population who live there are the only people in Scotland who don't receive STV, and instead have to put up with an appalling service from "ITV Border" (basically the London-based ITV network with a tiny number of regional opt-outs, most of which are broadcast from Gateshead!). The poll was commissioned by ITV Border to launch their new late-night Representing Border show, which will presumably be a rough equivalent to STV's Scotland Tonight. This marks the station's attempt to up their game in referendum year - which won't exactly be difficult, given that they're essentially starting from a position of zero! The only slight cause for concern is that their political editor is former Labour spin doctor Peter MacMahon, although to be fair he isn't exactly John McTernan.
Probably the only people who might prick up their ears at the results of this poll are political dinosaurs like Lord Kilclooney and Jim Wallace, with their crazy dreams of London enforcing an Irish-style "partition" of Scotland in the event of a Yes vote...