You might remember I said the other day that the SNP's lead in the next Poll of Polls update was almost certainly going to be down, simply as a result of the Ipsos-Mori poll dropping out of the sample. Well, that's happened, but the extent of the change is much less than I anticipated - the lead has only slipped from 20.6% to 18.2%. The most noticeable change is actually to be found among the smaller parties - UKIP and the Greens have swapped over to take up fourth and sixth place respectively, with the Lib Dems sandwiched between them in fifth, on a truly dismal 4.3% of the vote. Don't take the Greens' apparent plight too seriously - it only comes about because the new Panelbase poll puts them on an unusually low 1%, and that poll now makes up two-thirds of the sample.
Apart from the Panelbase/Wings poll, five Scottish subsamples from GB-wide polls are also taken into account - three from YouGov, one from Ashcroft and one from Populus.
Scottish voting intentions for the May 2015 UK general election :
SNP 45.2% (-0.8)
Labour 27.0% (+1.6)
Conservatives 15.6% (+1.7)
UKIP 5.9% (+2.0)
Liberal Democrats 4.3% (-1.0)
Greens 2.0% (-2.6)
(The Poll of Polls uses the Scottish subsamples from all GB-wide polls that have been conducted entirely within the last seven days and for which datasets have been provided, and also all full-scale Scottish polls that have been conducted at least partly within the last seven days. Full-scale polls are given ten times the weighting of subsamples.)
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A few days ago, a member of the Panelbase panel ("the Panelbase panel" sounds faintly silly but I can't think of a better way of phrasing it) gave me a sneak preview of the questions that had been asked in the firm's latest poll, which had obviously been commissioned by a pro-independence client. There were some real crackers in there, and I was excited to see the outcome - but I was also a bit nervous, because it could have backfired if the questions on Europe had gone the "wrong" way. As it turns out, the results were very close, but in both cases they went the way we would have hoped.
There may be a referendum in 2017 on the UK’s membership of the European Union. If there is, which way do you currently think you’d vote?
Stay in the EU : 41%
Leave the EU : 38%
Imagine that Scotland voted to stay in the EU, but was outvoted by the rest of the UK choosing to leave. In those circumstances, would a second Scottish independence referendum be justified, so that Scotland wasn’t forced out of the EU against its will?
Yes, it would be justified : 45%
No, we should accept the UK-wide result : 41%
The closeness on the latter question probably shouldn't be of too much concern, because one of the most fascinating findings of the Ipsos-Mori poll was that people were even more likely to support an early second referendum for its own sake than they were for any specific reason that was suggested. If that's correct, it may be that some of the 41% of people who told Panelbase that they wouldn't support a second referendum in the event of an EU exit were not actually opposed to another referendum, but simply thought that an enforced EU exit was not a good enough reason in itself.
In any case, we know how bad people are at answering hypothetical questions, and I suspect the shock of the impending loss of EU citizenship and freedom of movement would be much greater than people imagine when they fill in online surveys right now.
As for the first question, the Murdo Frasers and Kenny Farquharsons of this world might be tempted to leap on the results and claim them as "proof" that Scottish opinion on the EU isn't all that different from opinion in the rest of the UK - and they'd be fools to do so. The more pro-European slant in Scottish opinion is pretty well established across the polling industry, and what this poll says to me is that if Panelbase had run the same question throughout the whole of Great Britain on the same dates, they'd have found a solid majority for leaving the EU. That may have come about because of the recent spat over the bill of £1.7 billion that David "Colonel Mustard" Cameron was presented with by Brussels.
So if anything, the state of play indicated by this poll increases the chances of Scotland being ejected from the EU against its will, together with all of the interesting potential side-effects that may flow from that.
The finding that Yes voters in the independence referendum are solidly pro-EU, while No voters break the other way, shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. And yet it still blows an enormous hole in one of the No campaign's most treasured fictions - namely that British unionism is all about nations coming together in a vague, fuzzy, feel-good, happy-clappy "why build another wall?" sort of way. It turns out that the isolationists were mostly to be found in the anti-independence camp. With UKIP and the BNP firmly inside Alistair Darling's big tent, who'd ever have thunk it?