You've probably seen by now that Wings has a new Panelbase poll out. It looks like this is merely the first of several questions from the poll that will be published over the coming days (making it an almost unique example of a political poll that was commissioned with the specific intention of keeping people entertained over Christmas!).
The UK is currently scheduled to leave the EU in March of 2019. If a referendum on Scottish independence was held around this time, and if a Yes vote meant that Scotland would definitely stay in the EU when the UK left, which way do you think you would vote?
I would vote for an independent Scotland in the EU: 49%
I would vote for Scotland to stay in the UK and leave the EU: 51%
For the avoidance of doubt, this can't be taken to indicate a recent increase in support for independence, because the poll asks a non-conventional and hypothetical question, and indeed offers a choice between two non-conventional and hypothetical answers. It's not directly comparable with more standard independence polls, which over the last few months have had the Yes vote hovering between 43% and 47%. Nevertheless, it's an extremely interesting finding because it directly contradicts a narrative that is almost beginning to be regarded in some quarters as indisputable fact - namely that the SNP leadership made a serious miscalculation in 2016 and early 2017 by assuming that Brexit could in itself bring about majority support for independence. The theory is that the Yes side has lost as many (or perhaps more) votes as it has gained, because too many people who voted Yes in 2014 and Leave in 2016 do not regard continued membership of the EU as a price worth paying for independence, while not enough Remain voters regard independence as a price worth paying for EU membership. This poll suggests the opposite is the case - that explicitly tying independence to EU membership actually produces a net gain in Yes support, which is precisely what the SNP leadership thought would be the case all along.
As it happens, the proportion of Remain voters in the poll who say they would vote against independence (32%) is significantly higher than the proportion of Leave voters who say they would vote in favour of independence (21%). But because there are far more Remain voters than Leave voters in Scotland, that's still enough to produce a net boost for Yes.
Of course, some will argue that the results of the poll are meaningless because the hypothetical scenario presented by the question will never come to pass - ie. if there's an independence referendum in early 2019, voters won't have absolute 100% certainty that an independent Scotland would remain in the EU (or rejoin after a short hiatus, which amounts to the same thing). But if EU leaders are interested in the unexpected bonus of retaining one-third of the UK's land mass after Brexit, and it's not hard to see why they might be, it's quite conceivable that they could find a way of dropping sufficiently heavy hints about how easy an independent Scotland is likely to find it to remain a member. That might produce much the same effect on public opinion as absolute certainty would.
By the way, don't be dismayed by the fact that the No side are slightly ahead even on the hypothetical question. This poll is the quintessential statistical tie - meaning it's not possible to know which side is really ahead due to the standard 3% margin of error. Looking at the raw numbers in the datasets, the result appears to be fractionally closer than even the headline numbers suggest - something like Yes 49.2%, No 50.8%.
One slight reason for caution is that people minded to vote No on a standard independence question seem to have been disproportionately likely to have said "Don't Know" to the question tying independence to EU membership, and thus many are excluded from the headline figures. But that in itself is an intriguing finding.