Apologies for the slight delay in getting this post up - I was writing an article for The National about the Ashcroft poll, which you can read HERE. But here are the rather wonderful figures that you've probably already seen...
Should Scotland be an independent country?
It's not possible to give percentage changes from the last comparable poll, because Ashcroft hasn't been polling on independence in recent years. That means, strictly speaking, that we shouldn't talk about "Yes moving into the lead", because it's conceivable that previous Ashcroft polls (if they had existed) would also have shown a Yes lead. However, even the most Yes-friendly pollsters had No consistently in the lead last year, so it does seem overwhelmingly likely that the Ashcroft methodology would have shown a No lead giving way to a Yes lead at some point - but what we don't know is exactly when that would have happened. Is the Yes breakthrough a direct consequence of Boris Johnson becoming Prime Minister? We'll only find out for sure if Panelbase (the only firm to have polled fairly regularly on independence this year) shows a Yes lead in their next poll.
Before I proceed any further, I'd just like to observe again that Mike Smithson, known and loved by thousands of East Dunbartonshire residents as a keen letter-writing impartial Lib Dem election expert, is utterly unspoofable. Here we have a poll that shows a majority in favour of independence for the first time in two years, that shows a majority want a second independence referendum by 2021, and that shows Nicola Sturgeon is comfortably the most popular leading politician in Scotland, well ahead of Ruth Davidson and Jo Swinson. And yet what is Smithson's choice of headline? "Lord Ashcroft poll has Swinson beating Johnson, Corbyn and Farage in Scotland." Technically true, Mike, but I'd gently suggest to you that there's a bigger picture here that you might be missing through those Lib Dem goggles of yours.
In fact, a direct comparison between the personal ratings of Nicola Sturgeon and Jo Swinson makes for pretty depressing reading for the new Lib Dem leader. Respondents were asked to give each politician a score between 0 and 100, with 0 being the worst possible figure and 100 the best. In spite of the hatred (I don't think that's too strong a word) that some unionists feel towards Ms Sturgeon, and in spite of the fact that Ms Swinson is significantly less well-known than Ms Sturgeon, the 30% of voters who gave Ms Swinson a basement rating of between 0 and 10 is virtually identical to the 34% who did the same for Ms Sturgeon. Meanwhile, a measly 4% gave Ms Swinson a high rating of between 81 and 100, compared to a very substantial 24% who did so for Ms Sturgeon.
Although it's true that Ms Swinson's average rating of 31 (that's 31 out of 100, remember!) is higher than that of deeply unpopular politicians such as Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, it's not that much higher in the overall scheme of things. She's only seven points ahead of Mr Johnson on 24, and nine points ahead of Mr Corbyn on 22. That's not really much to write home about.
Average (mean) rating of each politician out of 100:
Nicola Sturgeon 45
Ruth Davidson 36
Jo Swinson 31
Willie Rennie 30
Boris Johnson 24
Jeremy Corbyn 22
Richard Leonard 22
Nigel Farage 18
Average (median) rating of each politician out of 100:
Nicola Sturgeon 50
Ruth Davidson 26
Jo Swinson 25
Willie Rennie 25
Richard Leonard 10
Jeremy Corbyn 9
Boris Johnson 3
Nigel Farage 2
You can just imagine the mounting panic of unionist politicians and strategists when they first read through this poll. Normally it's possible for them to find a silver lining to cling to somewhere, but on this occasion the Yes side seem to have managed a full house...
Majority for independence - CHECK
Majority in favour of holding an independence referendum by 2021 - CHECK
Majority who think maintaining EU membership is more important than staying part of the UK - CHECK
Majority who think Brexit strengthens the case for independence - CHECK
Majority who think Brexit makes independence more likely - CHECK
Majority who predict a second independence referendum would result in a Yes win - CHECK
Nicola Sturgeon the most popular politician - CHECK
I'm slightly dubious about the wording of the question that asks whether EU membership or staying part of the UK is more important if it's not possible to have both, because there's an implicit presumption there that it would be desirable to have both, which may have caused some pro-indy people to opt out of the question altogether. In spite of that, though, 45% say EU membership is more important, and only 43% say remaining in the UK is more important.
A few people have been asking whether it's true that 16 and 17 year olds were not interviewed for the poll. As far as I can see from the datasets that's the case, so it's possible that the Yes vote should be a little higher and the No vote should be a little lower. It's unlikely that it would make more than a 1% difference in each case, although that would still be enough to turn a 4% Yes lead into a 6% Yes lead. That said, it's worth pointing out that there was a poll a few months ago that appeared to exclude 16 and 17 year olds...but that turned out to be an error in the datasets.