We've been in the 'fog of war' stage since the Supreme Court ruling. On the one hand there was the Find Out Now poll suggesting that public opinion had been riled up by the discovery that the UK is not a voluntary union and that Scotland is being held prisoner. On the other hand, that poll used very unconventional wording, and both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have been claiming that they've actually found on the doorsteps that the de facto referendum plan is not going down well. (In the immortal words of Mandy Rice-Davies: they would say that, wouldn't they?) So the impact of the ruling has been far from clear, and I wouldn't have been surprised if the first conventional poll had shown either a big drop in the Yes vote, or a big increase. Here's the very good news: it's the latter.
Should Scotland be an independent country? (Redfield & Wilton Strategies, 26th-27th November 2022)
Yes 52% (+4)
No 48% (-4)
So it turns out that people don't like being told that they can't have what they vote for in an alleged democracy, or that they can't even vote at all. Who'd have thunk it?
An even more dramatic example of that effect - which unionists perhaps should have seen coming due to what we know about basic human psychology - is that there is now a plurality in favour of holding an independence referendum within the next year, which represents a massive turnaround since the last time the question was asked. Tell people they're not allowed to have something, and they'll start wanting it.
In favour of an independence referendum within the next year: 46% (+12)
Opposed to an independence referendum within the next year: 43% (-7)
I can't ever remember any previous poll from any firm showing such clear support for a second indyref within such a tight timescale - usually the public's reaction is 'yes to the principle of a referendum, but not just yet'. So this is a very significant shift, and it'll be interesting to see if it holds up.
So far, it may look like Nicola Sturgeon's strategy is working brilliantly - the Supreme Court ruling seems to have substantially increased support for both independence itself and for a quick independence referendum. There is, however, a fly in the ointment. The poll shows that pro-independence parties are actually going backwards in Ms Sturgeon's preferred arena for obtaining an independence mandate, namely the next Westminster election.
Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election:
SNP 41% (-4)
Labour 31% (+12)
Conservatives 16% (-9)
Liberal Democrats 8% (-2)
Greens 2% (+1)
Reform UK 2% (+2)
Even with the SNP and Greens in combination, that's only 43% for pro-indy parties, at a time when there's actually 52% support for indy. Let me take this opportunity yet again to appeal to the SNP leadership and their loyalists to think again, and to see the overwhelming sense of using an early Holyrood election as a de facto referendum instead. There is absolutely no point in a strategy that successfully builds support for independence if that support simply won't translate to the election you've decided to use as a plebiscite. What's clearly going wrong here is that the SNP are losing pro-independence votes to Labour at Westminster, because people can see that Labour are on the brink of power and (wrongly) think that voting Labour is the best way to finish off the Tories. That problem isn't going to go away, unless Labour's mammoth GB-wide poll lead collapses over the next two years. But it's a problem that wouldn't apply in a Holyrood election - even if polls show a swing from SNP to Labour at Holyrood as well, it would be much easier to reverse that swing over the course of a 'home fixture' campaign that is not totally dominated by Britain-wide issues, and by Britain-wide TV leaders' debates that might exclude Ms Sturgeon altogether.
And to reiterate the other considerable disadvantages of using a Westminster election: 16 and 17 year olds can't vote (most of them would likely be Yes), EU citizens can't vote (most of them would likely be Yes), and photo ID rules would disproportionately disenfranchise younger voters (who are more likely to be Yes).
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