Should Scotland be an independent country? (Panelbase / Sunday Times, 12th-16th December 2022)
Yes 52% (+3)
No 48% (-3)
So at least part of my guess from a few days ago turned out to be correct - the voting intention questions from the Panelbase poll that's been in the field were indeed commissioned by the Sunday Times. I think, as it turns out, the trans and gender related questions were also for the Sunday Times (I had initially thought it might be Stuart Campbell), but presumably the questions about Alba were for another client - possibly Alba itself. Anyway, what matters most is that the independence results are broadly in line with what we've been seeing from every other firm since the UK Supreme Court ruled that Scotland is a prisoner in a non-voluntary union. Once again, there's a clear Yes majority.
As soon as I mentioned this poll on Twitter, someone replied to say they were actually disappointed, because they had been hoping that Yes would now push on to 60%. That gave me a sense of déjà vu from the last Yes surge a couple of years ago, and I'd suggest it offers an insight into where parts of the independence movement, including people very close to the top of the SNP, have been going wrong for years. There are twin assumptions: a) that once independence support starts rising, it ought to be expected to keep rising, and b) that 60% is both attainable and necessary. Neither assumption is true. We might eventually see 60% Yes support in the odd isolated poll, but I don't expect it to ever happen on a sustained basis. But luckily, in a democracy, 50% + 1 is enough.
Ian McGeechan (a staunch unionist like so many rugby people) used to say when he was Scotland coach that you don't need to "beat" bigger countries like England or South Africa - you just need to contrive a way to be one or two points ahead when the referee blows the final whistle. It doesn't matter if the other team has been ahead for most of the game and has dominated territory and possession. I think that's how it will be for the independence campaign - we'll squeeze out a tightly fought 52% or 53% victory at the crucial moment, and we won't need to worry about whether that lead would have been sustained.
That path to independence can hardly be further removed from the belief of the likes of Andrew Wilson that it'll just fall into our laps after we patiently wait for a "settled will" of 60% to be established. My view is that if we're overly squeamish about winning independence by a narrow margin among a divided electorate, then we'll never reach our goal. The good news is that history strongly suggests that a consensus that independence is a good thing will quickly develop after independence has actually happened. Very few countries or territories that were previously ruled by London want to turn the clock back. There's the odd exception like Hong Kong - but it's no coincidence that Hong Kong is also one of the few former colonies that are not actually independent. Nostalgia for colonial rule in Hong Kong is really just a proxy for a desire to restore personal liberties and the rule of law.
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