Back in the autumn, every Scottish poll delivered bad news for Unionists. The 'yes' side was consistently ahead and the Nationalists began to argue that independence was becoming the ‘settled will’ of the Scottish people. But polling in the last seven days has, as I say in the magazine this week, disrupted this narrative.
There have now been several polls, including two more published just this morning, showing the Union side ahead. It is clear that there is nothing inevitable about Scottish independence.
The Scotsman poll today also indicates that the SNP will fall just short of an overall majority in the Holyrood elections in May. Now, this shift in the polls should be kept in perspective. It is remarkable that after 14 years in power and in an electoral system designed to try and prevent any party from winning outright, the SNP are so close to doing so. But the idea of an outright SNP victory has been assumed by so many for so long that even a pro-independence majority combined with the Green vote would feel like a setback.
It would undoubtedly weaken Sturgeon’s standing in her party and raise questions about her ability — and desire — to carry on. This would be significant because much of the recent rise in support for independence has been down to her personal appeal. The 'yes' side is much weaker without her.