Yes will lose polling lead if independence movement has no focus or vision

TWO polls published today have caused a mix of over-excitement on the Unionist side of Scotland’s constitutional debate and growing anxiety among the Yes movement. But what, if anything, can we learn from these polls and current polling trends?

Let’s take the more controversial poll first.

Scotland on Sunday has published data from a Savanta ComRes poll suggesting that 43% of voters would vote Yes, and 46% would vote No. However, these figures are not “turnout weighted” – a method pollsters use to assign greater weight to the voting intentions of those who are most likely to vote on the day.

This is a major change from their last poll in February, which showed 47% support for Yes and 42% support for No. But without turnout weighting, that poll would have shown 43% support for Yes and 46% support for No – unchanged to this month.

READ MORE: Top political scientists question results of latest Scottish independence poll

Another poll, conducted by Panelbase on behalf of The Sunday Times, provides more reliable headline figures. They found Yes support on 46% (-3), with No support on 47% (+3), placing Yes and No neck-and-neck.

Panelbase also found slipping support for both the SNP and the Greens. This is the first poll since December 2019 in which fewer than half – 47% (-5) – of Scottish voters intend to vote SNP with their constituency vote, with the SNP list vote also down to 42% (-4).

The proportion of Scots who told Panelbase they would vote Scottish Green with their regional vote, 6% (-2), is the lowest a poll has found since September 2020, and below their result in 2016.

These findings reflect a clear trend in polling data. A six-poll rolling average shows a January 2021 peak in Yes support of 49% and a peak Yes lead of +9. Average Yes support has slipped slightly to 47%, with a lead of +3.

As more recent polls have shown lower Yes support, expect that to tighten further.

Similarly, average SNP support has fallen from a peak of 55% in November 2020 to 51% today, with a further drop also expected.

As more data becomes available this week, we will be able to paint a clearer picture of why this decline is occurring, but it is at least partially down to divisions within the SNP and the Yes movement over policy and personalities. Voters habitually punish divided parties that do not appear to be focused on their priorities, and the media narrative for the past few weeks has been entirely focused on the SNP’s divisions.

If this continues, further slippage is highly likely.

READ MORE: Savanta ComRes poll showing Yes support down should be ‘treated with caution’

The current pace of decline would lead to a hung parliament, with the SNP reliant on Scottish Green votes to pass legislation – including legislating for a future independence referendum. As today’s Panelbase poll found, there is a risk that as the SNP vote falls and the party becomes more reliant on regional list seats, the Scottish Greens could be squeezed between the SNP and the Unionist parties, losing seats.

Two months out from the most important Holyrood election Scotland has held, the Yes movement faces a very real risk of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. No pro-independence majority, no referendum. Voters have no time for self-indulgent navel-gazing.

It’s high time the SNP and Yes activists get into campaigning mode and start articulating a vision for a post-pandemic recovery and an independent Scotland that engages with the issues affecting Scots in our day-to-day lives.

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