AS the SNP conference got under way in Aberdeen on Sunday, there was – for a change –some good news for independence from a UK newspaper. The Sunday Times published an opinion poll of Scottish voters which showed that support for independence is now sitting at 50%. This is an increase from the last time the Sunday Times polled voters in Scotland about the independence question. Last year, Panelbase had support for independence at 45%.

Since Panelbase is traditionally one of the polling companies which typically shows a lower support for independence, and since it appears that 16 and 17-year-olds were not included, it’s likely that support for independence currently enjoys a slight majority in support amongst the electorate in Scotland. This new poll comes after a poll carried out by the Conservative peer Michael Ashcroft found that a slight majority in Scotland now support independence.

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Meanwhile, a poll for Progress Scotland found that a No-Deal Brexit is likely to have a significant effect on voting intentions regarding independence, with 61% believing that the chaos of Brexit makes independence more likely and 53% saying that Brexit has made them change their minds about Scotland’s future. Scotland is growing increasingly disenchanted with Westminster, and far less likely than in previous decades to resign itself to political decisions made south of the Border which are not in Scotland’s interests. The independence referendum of 2014 may not have produced a majority for independence, but it certainly changed Scotland forever.

This is no longer a country which is content to allow Westminster to keep the lid of the shortbread tin firmly shut down on Scottish aspirations.

However, possibly the most significant finding was that a clear majority, 56.25% once don’t knows are removed, believe that Scotland would be better off economically as an independent country within the EU than as a part of the UK outside the EU. Better Together threw most of its efforts into the economic argument against independence in 2014, and that argument fell on fertile soil.

Brexit has radically changed the landscape. It’s going to be much harder for opponents of independence to make the same arguments next time round. Now, a majority of Scotland’s voters are predisposed to believe that independence is the constitutional position which will deliver the greatest economic and financial benefits. No wonder the anti-independence parties are so desperate to avoid the question being put to the people. This is where we are even before there’s an official independence campaign, when many people are still harbouring the admittedly dimming hope that Brexit can somehow be avoided.

The opponents of independence are in a panic already. They can’t maintain that over the course of the months and weeks to come. The thing about panic is that it’s exhausting and debilitating.

There are those in the anti-independence camp who scoff at the very slow and gradual change in the polls. They claim with a faux innocence that surely if independence supporters were correct about the Brexit effect, then independence ought to be running away in the polls by now.

However, the reason that there has been no dramatic shifting in the opinion polls, and why there won’t be until an official campaign is under way, is because most people prefer not to engage with politics.

Those of us who write about politics, who go along to Yes meetings, or who post snarky anti-independence remarks in the comments sections of online newspapers are not representative of the population as a whole. We are, one way or another, already engaging with the arguments. Or, in the case of some of the anti-independence posters who infest the comments section of The National’s website, refusing to admit that there is an argument to engage with. We’re not typical of the average punter who’s currently far more interested in voting on Strictly than thinking about upcoming General Elections or independence referendums.

The National:

Scotland is on a gradual but definite course towards independence. The longer this process continues, the more difficult it is going to be to prevent us reaching the final destination. It started off with the normalisation of the idea of independence. People had to get used to talking about independence as a realistic prospect. That was the greatest achievement of 2014.

Then people in Scotland needed to realise that what is good for Scotland is never going to be a priority of a Westminster Government. The past few years of Brexit have brought that message home hard. England and Wales will get what they voted for from Brexit. Accommodations may be made in order that Northern Ireland also gets something approaching what it voted for. Scotland is the only nation in the UK which isn’t getting anything like what it voted for.

People in Scotland now understand the painful lesson that Westminster governments are unfit for Scottish purposes. They’ve learned that the fine words of 2014, the promises that Scotland was an equal partner in a family of nations, the promise that we’d punch above our weight, the promise that our voice was respected and welcome within the UK, were just so many empty words from politicians who are determined to ensure that Scotland can never hold them to account. The past few months have been a vindication of the slow but steady strategy of the SNP leadership, frustrating as it might be for those of us who are desperate for independence. The reality is that there is no point in discussing and debating a Plan B to get independence when we haven’t yet exhausted Plan A.

All that adopting a Plan B right now would do would be to make our opponents demand a Plan C, a Plan D, a Plan E from us. There may well come a time, and that time could be soon, when a Plan B becomes a necessity, but we’re not there yet. First of all there’s a Westminster General Election to get out of the way.

The priority for all of us right now must be to ensure that the anti-independence parties lose seats and vote share in the coming election. We can argue about Plans B through to F after we’ve defeated the anti-independence parties and we see how the political landscape lies.