THE journalist John Rentoul unintentionally caused a degree of hilarity a few weeks back when he complained about the SNP being “obsessed” with having won more than 80% of the Scottish seats at the General Election.

It was as if they believed, he said incredulously, that it gives them some sort of “mandate”.

I pointed out at the time that if 80% of the seats isn’t sufficient to claim a mandate, then no UK government of any complexion has ruled with a mandate since the National Government in the 1930s. Rentoul naturally had an explanation for why I was wrong that was so subtle and sophisticated that you’d almost certainly need an Oxbridge education to fully grasp it.

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But, as we know, only a very small minority of the Scottish electorate are blessed in that way, and I did wonder if they might disappoint the metrosplaining classes by innocently continuing to believe that the SNP’s landslide election victory is, indeed, a pretty thumping mandate for an indyref. So I decided to use the ScotGoesPop/Panelbase poll to find out.

Respondents were reminded that the SNP won 48 of the 59 Scottish seats in the General Election, and were asked very straightforwardly whether they thought that result gives the SNP a mandate from the Scottish people to hold a second independence referendum.

The outcome was relatively tight, but if the small number of Don’t Knows are excluded, around 53% of respondents agree that there is a mandate for an indyref, and only 47% do not. Rentoul must be tutting away and wondering what’s to be done with us.

Ironically, the only reason the result is even close is because of a near-unanimous rejection of the SNP’s mandate by a group of people who, on the face of it, proved most recetive to the argument that the holding of an indyref was on the ballot paper in the General Election.

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Conservative leaflets told voters in apocalyptic terms that the election was the “last chance” to stop a referendum, so you’d think people who actually voted Tory on that specific basis might now grudgingly feel compelled to acknowledge that Conservative losses and SNP gains meant there had been a popular endorsement of indyref2.

But the poll shows that 95% of them take the opposite view. It’s hard not to conclude that they’ve been inculcated with a near-Trumpian mindset that will always regard the Tory mandate as stronger and more valid than the SNP mandate, regardless of how many more seats or votes the SNP actually win.

The results of the next question in the poll reveal that Conservative voters are just as resistant to the notion that Brexit is a big enough change of circumstances to warrant holding a second indyref. 93% of them do not accept that proposition, in spite of solemn promises about Scotland’s place in the EU having been such a big part of the No campaign’s pitch in 2014.

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But non-Conservative No voters are somewhat more divided on this question, and intriguingly people who voted Labour in the 2019 election are close to being split down the middle. That helps to explain why a clear majority of the overall sample agree that Brexit justifies indyref2. Indeed, there is an absolute majority in agreement even if Don’t Knows are taken into account.

Perhaps that finding shouldn’t be such a surprise, though, because even some of the most hostile-to-indy respondents are bound to have asked themselves: “If I’m saying that even Brexit isn’t a big enough change of circumstances, what actually would be a big enough change?”

James Kelly is the editor of pro-independence blog ScotGoesPop