ONE thing I was particularly keen to use the ScotGoesPop! / Panelbase poll to discover was the Scottish public’s verdict on UK democracy in the wake of repeated refusals by the Conservative Government to respect the decision of voters to hold a second independence referendum.

A few weeks ago, Nicola Sturgeon used the word “prison” in relation to the UK – and for that she was roundly criticised by the Tories, who wanted people to believe she was drifting off to the wilder and more paranoid fringes of the independence movement.

The National: Nicola Sturgeon

But I wasn’t sure that the electorate are quite so gullible as the Tories would fondly like to imagine. I suspected that people are quite capable of joining up the dots, and of realising that if there’s one political choice they’re simply not allowed to make – in other words, if they can’t have independence or an independence referendum, no matter how much they vote for it – then there must, at the very least, be limits on their democratic freedoms within the UK.

Testing that point is tricky, though, because there are still plenty of democratic choices that people can freely make in both Scottish and UK elections. If you simply ask respondents in a poll whether the UK is a democracy and invite them to give a yes/no answer, the likelihood is that most will say “yes” and you’ll be none the wiser about any misgivings or caveats they may have.

So instead I decided to ask a relatively soft question about whether or not the UK is still a “fully” democratic country. I also had to address the problem of there being many reasons totally unrelated to Scottish self-determination that might lead individuals to feel that the UK falls short as a democracy – from the unelected nature of the House of Lords, all the way through to the disgraceful treatment of the Chagos Islanders.

READ MORE: Tories will always respect their mandate and rubbish the SNP's

I therefore asked respondents to answer the question specifically in relation to the UK Government’s statement that the Scottish Parliament would still be thwarted from holding an independence referendum even if the SNP win an outright majority of seats in next year’s Holyrood election.

The National:

The results are stunning, and should give Tories both in London and Scotland severe pause for thought about the dangerous road they have embarked upon.

If “don’t knows” are discounted, the Scottish public feel that the UK is no longer a fully democratic country by the wide margin of 56% to 44%. And even if “don’t knows” are left in, almost half of the entire sample offer that damning judgement.

Substantial minorities of groups who can reasonably be expected to be immune to “nationalist paranoia” – for example, people who vote for Unionist parties – are plainly unconvinced that denying a Section 30 order is consistent with democratic principles.

Some 27% of LibDem voters, 38% of Labour voters, and even a thoughtful 6% of Conservative voters say that the UK has ceased to be fully democratic.

Why does this matter? Because the UK is not Spain, and has a self-image to maintain of a people being governed by consent. If the facts on the ground are in conflict with that self-image, a tension will arise that could eventually bring about political change and an end to the wall of intransigence.

The first sign of progress could be a softening of attitudes towards Scotland among liberal commentators down south as their consciences start to prick.

Admittedly, any epiphany would probably take a while to make its way to the Tories, but remember that even Margaret Thatcher felt there was a democratic imperative in being able to clearly explain the method by which Scotland could choose to leave the UK if it so wished.