EVERYTHING about the SNP leadership’s current strategy for bringing about independence suggests that they’ve concluded, ironically, that the Scots are a deeply conservative people, albeit with a small “c”. The theory seems to be that if you make too much noise, or act precipitately, or do anything that isn’t strictly by the rulebook, voters will turn against you and all of the patient spadework of years and decades will be squandered.

But it’s not immediately obvious that calling a consultative independence referendum without a Section 30 order would actually fall into any of those categories of mistake. The devolution settlement takes account of the obvious possibility that there may be situations where there is a degree of ambiguity over whether a proposed piece of legislation is within the Scottish Parliament’s current powers, and accordingly the Supreme Court is designated to resolve any dispute.

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It should, then, be possible to make the case to the public that passing a Referendum Bill, and allowing the Supreme Court to decide whether it stands or falls, would not be an irresponsible “wildcat” action, but would rather be the most sensible and moderate step to resolve an intractable dispute between two governments.

Out of curiosity, I decided to use the final question in the ScotGoesPop/Panelbase poll to test whether a unilateral bill would really trigger the type of backlash that the SNP leadership seem to fear. I was as careful as I could to avoid a leading question – I simply gave respondents the minimum information required to make up their own minds, namely that there are differing legal opinions on whether Holyrood can legislate for a consultative indyref in the absence of Westminster’s permission.

The results should largely set Nicola Sturgeon’s mind to rest, because the majority in favour of legislating and letting the courts make the final decision is well in excess of the Yes majority on the poll’s main independence question.

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It’s extremely hard to see how either the Yes movement or the SNP could end up paying much of an electoral penalty for an attempt at holding a consultative referendum when only a trifling 4% of people who are currently minded to vote Yes, and a relatively modest 9% of people who voted SNP at the General Election, think it’s a bad idea.

Indeed, the SNP might even end up broadening their coalition of support, because 10% of respondents who would currently vote No, 25% of respondents who actually did vote No in 2014, and a truly astonishing 44% of respondents who voted Labour in December, are in favour of pressing ahead without a Section 30.

The more cautious voices within the SNP may point out that the poll is still picking up a substantial minority of the overall population who there could be a risk of alienating. But, in reality, that minority looks very much like the section of the electorate that is utterly irreconcilable to any sort of indyref at all.

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A little over half of them are Conservative voters. There’s not much point in going to great lengths to avoid upsetting voters who are already a lost cause, and who aren’t needed to cobble together a majority anyway.

It’s possible that other considerations will yet deter Nicola Sturgeon from calling a consultative referendum, most obviously the potential for the Supreme Court to rule against her. But it could be that by demonstrating that the fears over public opinion are largely unfounded, this poll has cleared away one of the biggest psychological obstacles to Scotland being offered a choice about its constitutional future within a reasonable timescale.