ON all four occasions that I’ve crowdfunded an opinion poll on independence, by far the most popular request from Scot Goes Pop readers has been that I ask a question about a “Plan B” for gaining an independence mandate in the event the UK Government continues to refuse a Section 30 order.

I’ve tried to pose the question differently each time so that we keep discovering new information, and it’s always turned out that the public actually agrees that a Westminster veto cannot simply be the end of the matter. In last January’s poll, there was support for the Scottish Parliament legislating to hold an independence referendum and leaving the courts to decide whether it can take place. June’s poll found a majority in favour of using a scheduled election at some point in the future to double as a referendum.

And then the poll in November showed voters back the general principle of some sort of Plan B being put into effect over the coming five-year Holyrood term if Westminster remains intransigent. For the new poll conducted by Survation, I decided to confront respondents with a much stronger proposition.

The SNP’s leading Plan B advocates, Chris McEleny and Angus MacNeil, don’t simply want to use an election as a de facto referendum at some unspecified future date – they want to do it this very year in the forthcoming Holyrood election.

I had suspected that would be a step too far for voters, who might feel that one final push for a Section 30 is warranted before giving up on the so-called “gold standard” route completely. But I was wrong.

READ MORE: Revealed: Majority of Scots back using May election as default indyref2

After don’t knows are excluded, respondents agree by a margin of 55% to 45% that, in view of the UK Government’s stated intention to thwart an indyref, the SNP and Greens should put an outright commitment to independence in their manifestos this spring.

The two stock arguments against Plan B are that what are pejoratively described as “plots”, “wheezes” and “wildcat votes” will supposedly make international recognition of an independent Scotland harder to attain, and that it will alienate domestic public opinion against the SNP. The latter claim is now very difficult to sustain, because the polling evidence to the contrary is utterly overwhelming. It can hardly be said that voters are hostile to Plan B in the longer term when they are plainly sympathetic to abandoning Plan A right now. As for the worry about international recognition, that misunderstands the nature of the process.

Using an election to gain an independence mandate is not in any way tantamount to UDI. Whether any mandate should subsequently be respected and implemented is a domestic matter for the UK and Scottish Governments to negotiate on, and if agreement is reached, other countries would have no problem with that.

It’s probably unrealistic to imagine that this poll will be sufficient to change the SNP leadership’s mind on how to use the 2021 election. But what it will do is continue to pile on the pressure for alternative strategies to be ready to go in the aftermath of an SNP victory.

One obvious compromise would be to engineer an early Holyrood election in 2023, and to use that to obtain an independence mandate, if all options for securing a referendum are exhausted.

Elsewhere in the poll, there are further signs Douglas Ross’s leadership is hurtling towards an early crisis point. The Scottish Tories have slipped to just 19% of the Westminster vote – 29 points behind the SNP, and four adrift of Labour.

That’s Labour’s biggest advantage over their Unionist rivals in any poll since the height of Corbyn-mania three years ago. Could one disastrous election be about to bring Ross’s tenure to an ultra-premature end?