THE new full-scale Scottish poll from Redfield & Wilton Strategies offers some good news.

It’s clear that, once neutrals and don’t knows are stripped out, there’s a majority in favour of holding an independence referendum within the next five years.

However, due to the slightly odd way the question was framed, it’s impossible to judge the full extent of that good news.

Respondents were asked whether they wanted a referendum to be held within five years but not within the next year – which may well mean that some people who felt very strongly that a vote should take place within the next 12 months will have given a negative reply.

The narrow 2% majority in favour of the five-year proposition could therefore be a significant underestimate.

READ MORE: New independence poll shows most Scots want vote this term – and expect Yes win

A separate question asked whether people wanted a referendum in the next year, and found 40% in favour and 47% opposed.

If all respondents had treated the two questions as mutually exclusive, as they perhaps should have done on a literal reading, it would be possible to combine the two results – in which case support for a referendum inside five years would rise to well over 80%.

However, even the most cursory look at the datasets leaves little room for doubt that there was considerable overlap between those who said they wanted a vote within one year, and those who supposedly wanted one within 1-5 years.

As a polling exercise, then, what Redfield & Wilton did was less than optimal and leaves us with too many ambiguities.

On the plus side, the question about a referendum within one year appears to have been asked first, before respondents knew that they’d also be asked about an alternative timescale.

So the very narrow result on that first question can be taken seriously.

There’s plainly widespread enthusiasm for acting with extreme urgency on an indyref, perhaps reflecting the fact that the casus belli for holding a fresh vote, namely Brexit, has already long since passed into history.

Unsurprisingly, most of the backing for an early independence referendum comes from independence supporters.

Some 83% of people who would currently vote Yes want a referendum within one year, with just 7% opposed.

Among people who voted SNP on the constituency ballot in May’s Holyrood election, 73% want a vote within a year and only 14% don’t.

These numbers comprehensively give the lie to the suggestion made recently that the main barrier to holding an early indyref is that Yes supporters themselves somehow don’t want it to happen.

Why, though, does the population at large support an independence referendum in the medium term while narrowly opposing it in the very short term?

This has been a relatively consistent feature of polling for many years now – the centre of gravity always seems to be support for a referendum in around 2-5 years, and crucially, that remains the case no matter how much time actually elapses.

The National:

As the SNP MP Angus MacNeil (above) wryly noted on Twitter the other day, it was around 2-5 years ago that he first saw a poll showing that people wanted a referendum 2-5 years later.

Some middle-of-the-road voters will always say “yes, but not right now”, not least because it will always be possible to think of a dozen bread-and-butter policy areas – health, education, the drugs crisis, climate change, the economic after-effects of the pandemic – that should be “sorted out first”.

If the Scottish Government are a slave to that sentiment, a referendum will quite simply never be held.

Eventually, ministers will have to lead public opinion rather than follow it, and say “now is the time”.