On Wednesday, the Daily Record published the results of the latest Survation poll it has commissioned on Scottish independence. This showed that the gap between Yes and No had again narrowed. Excluding don't knows, it now stands at only 6%, with Yes at 47% and No at 53%.
For those of us who want Scotland to be independent, this is very good news in itself. But the poll contained even better news, which the Daily Record described as a "bombshell".
Even by tabloid standards the headline isn't an exaggeration. As shown below, if Scots believed that Cameron were to remain Prime Minister there would be a 14% swing to the Yes camp. Excluding don't knows, Yes would win by 54% to 46%. It would be what the Record describes as "a comfortable referendum victory".
The full tables from the poll are here and, in a nutshell, they show that a good percentage of Labour supporters would change their minds and vote Yes to independence in order not to be ruled by a Tory Government. Not all of them, and not even a majority, but enough to secure a comfortable Yes victory.
Of course the big question is how likely this will be. Nobody can be "certain" of the result of an election that will be held in May 2015. All that can be said at the moment is that Labour are not doing anywhere near well enough to be sure of victory, and that the Tories are doing remarkably well considering the misery of the austerity cuts that we've been enduring for the last few years. Although the recovery after the recession might well have been delayed longer than necessary, there has been a recovery, and things are likely to improve further in the next year. Coupled with a few choice rabbits pulled out of George Osborne's hat at the last minute, the Tories will go into the election in bullish mood, saying that they've "turned the economy round".
On top of that, the Tories have an electoral card up their sleeve. At the moment they seem to think that they will be able to see off the threat from UKIP, knowing that UKIP can at best win no more than a handful of Westminster seats because of the first-past-the-post electoral system. But we know (see this post) that most UKIP voters have previously voted Tory; so if the Tories think that too much of their previous vote will be lost to UKIP in 2015 and that this split vote will let Labour in, it should be very easy to do a deal with UKIP. UKIP would probably be satisfied with a deal in which the Tories gave them a clear run at a couple of dozen seats in return for UKIP standing down in a few dozen key Tory marginals.
The end result might not be an overall Tory majority, but it would be enough to enable David Cameron to remain Prime Minister in a Tory-UKIP coalition, or in a minority government which would be stable because its opposition would be on different sides of the political spectrum.
What is remarkable about this poll is the extent to which Labour voters in Scotland will vote Yes to independence in order not to live under a Tory-led government in Westminster. It makes a 14% difference to the outcome of the referendum, which is easily enough to secure a Yes win.
So the question for David Cameron is this. Which is more important: forming a Tory-led government at Westminster in 2015, or saving the United Kingdom?
If David Cameron's main political priority is to keep the Union together, the way to ensure it happens is to let Labour win the Westminster election in 2015. If the danger of losing the United Kingdom matters more to him than the short-term aim of another five years in power, he doesn't really have a choice.
So will he do it? Of course he ...