Support for an independent Scotland has increased by 4% since October, according to a new poll.
Asked the Electoral Commission’s preferred question of ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’, 34% answered yes, up 4% since October.
Just over half (55%) said no, while 11% said they were undecided, according to the latest polling by Ipsos Mori for the Times.
This bucks a trend which, based on Ipsos Mori figures saw support for independence in 2012 decline from 39% in January to 30% in October.
Ed Miliband and Johann Lamont will have to digest this along with news that the SNP has increased its lead over Labour in voting intentions by 8%.
Among those certain to vote, 43% said they would vote for the SNP in an immediate Scottish Parliament election, an increase of 3% since October, while Labour remains on 35% (no change).
This is a reversal of recent trends which saw Labour close the gap to 5% in October 2012 having been 25% behind the SNP at the end of 2011.
There is no change for the Conservatives, who remain on 13%, while the Liberal Democrats drop one point to 7%.
The SNP leadership are also enjoying more buoyant poll ratings. In light of the more public role she has taken within the pro-independence campaign, deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon has seen 50% of those polled expressing satisfaction with her performance compared to 33% who are dissatisfied.
Worryingly for the ‘Better Together’ campaign to keep the United Kingdom together, just 33% are satisfied with the performance of its leader, Alistair Darling, with 32% dissatisfied.
A quarter of those polled felt unable to rate his performance.
Alex Salmond remains the most popular of the main party leaders in Scotland, with 50% of Scots satisfied with his performance compared with 43% who are dissatisfied.
Scottish Labour Leader Johann Lamont continues to improve her profile among Scots – 39% of Scots are satisfied with her performance, compared with 31% who are dissatisfied. However, 31% of Scots feel they don’t know enough about the Labour leader to rate her performance.
Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, now has a net satisfaction rating of -4%, up five points since October, while Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie remains on -7% (no change).
Finally, 67% of Scots are dissatisfied with the way David Cameron is doing his job as prime minister.
Writing in the Scotsman, the paper’s political editor Eddie Barnes argues that within the debate on independence the polls are key to giving either side much need momentum.
“There’s a long and dishonourable tradition in politics of arguing that polls don’t matter,” he writes.
“The polls do matter, helping to set the mood and giving direction to the campaign for votes.”
Outlining the Better Together campaign’s ‘nightmare scenario’, he continues:
“The nightmare scenario for Better Together is that it loses because thousands of apathetic voters, who back the Union only in so much as they back having ten toes, aren’t quite so bothered and end up staying at home.