Scottish nationalists just love Britain. Or rather a lot of Yessers like *some things* about UK so much that they want to keep them. Even after independence.

There has been another flurry of polls over recent weeks. The latest surveys suggest public opinion, like wheat in a gentle breeze, is swaying away from the Union. For now at least.

But amid all the talk of still very close headline numbers on Yes and No, there was one set of figures that really stood out for me.

They revealed just how much independence supporters value key British institutions or assets, such as the military, intelligence and diplomatic services and NHS collaboration.

Nearly half of Yessers – some 47% – said they wanted to retain access to a UK passport and citizenship. The same proportion favoured single British armed forces.

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Perhaps more strikingly, 56% of Yessers polled said that they would like to keep UK-wide state old age pensions, regardless of what else happened with the constitution.

That compares with 67% for all Scots.

Voters, I think, are entitled to feel confused about this last topic. After all, what has passed for debate on pensions over the last decade or so has been fraught with dubious claim and counter-claim.

The issue – with competing concepts of whether paid-up national insurance contributions are assets or not – is far more complicated than either side cares to admit.

But, hands on hearts, would even the most ardent Yesser expect an independent Scotland and rump Britain to pool and share on pensions indefinitely? I doubt it.

This is why a good few unionists see such survey results as evidence of nationalist cakeism. And they have a point.

At face value, it looks absurd to want to both break up Britain and keep so many of its institutions.

The Herald: Yes marchers in GlasgowYes marchers in Glasgow (Image: free)

So expect pro-UK politicians to double down on what they will portray as cant. Their simple, perhaps simplistic, message: if you want shared asset and services, you must have a shared state.

But there is a problem with this narrative.

And last week this was identified by the man who revealed the numbers, Eddie Barnes, campaign director of Our Scottish Future, a group set up by former PM Gordon Brown to reform the UK, to try and make the state a better, more workable fit with its multi-national constituent parts.

It is “encouraging”, blogged Mr Barnes, that so many pro-independence Scots “want to keep most of the UK intact”. But he added: “They may like the parts, but they don’t like the sum. And the sum needs work.”

The figures came from surveys done by Our Scottish Future on behalf of Mr Brown’s long-awaited commission in fixing the UK.

The group is looking for ways to tweak the British state to make it more palatable for Scots. They reject – at the very top of their website – both “no change unionism” and “no compromise nationalism”.

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Mr Barnes said the polling showed “common ground”. He is right. But it also identifies our constitutional battlefield: Scots with long-standing, underlying unionist attitudes who are ready to profoundly renegotiate their relationship with the British state.

Scottish nationalism, as I have said before in this very slot, is not just beating unionism; it is eating it. The independence movement is absorbing old school pro-UK voters, assimilating them and their values and preoccupations.

This process is changing the make-up, the culture, of both sides of our constitutional debate. And it is challenging and undermining the cartoon cutout ideas so many of us still harbour about both nationalists and unionists.

If the most recent polls are right, a shade over half of all Scottish residents want independence. This includes a whole wide tranche of people who are quite happy to support cross-border or transnational co-operation and to cede some sovereignty, whether to the UK or, increasingly, the EU.

Indeed, the only way Scottish nationalism wins is by incorporating the principles of unionism, the default setting of our nation for most of its modern history.

So SNP leaders in recent decades have talked up the prospect of Scotland as a “joiny”, clubbable, team-player sort of a state, a member of the European Union (unlike an isolated rump UK) and Nato. They are offering a vision of independence that is kind of, well, unionisty. And it is working on a lot of people.

But independentistas cannot deliver all of the contradictory demands some of their followers have.

The surveys cited by Mr Barnes suggested a plurality of Yes voters wanted to keep the British Army. That is not going to happen. Nationalist leaders instead can propose close defence collaboration with what is left of Britain. Unionists can counter by arguing this would be worse than what we have now.

Could Scottish unionists and their Westminster allies reject the prospect of intimate strategic, diplomatic and health co-operation throughout these islands? That would be dumb, both practically and politically. But we are talking about a polity that gave us the dumpster fire of Brexit so we cannot assume UK leaders would be smart.

The clever move for unionists would be to look at ways of satisfying small-n Scottish nationalism, of finding ways to accommodate diversity in the UK state. Which I guess is what Mr Brown, Mr Barnes and others are trying to do.

Just a smidge under 50% of Scots want to keep the British state, according to the last few polls. This will still include a lot of traditional unionists and plenty of devolutionists happy to indulge talk of a reformed UK.

But – as Yes advances – so the share of remaining No voters who are diehard British nationalists rises.

Perhaps more importantly there appears little appetite in England for the kind of new UK needed to assuage discontent in the other nations of the union.

Pro-UK leaders who want to win back those Yes-minded traditional unionists are going to have to say and do things much of their remaining base does not like. That is not easy.

Scottish nationalists are nosing ahead by being a bit unionisty. If British unionists want to peg them back they are going to have to go a little Scot-natty.