The results of a poll published in today's Times are likely to make discouraging reading for Scottish nationalists. The central conclusion of the poll - conducted to mark the tenth anniversary of devolution - is that the proportion of Scots supporting independence has fallen from a third at the time of the SNP's 2007 election victory to a fifth today.
Of course, support for the SNP administration is still riding high or, indeed, even increasing, so why this apparent paradox? Perhaps the most obvious explanation will be self-evident from this morning's media, which juxtaposes the ongoing and increasing scandal regarding the expenses of Westminster MPs - and members of the Labour Government's cabinet in particular - with the results of the Times poll, but with the UK's current dominant political issue overwhelming the coverage of the opinion of Scots on the issue of independence.
To that extent the disillusionment with Westminster in general and with Gordon Brown's government in particular explains the SNP's buoyant support at Holyrood - there is arguably no huge enthusiasm for the Scottish Government, and it perhaps hasn't set the heather alight, but on the other hand it's not done anything particularly unpalatable either.
Thus nationalists point to the popularity of the SNP administration overturning the usual lack of mid-term popularity for incumbent governments as demonstrating a consolidation of their cause, but a more likely rationale is the unpopularity of Labour in London being reflected in Holyrood polling, together with the relatively anodyne and conservative nature - born to a large extent of minority government necessity and its limited powers - of Alex Salmond's administration.
On the other hand, the limited impact of the SNP government also helps rationalise the decline of support for independence; the public like the unadventurous nature of the current devolution settlement and the limited ability of Holyrood administrations to take risks, thus despite cynicism regarding Westminster and the Union, independence for Scotland is still seen as too much of a shot in the dark. The economic crisis is likely to have underlined this thinking, with question marks over an independent Scotland's ability to recapitalise the banks, for example, taking precedence over the UK's role in creating the mess in the first place.
Of course, this simplifies the myriad factors shaping the dynamic, but the poll results perhaps reflect the inherent caution of ordinary Scottish people - they are patriotic and see this reflected in devolution, while an SNP government demonstrates disillusionment with new Labour and keeps Westminster in its place. On the other hand, like a teenager leaving home for the first time they continue to return home for a decent meal, to get their washing done and for a hand out from the 'bank of mum and dad', and see no reason to cut the apron strings completely.
Of course, nationalists will claim that the teenager will eventually grow up and fly the nest completely, but perhaps the Scottish people are more Timothy Lumsden than teenage tearaway.