By Ray Fleming

IF early signs are any indication Britain's opinion poll companies are in for a very busy and profitable two or three years. Hardly a day goes by without a new poll appearing on the subject of Scottish independence. Yesterday's from Ipsos MORI for the Times used the question which the Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, has proposed: “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?”. It has been criticised for leading respondents to agree with something that appears to be already an established fact . Even so, it did not produce a particularly strong endorsement in the MORI poll -- 37 per cent saying Yes and 50 No with the balance undecided. Earlier polls before the possibility of an early referendum came into the news usually showed one-third of Scots in favour of independence and two-thirds against.

Mr Salmond's question has probably not changed opinions greatly, although he yesterday claimed the poll showed a steady trend towards support for independence.

There is an increasing view outside Scotland that other parts of the UK should have an appropriate say in how the referendum is conducted. At the moment Mr Salmond is making all the running; Mr Cameron should not allow that to happen.

Legally the initiative is with the government in London and it should make sure it is at least an equal partner with the Scottish Parliament.