By James Kelly of Scot Goes Pop

ON paper, there is nothing out of the ordinary in the modest increases in the SNP’s vote reported in this week’s Survation poll results. Even the heartening three-point boost in the party’s Westminster vote can, in theory, be dismissed by margin of error “noise”.

What makes it feel potentially more significant, though, is that the boost has lifted the SNP to a level of support that hasn’t been recorded by any polling firm since before last year’s General Election. This raises the intriguing question of whether the dramatic Commons walkout led by Ian Blackford has proved, after all, to be a game-changer.

A Panelbase poll commissioned by Wings Over Scotland suggested public opinion hadn’t budged since that incident, so we’ll have to wait for further polls before we know whether the Survation poll is a misleading outlier, or whether Panelbase was painting too pessimistic a picture.

But whichever of those possibilities is correct, it now looks highly unlikely that the SNP have taken any hit from the “embarrassing” scenes in the Commons, as the Unionist parties were clearly hoping would be the case.

Perhaps even more startling is the rude health of the SNP’s position in Holyrood voting intentions. At 43%, the party’s constituency vote is now only a little lower than the 46% that was achieved on polling day in 2016, before the UK had voted to leave the European Union, and long before Nicola Sturgeon announced firm plans to hold a second independence referendum.

In short, that record-breaking vote was secured in the complete absence of the factors that are assumed to have caused the setback at General Election a year later. The fact that Sturgeon now appears to have worked her way back to 2016-type levels of support perhaps indicates that the powers of the Tories’ indyref2 bogeyman are fading.

Very unusually for recent polls, the seats projection suggests that the pro-independence parties would retain an overall majority at Holyrood. Such a result would be solely a product of the voting system’s quirks, though – it would hinge upon the Unionist vote remaining evenly split on the constituency vote, and upon the Greens continuing to make up handsomely for the SNP’s disappointing low-30s showing on the regional list ballot.

It goes without saying that neither of those conditions can be comfortably relied upon, which underscores the grave risks of any decision to allow the current mandate for an independence referendum to expire.

It may seem disappointing that the Yes vote has failed to follow the SNP’s example, and at 47% has remained firmly within Survation’s normal range. But it should be noted that, unless there is a misprint in the datasets, 16 and 17-year-olds were excluded from the poll, thus inexplicably breaching Survation’s good practice of the recent past.

That’s unlikely to have led to the Yes vote being underestimated by more than 1%, but given the huge psychological distance between 47% and 51%, it’s plainly unsatisfactory that an arbitrary decision by a polling company might just be concealing from us that the Yes side has travelled part of that short journey.