THE new Ipsos MORI poll brings considerable reassurance to the SNP and the wider independence movement on a number of fronts, but none more so than on support for independence itself.

With Don’t Knows stripped out, the Yes vote stands at 48%, which is higher than in any other poll conducted by any firm since the Westminster general election last June. The difference is not huge – other recent polls have put Yes anywhere between 43% and 47%, which already suggested that backing for independence was holding up impressively in defiance of a confected unionist narrative about the meaning of the election result.

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Crucially, though, the Ipsos MORI poll is the first Scottish poll since the election to be conducted by telephone. If anything, there were reasons to fear that a new phone poll might show a considerably less rosy picture for Yes than the online polls – a little-noticed phone poll conducted by Survation shortly before election day had given Yes a mere 39%, well below what online polls were showing.

So, in a sense, Ipsos MORI’s finding is the final piece of the jigsaw. There is now no remaining cause to doubt that the Yes vote came through the events of 2017 largely unscathed, albeit after a temporary dip in June itself.

I suspect the SNP leadership will be somewhat exasperated by the way Ipsos MORI’s results have been summarised by STV, who commissioned the poll. A headline on the STV website states baldly that Scots “don’t want Indyref 2”, which in the literal sense is incorrect. The poll actually shows that, if Don’t Knows are excluded, a very slight majority are either in favour of a second independence referendum within the next three years, or “neither support nor oppose” one.

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It would therefore be perfectly accurate to say that the poll shows that most Scots do not object to an early referendum. Even if the small number of neutrals are stripped out along with the Don’t Knows, the majority against holding a referendum by 2021 is only 53% to 47%, which given the standard margin of error is as close to being a dead heat as makes no difference.

STV also invest a great deal of significance in an apparent finding that only 22% of Scots specifically want an early referendum because of Brexit itself. In reality, that’s a somewhat artificial number generated by asking a follow-up question only to people who said they were in favour of a referendum, and forcing them to make a straight choice between saying that Brexit is their reason, or that they already supported a referendum anyway.

No opportunity was given to those who selected the latter option to indicate whether they felt Brexit had nevertheless strengthened the case for a vote. Arguably, the question was a “heads I win, tails you lose” proposition, because if the vast majority of pro-referendum respondents had said that they only felt that way because of Brexit, the spin could then have been that support for a referendum is superficial and would crumble away if the European issue were resolved.

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As far as Westminster voting intentions are concerned, Ipsos MORI’s numbers are broadly in line with what online polls have been showing since the election. Of the eight full-scale Scottish polls published since June by all firms, this is the sixth to show that the SNP have improved from the 37% vote achieved on polling day. Because of the large number of SNP-Labour marginal constituencies, the risk of an early election resulting in substantial SNP seat losses will not disappear unless the healthy 13-point lead over Labour grows even further.

But it appears on the balance of probabilities that a hypothetical election held right now would see the SNP make gains from both Labour and the Tories.