A BIG step on the road to independence for Scotland is being taken today with the launch of a new organisation tailored to persuading those not yet fully decided.

Progress Scotland is being launched and headed by former SNP depute leader and former Westminster SNP group leader Angus Robertson. Notably, its polling and research is being conducted by Mark Diffley, the lead pollster for the UK Government in the run-up to the 2014 independence referendum.

“Progress Scotland aims to help prepare the case for Scotland to progress towards independence, keeping pace with the people who make their lives here,” said Robertson.

READ MORE: Robertson: 'We need more than hope, we need to build a majority'

“With the help and support of subscribers we will research the opinion of people in Scotland and test their appetite to emulate the most successful small countries in the world.

“We will provide insight and analysis on what is needed to persuade people on the case for Scotland to make progress.”

Opinion polling, focus groups and other research commissioned by Progress Scotland will be funded through public subscriptions and donations.

Diffley said: “Scotland has been my home for nearly 20 years and I have witnessed how the country has changed and continues to change,” he said. “We are at a time when it has never been so important to listen to the people of Scotland and understand what the public is thinking.

He said he was “excited” to find out what the polls and research for the new organisation would uncover.

“With so much going on with Brexit and the debate about Scotland’s future, now is the right time to ask people about their opinions, how they are changing and why,” he said. “It makes sense to try and understand people’s hopes and concerns especially at this time of change.”

The National:

READ MORE: Former Daily Record editor: 'Why I vow to support Yes'

The new organisation is being launched amid signs that more people than ever before are being swayed by the independence argument. Last year, thousands of people travelled to Scotland’s cities to take part in pro-independence marches and these are set to continue this year with new groups sprouting across the country.

At the beginning of this year, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon again emphasised that the case for independence had been “materially strengthened” by Brexit and she hoped to unveil a timetable for another independence referendum “very soon”.

She said Scotland was being “completely ignored and sidelined” in the Brexit negotiations and this had reinforced the SNP’s mandate for a second independence referendum.

Independence supporters have been buoyed by recent polls which show that if the UK leaves the EU, half of Scottish voters would back independence. The poll by Survation found that if Britain exited the EU without a deal, the vote was even stronger at 52%.

“Support for Scotland becoming an independent country is at historically high levels – above the hugely impressive result secured in the 2014 referendum,” said Sturgeon. “It also shows that regardless of the type of Brexit the Tories offer, the simple fact of Brexit will increase support for independence to 50%.”

READ MORE: No-deal Brexit fears ramp up for Scotland's whisky industry

Other leading figures within the SNP have urged caution until the fall-out from Brexit can be assessed. They may be persuaded to be more bold if Robertson’s new organisation finds evidence that the tide is turning in favour of a Yes vote in a second referendum.

A respected figure at Westminster, Robertson lost his Moray constituency to Tory Douglas Ross in the last election and then stood down as depute leader of the SNP as he said he was no longer able to act on behalf of the party in the House of Commons.

He said: “Since the 2017 General Election I have been focussed on supporting campaign best practice for local SNP branches, constituency associations, elected members and the party nationally.”

Diffley is the former director of market research specialist Ipsos Mori Scotland and launched his own eponymous consultancy and research firm after 10 years at the helm of Ipsos Mori’s Edinburgh base.

He said: “I am passionate about delivering high-quality research and providing clients with rigorous analysis, commentary and advice.”

Become a subscriber of Progress Scotland here.