SCOTTISH independence is now "the established position of the people of Scotland," the SNP's depute leader has claimed.

Keith Brown was speaking after a new poll for Panelbase put support for yes at 54%.

The survey, for the Sunday Times, also found strong backing for Nicola Sturgeon's handling of the coronavirus crisis, with the First Minister's approval rating on the issue at 60 points.

Boris Johnson's approval rating on the crisis was at minus 39 points.

It also predicted the SNP winning a total of 74 MSPs out of 129 at next year's Holyrood election.

Poll guru John Curtice said it was the first time in polling history that Yes had been ahead for such a long period.

Responding to the results, Brown said it would now be "impossible for the UK government to deny Scotland a choice over its future."

He said: "This out-of-touch Tory government exemplifies the very worst of the Union, and Boris Johnson may be the best recruiting tool for Scottish independence since Margaret Thatcher.

“The focus of the Scottish Government remains on tackling the coronavirus pandemic - this poll shows Nicola Sturgeon’s approval rating is three times that of Boris Johnson.

"It’s clear that people in Scotland have confidence in the SNP, and in Scotland’s ability to govern itself - and want nothing to do with the Prime Minister and his cabinet of Brexit cronies."

READ MORE: Support for Scottish independence skyrockets in latest Panelbase poll

According to the poll, support for the SNP in the constituency vote was up two points to 55%, while the Tories and Labour were both down one to 20% and 15% respectively.

On the list, the SNP were on 50%, the Tories on 18%, Labour on 15%, the Greens on 8% and the Lib Dems on 6%.

That would give Nicola Sturgeon's party an extra 11 seats, taking them to 74.

Both Jackson Carlaw and Richard Leonard would lose seven of their MSPs, taking him to 24 and 17. 

The Greens would gain three taking them to nine and the Lib Dems would remain on five.

Writing in the Sunday Times, Professor Curtice said: "Never before have the foundations of public support for the Union looked so weak.

"Our latest poll from Panelbase confirms other recent polling that has suggested those who intend to vote yes in a second independence referendum have nudged ahead.

"Support for the SNP is also at a record high.

"Panelbase's polls conducted over the past six months, including today's, have on average put 'yes' on 51% and 'no' on 49%.

"This is the first time in polling history that 'yes' has been ahead over such a sustained period.

"Support for independence is up three points on that recorded on average last year - and six points on 2018."

He said those who had switched from No to Yes were among people who voted both Remain and Leave in the EU referendum.

The Scottish public appeared to support the Scottish Government's handling of the pandemic much more than that of the UK Government, he added.