YET again, support for independence has hit a new high watermark. No other Panelbase poll in history has reported a Yes vote as big as 55%.

It’s true that this only represents a 1% increase since the previous poll from the firm, and that such a small boost can’t be considered statistically significant unless it’s corroborated by further polls.

But in a sense that doesn’t really matter, because the 54% Yes in the last two Panelbase polls was in itself a record high – no Panelbase poll prior to June had ever shown a Yes vote larger than 52%. So the new poll can be seen as additional corroboration that the elevated support for Yes over the summer has been genuine.

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It’s arguably still a slight problem that all but two of the eight independence polls since the start of lockdown have been conducted by the same firm. But the two exceptions are a new and extremely rare Savanta ComRes poll, which has Yes on a heady 54%, and last week’s poll from YouGov, which put Yes on 53% – surpassing the previous best result in YouGov polls of 52%. It seems extremely improbable that the close proximity of new record highs from both Panelbase and YouGov has happened by sheer coincidence.

Furthermore, the new Panelbase record also exceeds the Yes vote in every other post-indyref poll conducted by means of an online panel – as the vast majority of polls are. The only poll that may have equalled it is a telephone poll from Ipsos Mori conducted in 2015. In those days, Ipsos Mori presented their headline results with don’t knows left in, so it’s difficult to make an exact comparison – but a crude recalculation suggests that the outcome with don’t knows stripped out might well have been Yes 55%, No 45%. That was in line with a general pattern since 2014 that Yes has tended to poll better with telephone fieldwork – the exact opposite of the pattern witnessed throughout most of the long indyref campaign in 2012-14. We haven’t actually had a telephone poll on independence since the tail-end of last year, so that represents an important gap in our knowledge. Given what online polls are consistently showing, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising if a telephone poll conducted right now was to produce a Yes vote of above 55%, although obviously that can only be speculation.

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Unless there’s a very sharp reversal of fortunes, 2020 is going to end up as the first post-indyref year in which an average of all polls puts Yes clearly ahead. The current average, with only a little over one-third of the year left to come, is Yes 51.9%, No 48.1%. It’s plain that the biggest driver of the Yes surge has been the pandemic, which due to the devolution of health powers has allowed the public to witness what Scotland looks like when it functions as a truly self-governing country. Unionists must be clinging to the hope that the polling trend will be automatically reversed when the crisis eases. But the snag is that the focus on coronavirus is likely to be replaced sooner or later with a focus on the ultimate British nationalist self-inflicted wound – the hard or No Deal Brexit which appears to loom within a few short months.

Before the virus even arrived on these shores, there was a string of polls at the start of the year showing a narrow Yes lead. That was caused by a segment of Remain supporters abandoning hope that their objectives could be achieved from within the UK.

If the reality of a catastrophic “clean break” from our European partners generates a similar effect, it’s quite possible that Yes will stay out in front even after the pandemic subsides.