THE “new” poll from JL Partners is actually a glimpse into the recent past – it was conducted in mid-September, so the rather wonderful results for both independence and the SNP can’t confirm whether the endless attempts of the Unionist parties and media to chip away at confidence in Nicola Sturgeon have continued to fail.

The real significance of the numbers is that they demonstrate for the first time that it’s possible for the Yes vote to exceed 55% in a poll conducted online. The only previous published poll to show a Yes share of higher than 55% was the Ipsos MORI poll earlier this month which reported the all-time high of 58% – but that was conducted by telephone, which in recent years has tended to produce more favourable results.

As JL Partners have never polled on independence before, there’s no way of knowing whether the high watermark for Yes in online polling has been reached because a genuine increase in support occurred in September, or because the firm’s methodology is slightly more Yes-friendly than other pollsters.

But if the 56% figure sounds familiar, it’s probably because that was the exact number rumoured to have been found by a private Government poll a couple of months ago. A few people have wondered whether the two polls are in fact one and the same, but that can’t be the case, because JL Partners’ fieldwork dates were around two weeks after the rumours began.

Nevertheless, the poll datasets are unusually extensive and detailed, and have at least the superficial appearance of a research poll for an organisation with extensive resources. Given JL Partners is run by Theresa May’s former private polling chief, is it conceivable that we’re being treated to a rare glimpse of internal Unionist polling? And, if so, why would Unionist strategists want to put such horrific results (from their point of view) into the public domain? This is obviously just speculation, but one possibility is a desire to shock London politicians into realising the depth of their plight, and to spark a hard-headed debate about workable means of fighting back.

In particular, JL Partners’s commentary on the poll singles out the finding that Rishi Sunak has a considerably better net personal rating than Boris Johnson. The suggestion is Sunak should routinely be used as a Unionist figurehead in place of Johnson.

That could well be misconceived London-centric logic – Sunak is still a relative novelty, and his modest popularity could quickly wear off in Scotland if he suddenly starts hectoring the natives about which side their bread is buttered.

Realistically a successful Unionist fightback would have to be fronted by homegrown politicians, but even the Scottish politicians cited as being supposedly popular by this poll, such as Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling and Ruth Davidson, all have net negative ratings.

That’s nothing, though, compared to the hole that the new Scottish Tory leader finds himself in. Having barely got his feet under the desk, Douglas Ross is regarded favourably by a measly 12% of respondents, and negatively by 37%.

Those numbers corroborate similar findings from Ipsos MORI and suggest the gamble of defenestrating Jackson Carlaw has definitively failed.

The Tories would surely turn themselves into a laughing stock if they changed leader yet again, but the thought is still likely to be crossing one or two panic-stricken minds.

Ultimately, though, the problem lies with the Conservative brand and not with any individual politician – 73% of respondents have a negative view of the Tory Party, a figure that implies the renaissance under Davidson might as well never have happened. Little wonder, then, that Unionists are starting to look towards an unlikely Labour revival as their last forlorn hope.