DOUGLAS Ross is on course to lead his party back into third place at the Holyrood election, according to a shock new poll.

The survey, carried out by Survation at the start of the month, suggests the Tories could be overtaken by Labour next May, both behind the SNP, who are on course for an incredible 70 seats.

And if that wasn’t enough to have Unionists across Scotland crying into their cornflakes today, it’s also the 12th consecutive poll to show majority support for independence.

The pollster found 54% in favour of independence, while 46% want to stay in the Union.

SNP depute leader Keith Brown welcomed the poll’s findings: “After 12 straight polls we know the fundamental shift in favour of independence is the settled will of the Scottish people.

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“We must have the right to decide our own future instead of being under the control of governments we don’t vote for, led by the likes of Boris Johnson.”

According to the poll, the Tories are down to 19% on the constituency vote, down one point on the firm’s last poll which was conducted at the start of September, just a few weeks after Ross took over from Jackson Carlaw.

That’s three points down on their vote in 2016.

On the regional list vote, they’re down to 16%. At the last Holyrood election they were on 22.9%.

Voters were also asked who they’d back at the next Westminster election – the Tories were down two points to 18%. Just last December, under Carlaw’s leadership, they took 25% of the vote.

Meanwhile, the SNP has added to its lead in recent weeks.

Nicola Sturgeon’s party is now on 54% in the constituency vote, up one point on the last Survation poll and seven-and-a-half points on the last election. Labour remain on 18, and the LibDems are up one to seven.

On the regional list vote, the SNP are on 43%, up two points on the last poll, Labour are up one on 19%, the Greens are on 10% and the LibDems on 7%. According to the Ballot Box polling data Twitter account, that would give the SNP 70 seats, Labour 24, the Tories 19, the Greens 10 and the LibDems six.

That would also mean, crucially for Yes supporters, an overwhelming majority for independence.

Brown added: “The Tory Westminster Government cannot be trusted to act in Scotland’s interests.

“They have removed Scotland from the EU against our will and are now, unbelievably, threatening to impose a disastrous hard Brexit in the middle of a pandemic and economic recession.

“As an independent member of the EU we will be an equal partner with our friends in the rest of the UK and Europe.

“The Westminster parties’ undemocratic attempt to deny the people of Scotland the right to choose their own future in a fresh referendum is now utterly unsustainable.”

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said the poll predicted a “record number of MSPs” for his party in May.

“It’s clear that our constructive approach to opposition is appreciated by the public. From Scotland’s fairer tax system, to the reversal of unfair exam grades and free bus travel for young people from next year we’ve been working for Scotland to build a fairer and greener country, punching well above our weight and delivering time and time again.”

Survation have divided their poll respondents into eight geographical Scottish regions.

These are: Highlands and Islands, Mid Scotland and Fife, North East Scotland, Lothian, South Scotland, Glasgow, West Scotland, and Central Scotland.

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With “don’t knows” excluded, only two of these areas have No voting majorities. South Scotland has a 50.7% No vote against 49.3% Yes, while West Scotland reports a 53.5% versus 46.5% lead for the Unionists.

Of the other six areas, Glasgow recorded the highest Yes vote, with 63% of Scotland’s biggest city favouring independence. Highlands and Islands were a close second, with 61.5% of Scots in that region voting Yes.

There was also interesting news on gender. There had long been a gap in support for independence between men and women, with men historically more likely to vote Yes. However, earlier this month Sir John Curtice noted that this seemed to be changing. The latest poll confirms the professor’s observation, with Yes being supported by 46% of men and 48% women when “don’t knows” are included.