YOU almost have to feel sorry for the anti-independence pressure group Scotland in Union. They must have thought the path was clear for them to use their now-familiar tricksy poll question about “leaving the United Kingdom” to convince the media that support for independence has dropped.

Instead, just hours after their own new poll was published, the first genuine independence poll for around a month appeared right on cue – and in fact showed the first outright pro-independence majority in any poll from any firm since just prior to the Holyrood election in the spring.

It’s tempting to view the Opinium/Sky News poll as marking a Yes resurgence after a difficult period. The reality, though, is that there have been four Scottish polls from Opinium in 2021 so far and none of them has shown a No lead.

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Three of the polls have had Yes very slightly ahead, and the other was a dead heat. At face value, then, the story is really one of Yes maintaining its strength, rather than making a plucky comeback.

It’s true that there’s been a four-month gap between the last Opinium poll and the new one and that other pollsters have tended to report a No lead in the interim. But that may be misleading because only one firm – Savanta ComRes – has shown No opening up clear daylight, and that was a pattern that had already been established by the time of the 50/50 Opinium poll in early May.

It looks like there is some sort of “house effect” that has caused ComRes in recent times to produce much better results for No than other companies. And given that they’ve conducted polls relatively frequently, that may have led us astray about the true state of play.

Take ComRes out of the equation and the consistent tale of the polls since around February has been of a very evenly split electorate which has oscillated between giving Yes and No a wafer-thin advantage.

The fact that the new Opinium poll shows the first Yes lead in a while may indicate a slight uptick in support for independence, but it could also just be a normal fluctuation caused by the margin of error. As ever, that question can only be answered by further polls. Supporting evidence of a genuine pro-Yes swing could come in the shape of outright Yes leads in Survation or Panelbase polls, or perhaps a closing of the gap in ComRes polls.

Away from the independence question, Opinium have also given us some rare post-election voting intention figures for the Scottish Parliament. They’re nothing short of devastating for the Unionist parties, who are entering their 15th year of waiting for the SNP honeymoon to end.

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Nicola Sturgeon’s party now have an outright majority of the constituency vote – something that has never been achieved by any party in an actual Holyrood election. The Conservatives can at least reassure themselves that their vote has only dropped back slightly, but there’s no such consolation for Labour, who have slumped to an even more dismal third place than they suffered in May.

The team around Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar seem firmly convinced that they “won the campaign, not the election”, but if that was really true they wouldn’t be finding themselves going backwards in subsequent polling.

Both the SNP and the Greens will take heart from Opinium’s finding that 44% of the public think the quasi-coalition deal is good for Scotland and that only 33% think it is bad. But it’s worth remembering that most co-operation agreements tend to be popular when they’re first signed. The real test will come after the public has seen what shared governance looks like in practice.