SINCE the 2014 independence referendum, we have seen two kinds of "shocks" in our politics that have coincided with increased support for Scottish independence. There are one-off events that propel constitutional politics to the forefront of the public consciousness and slower shifts in perceptions of the competence of Scotland’s two governments.

How have the polls changed since then?

The Brexit vote in 2016 was followed within a week by three polls showing Yes ahead, as the prospect of Scotland’s majority Remain vote being subsumed by England’s narrow Leave majority pushed the constitution to the top of the political agenda.

But within a month, that sharp shift had melted away, and the polls were back to where they had been for many years, with a series of single-digit No leads.

During the height of the pandemic, in late 2020, the burgeoning Yes lead was beginning to stretch into the double digits as Scots’ perceptions of the competence with which the Scottish and UK governments were dealing with the most acute crisis the country had faced in decades sharply diverged.

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Over time, however, as the vaccine roll-out accelerated and the 2021 Scottish Parliament election campaign kicked into gear, the Yes lead diminished. By the time we reached the election, we were back to polling that looked more like the pre-pandemic status quo.

A key question on the minds of pollsters, academics, and activists as Yes took an average lead of 4.4 points in December 2022 was whether this was a Brexit-like shock, a pandemic-like shock, or a shift with greater staying power than either.

The Scottish Election Study’s Dr Fraser McMillan found that sentiment may have begun to shift before the Supreme Court verdict. His analysis of their November Scoop poll, conducted before and after the verdict, suggested that the shift towards Yes resulted from a mix of the immediate effect of the UK Supreme Court verdict and diverging evaluations of Scotland’s two governments in the wake of the Truss-Kwarteng fiscal fiasco.

The National: Former prime minister Liz Truss

And a new poll for The National, conducted by Find Out Now, suggests that the current upswing in support for independence may have greater staying power than that generated by the EU referendum shock.

Conducted between January 11 and 18, almost entirely before the UK Government’s Section 35 order, Find Out Now found Yes leading on 52% (up one point since early December), with No on 44% (also up one point). The number of undecided voters fell slightly from 6% to 3%.

In statistical terms, this represents no significant change in Scottish voters’ constitutional preferences since early December. It is, however, the joint second-highest level of support for independence ever recorded.

If we look across the polls since the UK Supreme Court decision, Yes leads by an average of 3.7 points. In the two months before that decision, Yes trailed by an average of 2.1 points. Across 2022 until Liz Truss became Prime Minister, Yes trailed by an average of 3.1 points.

'Not insignificant'

Over a year, three prime ministers, four chancellors, and umpteen crises, average constitutional preferences across the polls have swung in the independence movement’s favour by 6.8 points. That is not an insignificant change.

At the same time, not all polls have Yes ahead. A Savanta UK poll in December, and a Survation poll this week both had No ahead. There remain questions about the size of any Yes lead and how long it may last, if at all.

Those questions grow larger now that the compound drivers creating it have been joined by the UK Government’s Section 35 order blocking the Scottish Parliament’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill from royal assent.

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We generally expect most Scots to disapprove of the UK Government doing practically anything in Scotland – at least, that’s what years of polling have taught us to expect. Even if the GRR is unpopular, the UK Government’s attempt to veto it may prove even more unpopular.

In that case, one of two things may happen – either support for independence will be reinforced at its current level or given another boost.

Only time will tell how the events of the past few months will effect our constitutional politics, but for now, there’s all to play for.

Mark McGeoghegan is a postgraduate researcher at the University of Glasgow. The views expressed are his personal and academic opinions