OPINION polls are like goals, some set your team back, others signal the inevitable tedium of a low-scoring draw but the special one’s roar into the top corner from 30 yards.

We either cheer them to the rafters or try to cleanse them from our mind.

In the words of the football fan, last week’s STV/Ipsos MORI poll was an ­absolute raker almost bursting the net as it whipped past the keepers of the status quo and igniting the Yes campaign into song.

It was not simply the top-line ­findings on independence but every subsequent ­question too. Drill deeper into the ­responses and there is barely a slither of good news for Unionists. Support for ­independence is five percentage points higher than it was in ­early May, with Yes taking a lead and ­turning the outcome of the 2014 ­referendum on its head.

Among those likely to vote either Yes or No in an independence referendum, 55% say they would vote Yes while 45% would vote No. This is a seismic change and ­desperately poor news for those that put their faith in stopping or even slowing the pace of democracy.

READ MORE: What can be learned from the latest poll on Scottish attitudes to independence?

Too good to be true, well maybe but a lot to savour, nonetheless. All age groups except the oldest – those aged 55+ – are more likely to say they would vote Yes than that they would vote No. Nor is there any great evidence that the older age group has shifted much. It remains a ­stubborn challenge for the Yes campaign when the starting pistol fires.

Much as pollsters like to use the term “outlier” for a poll that asserts itself so clearly what was significant this time was the underlying opinions beneath the headlines.

The governing coalition with the SNP and Greens registered 55% giving Yes parties a strong lead in voting intention for both constituency and list votes too. The Scottish Conservatives trail behind in second place on both votes.

The Unionist vote had declined across every party with Labour suffering ­another haemorrhaging of support, dropping five percentage points to 17%.

The days when independence can be dismissed as an irrelevance have ended and the desperately defensive idea that it is a distraction is not borne out either. To argue distraction in the months to come you now must argue that democracy itself is a distraction.

Even with the support of the ­Tories, ­Labour and the Scottish ­Liberal ­Democrats combined, the ­Unionist ­parties combined cannot get much ­beyond 40%.

The list vote tells a similar story, with the SNP gaining ground on all other ­parties, by taking voters from all three of the Unionist parties.

Not all the questions were ­constitutional. One area that surprised me given the ­persistent hostility and mixed messages of the media has been on vaccine rollout. It seems no one was ­really listening to the noise, the griping and contrived concern of some ­columnists and radio shows, they were listening to health experts and ­cautious advice.

​READ MORE: INTERACTIVE MAP: What's independence support like in my area?

It is almost the opposite of the foaming mouthed cartoons of Mel Gibson as Braveheart screeching “freedom”, a cautious and sensible attitude to public health is nudging more people to say yes to independence.

The poll demonstrates that Scots are overwhelmingly positive about the ­vaccine rollout – more than four in five (84%) say the Scottish Government has done a good job of ensuring the public are vaccinated against Covid-19 as soon as possible.

That does not mean that the rapidly ­mutating virus has not got more tricks to play on us but at the time of writing a thumping majority of Scots feel that the government, our health chiefs, and the frontline staff with the Scottish ­National Health service have performed ­remarkably well.

No one can deny that vaccine rollout has had an impact – often a worrying one – on people waiting for other forms of treatment, but even with that factored in the vaccination programme has been seen as a success.

But what next as we reach round three and booster vaccination? The Omicron variant is already among us, and all nine cases in Scotland have been linked to a single private event held on November 20. Nicola Sturgeon has warned that more cases are expected to emerge in the next few days ahead – but that community transmission may still be “limited” due to the restricted nature of the event.

Respectful of patient privacy, the exact location and nature of the private event has not been published, although it has been made clear it was not related to the COP Climate Conference in Glasgow.

ALL of this matters because of a lazy trope within Scottish journalism which has given free rein to opinionated and often belligerent sections of the hospitality trade, allowing them to argue that the crisis is over and its time to lift restrictions.

I have huge sympathy for those small businesses that offer Bed and ­Breakfast, Café Brunches and offer wedding ­catering, they have been dealt a hellish blow, every time there has been light at the end of the tunnel it has been a ­thundering train ­coming at them.

But I have felt less sympathy for the self-appointed industry leaders who have colluded with news teams to politicise the pandemic and have flitted about like a wasp in the ear for many months now.

I can only hope that this outbreak has not come as the result of a private party in a pub, a restaurant or hotel ­function suite. We have heard enough crass ­arguments about “saving Christmas” and letting ­people have their turkey where they please, when often it is self-serving nonsense that seeks to put profit before public safety.

Many sectors in Scotland have suffered because of Covid, some are irretrievably damaged, but few have argued black-is-white with the vacuous noise of the ­hospitality sector.

Those political parties that have ­ventriloquised their voices to have a go at the Scottish Government – and we know who they are – really need to decide whether they are a part of the solution or part of the problem.

Being the naysayers of public health policy is not winning them support and for Douglas Ross in particular, his pointy and aggressive demeanour has badly backfired.

Ross comes out of the polls as the least favoured political leader with half (51%) of Scots saying they are dissatisfied with his performance as Conservative leader. 24% are satisfied, while 25% don’t know enough to rate him.

​READ MORE: SNP extend lead to 52 per cent in latest poll while Unionist parties lag behind

Nor has his boss helped. The buffoonery of Prime Minister Boris Johnson has turned Tories in Scotland into a ­ratings disaster. The poll says four in five Scots (80%) are dissatisfied with the way ­Johnson is doing his job, while just 16% are satisfied. This is the worst ever ­polling of a British prime minister in modern times and may be feeding into another ­historic change. The days when London rule felt safe, secure, benign, and ­comforting have ended. The twin blows of Brexit and the pandemic have holed the Tory ship below the waterline.

According to reports in France, the French president, Emmanuel ­Macron, ­referred to Johnson in a private ­conversation as a “clown” with “the ­attitude of a vulgarian”.

This poll is a hammer blow to some of the positioning that the Better Together campaign took back in 2014, remember the broad shoulders and the world’s most respected democracy.

Gone like a secret bank account in Liechtenstein.