THE SNP is on course for an unprecedented majority at next year's Holyrood elections, according to a new poll which puts support for independence at 53%.

The poll, which was conducted by YouGov for The Times, found that 57% of people intended to vote SNP in May 2021.

This result would see SNP MSPs in Scotland rising from 63 to 74 - and give more backing towards a second independence referendum.

It would also mean that the SNP would be the most powerful party of government since the Scottish Parliament was re-established in 1999.

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The last time that there had been a majority government at Holyrood was in 2011 when former First Minister Alex Salmond had 69 MSPs. This resulted in the 2014 referendum.

According to the YouGov polls conducted for The Times, support for Scottish independence now stands at 53% - two points up since January.

The YouGov results are the highest levels of backing for the SNP and for independence recorded by the company and are the latest surveys to be carried showing majority support for independence

This is despite the polls being carried out for The Times during the exams' crisis over the last few days which saw John Swinney announce a dramatic U-turn.

However, the survey suggested the situation has not damaged the First Minister’s reputation with her approval ratings soaring by 45 points.

It now stands at +50, compared to Johnson's at minus 50 having fallen by 16 points.

Ruth Davidson, named yesterday as the Tory group leader at Holyrood, has an approval rating of 15, while Labour leader Keir Starmer's stands at 14.

A Panelbase poll in the Sunday Times last month had support for a Yes vote in an independence referendum at 54% and support for No at 46%.

It also found strong backing for Sturgeon's handling of the coronavirus crisis, with the First Minister's approval rating on the issue at 60 points.

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Johnson's approval rating on the pandemic was at minus 39 points.

Commenting on the Panelbase findings, top pollster Sir John Curtice said:

"Never before have the foundations of public support for the Union looked so weak.

"Our latest poll from Panelbase confirms other recent polling that has suggested those who intend to vote yes in a second independence referendum have nudged ahead.

"Support for the SNP is also at a record high.

"Panelbase's polls conducted over the past six months, including today's, have on average put 'yes' on 51% and 'no' on 49%.

"This is the first time in polling history that 'yes' has been ahead over such a sustained period.

"Support for independence is up three points on that recorded on average last year - and six points on 2018."

He said those who had switched from No to Yes were among people who voted both Remain and Leave in the EU referendum.