NICOLA Sturgeon has tried to blame the SNP’s biggest electoral reverse in 40 years on "turnout" and denied the party has suffered any electoral failures under her leadership.

The First Minister suggested the SNP’s loss of almost half-a-million votes and a third of its MPs at the 2017 election had been influenced by voter numbers, not unpopularity.

Ms Sturgeon’s second election as SNP leader saw the party fall from 56 MPs won in 2015 to 35 after Ruth Davidson led a Scottish Tory surge based on defending the Union.

The snap election was called just a few months after Ms Sturgeon announced plans for a second independence referendum, galvanising Unionist opposition.

The SNP’s share of the vote fell from 50 to 36.9 per cent, while the Scottish Tory vote rose from 14.9 to 28.6%, Labour’s rose from 24.3 to 27.1%, and the LibDem fell from 7.5 to 6.8%.

READ MORE: Piers Morgan "I can't help liking Nicola Sturgeon, she exudes leadership" 

In terms of absolute votes, the SNP fell from 1,454,436 to 977,659, a drop of 476,867.

The Scottish Tories rose from 434,097 to 757,949, Scottish Labour rose from 707,147 to 717,007, and the Scottish LibDems fell from 219,675 to 179,061.

While the SNP lost 21 MPs, the Tories went from one to 13, Labour from one to seven, and the LibDems from one to four.

It was the SNP’s worst reverse since it lost nine of its 11 MPs in 1979.

Both turnout (at 71.1% and 66.4%) and the size of the electorate (4,094,784 and 3,988,490) were indeed smaller in 2017 than in 2015.

However, the total number of votes cast was 260,770 lower, much less than the 476,867 lost by the SNP. 

Nor do turnout and electorate size explain the rise in votes and MPs for other parties.

Ms Sturgeon acknowledged at the time that Indyref2 had been a factor in the election results, telling MSPs that “having listened and reflected” she would “reset” her plan.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson again dismisses out of hand Nicola Sturgeon's attempt to hold second independence referendum 

However speaking to BBC Breakfast from the SNP conference in Aberdeen, Ms Sturgeon took a different line when was asked about the 2017 drop-in votes, and why she was confident of more support in future.

She replied: “Well, I’ll come on to that point in a minute. But I should say, just so we’re putting this in some context, that the SNP has won every single one of these elections. We’ve comfortably won all of these elections.”

Pressed again on the drop in SNP between 2015 and 2017, she said: “Well of course that will be affected by turnouts in elections, but anyway I won’t labour that point.

“I’m simply making the point that the way you asked that question sounds as if we’ve suffered some electoral failures, which we haven’t. We’ve won all of these elections.

“But what gives me confidence now is the polls. In a party sense, the SNP, in government for 12 years, we are streets ahead of our opponents in terms of polling evidence.

“And on the question of independence, we had a poll yesterday [Sunday] showing that independence support is up to 50%, a record in that particular poll.

“So we see rising support for independence, we see rising support in Scotland for the demand to have a choice about our future.”

Although the SNP lost seven councillors in the 2017 local election, the party has fared much better in recent polls and had its best-ever result in a European election in May.

The SNP won half of Scotland’s six MEPs as its vote share rose from 29 to 37.7% and Labour collapsed from 26 to 10% and lost both its MEPs.

The Tories, LibDems and Brexit Party each won one MEP.

The SNP failed to win the Holyrood by-election in Shetland in August but did increase its share of the vote.