Today’s BMG Research poll for The Herald confirms the message of previous polls that support for the SNP is down on where it was just a couple of months ago. Yet the party is certainly not in freefall – and it might yet still be able to win an overall majority at the Holyrood election in May.

At 48% on the constituency vote, the party is down by three points on its average standing in the polls conducted in January. However, its 42% share of the list vote is in line with its January average.

These BMG figures for SNP support are exactly in line with those of five other polls conducted since Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon made their appearances before the Holyrood inquiry into the handling of harassment complaints against Mr Salmond.

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This suggests that whatever damage was done to the SNP’s popularity when the Salmond vs. Sturgeon row first hit the headlines in February has been limited to an initial hit rather than a continual erosion.

However, most of the interviewing for the poll was conducted before leaks of some of the findings of the parliamentary inquiry, including the accusation that the First Minister misled the committee.

And the SNP cannot afford to lose any more support if the party is to win an overall majority in May – and thereby make it more difficult for the UK government simply to say No to another referendum.

Meanwhile, the poll puts support for independence at 52% - still somewhat lower than in some polls last year, but no lower than the average of the polls in January.


This matters because it appears that, for most voters, whether or not they are willing to back the SNP depends on whether they support independence or not.

No less than 86% of those who say they would vote Yes in a second independence referendum say they will back the SNP on the constituency ballot. Just 7% of those who oppose independence propose to back Nicola Sturgeon’s party.

These figures stand in sharp contrast to the position when the SNP won an overall majority in 2011. Then the party was reliant on the support of nearly two in five who were opposed to independence.

Meanwhile, in so far as voters’ attention has focused on the Salmond inquiry, the BMG poll confirms that voters have reacted relatively favourably to her testimony.

Nearly twice as many (47%) believe that she has been the more truthful of the two protagonists as reckon Mr Salmond has been (24%). Amongst the key group of voters she needs to keep on board – those who have voted for the party in the past – the figures are 74% and 18% respectively.

Even so, the First Minister might still worry that some of those 18% of former SNP voters who believe her predecessor might decline to vote to vote SNP as a result.

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Yet in focusing their attacks on the integrity of the First Minister, the opposition are potentially playing with fire.

No less than 55% of voters are satisfied with how Ms Sturgeon is doing her job, while just 34% are dissatisfied. No other Scottish party leader comes close to matching her popularity.

Even among his own party’s supporters only 68% are satisfied with the way the Scottish Conservative leader, Douglas Ross, is doing his job, while only 47% of Labour supporters are as yet satisfied with their new leader, Anas Sarwar.

In contrast, no less than 89% of SNP supporters say they are satisfied with Ms Sturgeon’s leadership.

Ms Sturgeon might yet welcome an election fought on the question of leadership.

John Curtice is Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University and Senior Research Fellow, ScotCen Social Research