If there is one positive for Humza Yousaf to take from the polls as he marks his first year in Bute House, it is that his approval ratings have not got any worse.

“Basically, it's a flat line,” Professor Sir John Curtice tells the Herald on Sunday.

“He's in negative territory, and he's, broadly speaking, in much the same negative territory as he was 12 months ago.”

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf lacks 'big vision' suggests Kate Forbes

Next Friday marks the anniversary of the SNP MSP being sworn in at the Court of Session as Scotland’s sixth First Minister and Keeper of the Scottish Seal.

Any hope he had for a gentle start to his time in office after a particularly bruising and divisive leadership contest was short-lived.

The Herald: Humza Yousaf takes the oath as he is sworn in as First Minister of Scotland at the Court of Session, Edinburgh (Jane Barlow/PA)

A week after the Lord President, Lord Carloway, administered the official oath of office, Peter Murrell, the husband of former first minister Nicola Sturgeon was arrested in connection with an investigation into SNP finances.

Police raided the party’s offices and the couple’s house in Glasgow. They seized a £110,000 luxury motorhome from outside the Fife home of Mr Murrell’s elderly mother.

The then SNP treasurer Colin Beattie and Ms Sturgeon were also subsequently arrested. All three were released without charge pending further investigation.

An investigation which continues to hang over the party.

And then there were all the other problems, the policy u-turns, the court defeat on the gender recognition reform bill, the disastrous result at the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, the continuing scandal over Michael Matheson and his £11k iPad bill.

Even Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, admitted to "almost" feeling "a little sorry" for Mr Yousaf. 

"The SNP defied political gravity for many years but they are coming back down to earth with a bump," he said.

READ MORE: 'Nicola Sturgeon will definitely take part in SNP election campaign'

There have been some wins, notably the council tax freeze in which he saw off a rebellion from the country's town halls. His leadership on the Israel-Hamas war has won him plaudits and almost certainly forced Labour to call for a ceasefire. 

But if his first year was tough, his second looks set to be miserable.

There are plenty in the party who think he’ll be out of job before 2024 comes to an end, especially if the SNP loses a slew of MPs at the looming general election.

“Can he stay on as leader if we come out of this election having lost ten, 15, 20, 25 MPs?” one candidate told The Herald on Sunday. 

"Can he really survive that and then lead us into the 2026 Holyrood election?

“The only problem is, what’s the alternative?”

One SNP MSP told us the party was simply "tired".

“The First Minister is well-liked," they said.

“He is much more open to new ideas and dialogue than his predecessor.

“That said, he has not made the impact I would hope for.

“He has inherited significant issues. These issues will continue to dominate and that, alongside a sense of general tiredness means that there continues to be talk of who should be next.”

That was a criticism articulated by Kate Forbes on Thursday night on the Holyrood  Sources podcast.

“People need to be inspired by leadership,” she said. “They need to be inspired by the thought that things are going to get better. And this is going to be a challenging year all round. And as much as I back the party and the current first minister, we can only win elections if you have a big vision we can get behind.”

The former finance secretary who stood against and only narrowly lost to Mr Yousaf in the last leadership contest also suggested that she would run again when he stands down.

The Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP is "highly capable," Professor Curtice said, "but also highly divisive." 

“The problem is, that the person who probably most outsiders would reckon might be best placed to do the job is Stephen Flynn,” he added.

The Herald:

The SNP’s Westminster leader is currently an MP and, without a by-election, won’t get to Holryood before 2026.

“Fundamentally Humza's problem is he's a very nice man who's intellectually able, but he doesn't have presence. And nobody can give him presence,” the polling guru added.

“Whereas Stephen Flynn is very clever and he's got presence. He is the best performer at PMQs at Westminster, and that's a pretty high bar.

“Now whether or not he would ever be any good as a minister or party leader, or more broadly, who knows, he’s untested.

“But one gets the impression that he's largely quelled discontent within the Westminster group. Though of course, the Westminster group are all scared as rabbits that they're going to lose their seats, but that's not necessarily his fault.”

READ MORE: LETTER OF THE DAY: Humza Yousaf must go after Labour, not the Conservatives

Mr Yousaf's big push for the election is to make Scotland “Tory free.” Despite - some slightly hypocritical - criticism from some of his own parliamentarians, it is a slogan and a strategy he is sticking with.

It has its merits but it is also problematic, says Professor Curtice.

“If you want to reduce the chances of the Tories being able to form an administration and be rescued in Scotland in a way that they arguably were in 2017, then you vote for the SNP in the six seats the Tories are trying to defend. I mean that's, that's the realpolitik of the situation.

“But equally, there’s no point in voting SNP in order to have a Tory free Scotland in Glasgow.”