THE SNP is set to scrape a majority in the upcoming Holyrood election, a new poll for The Herald has found, as Nicola Sturgeon prepares to face one of the most dramatic weeks in the history of devolution.

The exclusive poll by BMG Research also contains a possible warning for the First Minister, as 49 per cent of Scots think she should resign if she is found to have misled parliament and broken the ministerial code, compared to 38% who think she should not.

But polling expert Professor John Curtice cautioned against placing too much weight on this issue due to the grey areas involved.

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The new poll found a narrow majority in favour of independence, with 52% backing Yes and 48% backing No, once undecideds are removed.

It comes as Ms Sturgeon faces a momentous few days, with Holyrood preparing for the publication of two reports into the Alex Salmond affair.

Leaks suggest a Holyrood inquiry will find the First Minister misled it, and therefore misled parliament, when its report is published on Tuesday.

But more weight will be placed on a separate, independent probe by Irish lawyer James Hamilton, who is examining whether Ms Sturgeon lied to parliament and broke the ministerial code.

His report could be published as soon as today.

If she is found to have broken the code, the First Minister would be under huge pressure to resign.

The Scottish Tories are pushing for a vote of no confidence in Ms Sturgeon to be held on Wednesday.

BMG polled 1,021 Scots over the age of 16 between March 16 and 19.

It found the SNP enjoy a 27-point lead in the Holyrood constituency vote, with the party on 48%, the Conservatives on 21%, Labour on 20% and the Liberal Democrats on 8%.

On the regional vote, the SNP is on 42%, the Tories 22%, Labour 17%, the LibDems 8% and the Greens 8%.

Projections indicate this would give the SNP 66 seats in Holyrood, up three from the last election – handing the party a knife-edge majority of just one.

The Tories would win 27 seats, down four; Labour would drop four seats to 20; the Greens would gain eight seats, up two; and the LibDems would win eight seats, up three.

If the SNP win a majority of seats in May, 46% of voters think the UK Government should agree to a second independence referendum in the next five years, compared to 43% who think it should not.

Robert Struthers, head of polling at BMG, said: "Polling in 2020 showed the SNP consistently getting over half the vote, with some polls placing their support as high as 58% when looking at the constituency vote.

"Whilst this is our first Scottish voting intention poll since the 2019 election, these numbers certainly suggest that the Alex Salmond affair has had a detrimental impact on their support.

"Whilst there is no question the SNP are on course to continue to be the largest party at Holyrood, our polling does suggest Sturgeon's ability to form a majority is now on a knife-edge.

"Using a uniform seat calculator - a general guide of estimating how votes might translate into seats - our vote intention numbers place the SNP on 66 seats, the slimmest majority of just one.

"The margin of error, a feature of all polls, coupled with the intricacy of the Scottish electoral system, means if the election was held now, the SNP's chances of gaining an overall majority hangs very much in the balance.

"The fine margins of Scottish politics extend to people's views on Scotland's constitutional future.

"With don't knows removed, a slim majority, some 52%, say they would vote for independence in a referendum, with 48% supporting Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom."

The BMG poll found 49% of Scots think Ms Sturgeon should resign if she is found to have misled parliament and broken the ministerial code, compared to 38% who think she should not, while 13% don't know.

However, when asked who has been more truthful, almost twice as many voters chose Ms Sturgeon as picked Mr Salmond.

Asked about the Holyrood inquiry and how it relates to the First Minister, 47% said Ms Sturgeon has been more truthful, compared to 24% for Mr Salmond.

The poll shows opinion is heavily split along party lines.

Just 8% of those who voted SNP in the 2019 General Election think Mr Salmond has been more truthful, compared to 74% for Ms Sturgeon.

In comparison, those who voted Conservative overwhelmingly favour Mr Salmond.

Elsewhere, Ms Sturgeon's continued popularity is evident.

The poll found 57% of Scots think she has handled the coronavirus crisis well, compared to 24% for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Meanwhile, 56% think the pace of the Scottish Government's plan to ease lockdown restrictions is "about right".

It poll also found 55% of Scots are satisfied with the way Ms Sturgeon is doing her job as leader of the SNP, compared to 24% for Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

Asked which they consider the most important issue, just 7% chose Scottish independence/remaining in the UK, while 44% chose coronavirus.

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Mr Struthers said: "Close to half of Scots, including a quarter of SNP voters, think Nicola Sturgeon should resign should the investigation conclude there has been a breach of the ministerial code, highlighting the danger that the affair continues to pose to the First Minister.

"However, whilst it is probably fair to say that neither politician has come out the inquiry positively, many more Scots believe Sturgeon's account of events has been more truthful than Alex Salmond's."

He added: "What is striking from these numbers is that Sturgeon remains incredibly popular and an electoral asset ahead of May's election."

Mr Curtice said the BMG poll shows the election continues to be dominated by independence.

Meanwhile, attitudes towards the row between Ms Sturgeon and her predecessor "are now highly politicised".

He said: "Tory voters believe Salmond but 78% of 2019 SNP voters believe Sturgeon – and that is the group that matters."

Elsewhere, more people think the lockdown is being eased too slowly than believe it is being ended too quickly.

This is the opposite of the position last summer, Mr Curtice said, and may act as a "warning sign to the Government".