NICOLA Sturgeon’s personal approval rating has slumped since she ended her daily Covid briefings, suggesting voters are increasingly unhappy with her domestic record. 

A new YouGov poll for the Times found the First Minster’s rating has fallen almost 40 points since its peak last year, when she was on TV almost daily, although she remains the most popular political leader in Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon’s approval rating hit +50 in August last year, when 72 per cent of voters said she was doing well as First Minister, against 22% who said she was doing badly.

But her rating this month is down to +12, with 53% saying she is doing well, compared to 41% saying she is doing badly.

Since You Gov’s last pre-election poll in May, her popularity has halved from +27.

The decline coincides with the independence debate stalling and an increased focus at Holyrood on the SNP’s record on health and education, with a slew of recent problems in the NHS.

However Ms Sturgeon remains the only Scottish party leader with a positive rating, and other party leaders have suffered declines as well.

Tory Douglas Ross’s approval rating is -38 (down 4 points), Labour’s Anas Sarwar is -1 (down 21 points), while Boris Johnson is -62 (down 17) and Sir Keir Starmer -35 (down 13).

Scottish Green co-leaders Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie, who have become ministers since the last YouGov poll in April, are on -38, and Alex Cole-Hamilton, who became Scottish Liberal Democrat leader after the poll, is on -16.

On the constitutional question, YouGov found 46% of voters opposed to independence, 40% in favour, and 9% unsure, suggesting Ms Sturgeon's plan for Indyref2 by 2024 is failing to build support.

In an interview ahead of this weekend’s SNP conference, Ms Sturgeon yesterday dismissed rumours she plans to quit during the current parliamentary term, which runs to 2026.

She told the BBC she had “no intentions of going  anywhere right now as First Minister”.

She said: “It is almost as if my opponents have concluded they can’t beat me or remove me from office themselves, so they’re hoping that I’ll remove myself from office. But they are going to be really disappointed because I’m going to be around a lot longer.”

Professor Sir John Curtice, of Strathclyde University, told the Times that Ms Sturgeon, 51, was “at risk of looking like a politician stuck in second gear”.

He said: “While she may still be Scotland’s most popular politician (albeit not as popular as earlier in the pandemic) who leads by far and away Scotland’s most popular party (albeit one dependent on the Greens for its Holyrood majority), there is little sense of progress towards its ultimate goal of independence.”

YouGov also found voters had downgraded independence to eighth in their list of priorities, with less than a third of SNP supporters seeing it as a key Government objective.

Electorally, the SNP's strength is undiminished, with the poll suggesting it would win 55 of Scotland's 59 seats in a general election tomorrow, and only lose one of its 64 seats in a snap Holyrood election, with Labour overtaking the Tories because of "sleaze".

The poll found little appetite for Indyref2 in the short-term, but a majority of decided voters did want a new vote in the current parliamentary term.

The poll by YouGov for the Times shows that, removing don’t knows, 53% of people want a referendum to be held during the current Scottish Parliament term.

SNP MSP Rona Mackay said: “This poll shows a clear majority of people expressing a view want a referendum in the current Holyrood term.

“As the UK Tory government continues to be mired in Westminster sleaze and the harsh realities of Brexit are being realised, it is no surprise the people of Scotland want to have the choice of taking a better path with independence.

“In the election in May the people of Scotland elected a majority of independence supporting MSPs, delivering a cast-iron mandate for an independence referendum.

“Polling also recognises how the only party offering a positive vision for the future of Scotland is the SNP. The opposition can only provide doom and gloom, which is reflected in their near wipeout in the next Westminster election projected by this poll.

“The only way to protect the future of Scotland from the callous policies of Westminster governments is by becoming an independent country.”