John Curtice

Nicola Sturgeon’s popularity has plummeted in Scotland

(Photo by Wattie Cheung/Getty Images)

A lot has happened in the last fortnight of Scottish politics, most notably the arrest of Nicola Sturgeon. This development has not passed voters by. Though support for Scottish independence remains steady, the reputation of former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has taken a substantial knock. Meanwhile, the threat posed by Labour to the SNP’s dominance of the country’s politics may now be even greater. These are the key messages from two new polls that provide us with the first glimpse of the public mood north of the border in the wake of Sturgeon’s arrest. 

One poll, from Savanta, started its polling a few days before the former First Minister was taken into police custody, but two-thirds of its interviews were conducted after Sturgeon was released without charge. The second poll by Panelbase carried out all its interviews after the news of Sturgeon’s arrest had broken.

Less than 40 per cent now feel favourably towards the former First Minister according to Savanta – while almost half (46 per cent) regard her unfavourably. Panelbase reported similar results.

The two polls agree on one key point: the political whirlwind that has buffeted the SNP in recent weeks continues to have little impact on support for independence. On average, they put independence support at 48 per cent – the same figure recorded by polls since the arrest in early April of Peter Murrell, husband to Sturgeon and former chief executive of the SNP, who was also subsequently released without charge. Indeed, support for independence has remained at its current level for most of the last two-and-a-half years. The takeaway? It appears the foundations of peoples’ attitudes towards Scotland’s constitutional status are evidently too deeply rooted to be swayed by the institutional difficulties of one political party.

Yet despite her long-standing popularity, the same cannot be said of attitudes towards Ms Sturgeon herself.

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