Ms Sturgeon was handed a huge boost earlier this week when she was cleared of breaching the ministerial code over her involvement in the Alex Salmond saga. An independent inquiry by senior Irish lawyer James Hamilton examined whether the SNP chief misled Holyrood over what she knew about accusations relating to her predecessor. Mr Hamilton’s report said Ms Sturgeon had given an “incomplete narrative of events” to MSPs but concluded this was a “genuine failure of recollection” and not deliberate. But, as many opponents in Edinburgh continue to criticise Ms Sturgeon over the issue, the controversy is likely to be a running theme in the upcoming Scottish election campaign.
Earlier this month, various experts spoke to Channel 4 about how the recent events in Edinburgh could affect the SNP.
Mandy Rhodes, editor of Holyrood Magazine said: “We’ve got the likelihood the SNP will take 47 percent of the vote in the next election… and yet it does feel like almost like a fag-end government, like there’s something rotten going on.”
Professor James Mitchell of Edinburgh University added: “You’ve got this weird situation where you have this dominant political party looking to do extremely well in May’s election, yet deeply divided and very, very unhappy within itself.”
Channel 4 also spoke to influential figures within the SNP, according the party’s former deputy leader Jim Sillars.
He made damning remarks about the Scottish First Minister, highlighting the widening divisions within the party.
Mr Sillars said: “We have one person government in Scotland… I wouldn’t say it was Stalinist. More that there is a touch of the Belarus.”
Professor Stephen Griffins, SNP MP, defended Ms Sturgeon, saying that there is room for criticism of the First Minister, but argued that most are supportive of her leadership.
He said: “People can criticise the party but that doesn’t mean to say that they’ll be popular.
“Most people in the party seem to think Nicola Sturgeon is doing a good job, when people say she’s not doing a good job that’s fine, but they are in a minority.”
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While still giving Ms Sturgeon’s SNP a clear lead, the 46 percent who say they would vote for the SNP in their local constituencies represents the lowest proportion for the party in any poll since the December 2019 general election.
Every poll of 2020 recorded the SNP share of the constituency vote above 50 percent, peaking at 58 percent in September and October, suggesting that the SNP’s recent troubles have dented their poll rating.
However, a poll by BMG Research released this week found that the SNP are on course for a narrow majority.
On the regional Lists for this poll, the SNP appear on course for 42 percent, the Tories came second on 22 percent, Labour trailed in third place on 17 percent, and the Lib Dems and Greens each came in on eight percent.