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by Andrew Learmonth
25 November 2021
Nicola Sturgeon approval ratings drop by nearly 40 points with Scottish voters

Nicola Sturgeon approval ratings drop by nearly 40 points with Scottish voters

Nicola Sturgeon’s approval ratings have plummeted in the last year, falling by nearly 40 points, according to the latest poll by YouGov.

However, the survey - carried out for The Times - revealed that she is still more popular with voters than any other party leader. 

Last August, Scots gave the First Minister a popularity rating of +50, that has now dropped to +12.

She’s now the only leader with a positive rating. Boris Johnson is on minus 62, while Keir Starmer is on minus 35. In Scotland, Douglas Ross’s approval rating has fallen by four to minus 38, while Anas Sarwar has dropped 20 points to register on minus 1.  

Meanwhile, the proportion of voters who ranked the constitution in their preference for the Scottish Government’s top three priorities fell by eight points to 13 per cent. 

Fewer than one third of SNP voters ranked independence on their hierarchy of priorities.

The poll reveals that the constitutional question remains close, with 40 per cent of voters saying they would vote yes to independence, and 46 per cent backing no. When undecided voters were removed, 53 per cent back the Union, compared with 47 per cent in favour of breaking away. 

Speaking to the BBC last night Sturgeon said that the pro-independence campaign has “still got a job to do”.

“I think we are much closer to that than ever before, but are we there yet? No,” she added.

She said that she did not want a referendum to be held “while we are still worrying about face coverings and testing ourselves every day”.

The Scottish Government’s ambition is to hold a vote before the end of 2023, though the UK Government has said now is not the time for indyref2. 

Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack recently suggested that a referendum should only be held if polls consistently found that 60 per cent of Scots want this to happen.

Writing in The Times, Professor Sir John Curtice said there was “no sign of any electoral challenge to the grip of the nationalist movement on the Holyrood chamber”.

However, he added that the First Minister was “at risk of looking like a politician stuck in second gear”.

“For 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,” he wrote.

“The decline in support for independence registered earlier this year has not been reversed, leaving it short of the 50 per cent plus one required for referendum victory.

"Few unionist voters appear willing to concede that SNP success at the next UK general election should pave the way for indyref2.

"Meanwhile, even those who back the SNP appear to have lost enthusiasm for holding another ballot any time soon.

“At the time of the Holyrood election in May, SNP voters backed having a referendum within the next 12 months by 57 per cent to 23 per cent. Now, in a remarkable turnaround, they oppose the idea by 49 per cent to 39 per cent.

"The quietude of the constitutional debate in the past six months, one the First Minister has done little to disturb, has perhaps persuaded many independence supporters that the Yes movement does not yet have the energy for a successful campaign.”

The psephologist said the First Minister would soon need to “reveal her hand”. 

“During the next few months the need to steer Scotland through a winter in which coronavirus is under control will ensure that the constitutional issue still lies on the table. But come spring Sturgeon will need to explain how she will deliver and win the referendum that her party’s supporters want.”

Read the most recent article written by Andrew Learmonth - SNP minister's 'disappointment and loss' over Derek Mackay texting scandal

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