Alex Salmond Inquiry: Half of Scots think Nicola Sturgeon should resign if she broke ministerial code and misled Scottish Parliament

Almost half of Scots think Nicola Sturgeon should resign if she is found to have misled the Scottish Parliament and broken the ministerial code, a new poll has revealed.

The BMG Research survey, commissioned by The Herald, found that 49 per cent of respondents said the First Minister’s position would be untenable if she was found to have misled MSPs, compared to 38 per cent who said she should continue in office.

More than one-in-ten (13 per cent) said they did not know.

It comes after last week’s revelation that the committee investigating Ms Sturgeon’s administration’s handling of the sexual harassment allegations against Alex Salmond voted that she had given the Scottish Parliament an “inaccurate account” of a 2018 meeting with the former First Minister.

Ms Sturgeon has made clear that she stands by all of her evidence to MSPs.

But she now faces a nervous wait for the publication of the committee’s full report this week, as well as that of Irish lawyer James Hamilton, who is conducting a separate independent probe into her conduct.

His findings could be published as early as today.

Pressure is mounting on the First Minister, as the Scottish Tories push for a vote of no confidence in her leadership.

Almost half of Scots think Nicola Sturgeon should resign if she is found to have misled the Scottish Parliament and broken the ministerial code, a new poll has revealed. (Photo by Andy Buchanan - Pool/Getty Images)

Ms Sturgeon’s prospects of winning the vote could well depend on the outcome of Mr Hamilton’s report.

Asked about her appearance before the Holyrood committee, just days after Alex Salmond gave evidence, 47 per cent told pollsters that Ms Sturgeon had been more truthful that her predecessor.

Just 24 per cent said Mr Salmond had been more truthful than Ms Sturgeon.

Opinions on her committee evidence is heavily split along party lines.

The committee investigating Ms Sturgeon’s administration’s handling of the sexual harassment allegations against Alex Salmond voted that she had given the Scottish Parliament an “inaccurate account” of a 2018 meeting with the former First Minister. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Three quarters (74 per cent) of Scots who voted SNP in 2019 think Ms Sturgeon has been more truthful, while those who voted Conservative overwhelmingly favour Mr Salmond.

Robert Struthers, head of polling at BMG, 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."

Asked about her appearance before the Holyrood committee, just days after Alex Salmond gave evidence, 47 per cent told pollsters that Ms Sturgeon had been more truthful that her predecessor. (Photo by Andy Buchanan - Pool/Getty Images)

Despite the First Minister’s challenges, the latest polling also showed the SNP on track to clinch a majority of just one seat in the upcoming Holyrood elections.

BMG, which polled 1,021 Scots over the age of 16 between March 16 and 19, found the party currently has a 27 per cent lead in the constituency vote.

The SNP enjoyed the support of nearly half (48 per cent) of Scots, compared with the Scottish Conservatives on 21 per cent, Labour on 20 per cent, and the Lib Dems on 8 per cent.

By contrast, on the regional vote, the SNP’s lead stands at 42 per cent, while the Tories trail on 22 per cent, Labour on 17 per cent, the LibDems and Greens tied on 8 per cent.

The survey results, if played out on polling day, would hand the SNP 66 seats - an increase of three on the last election, but a majority of just one.

The Tories and Labour would both lose four seats each, taking 27 and 20 seats respectively.

Despite the First Minister’s challenges, the latest polling also showed the SNP on track to clinch a majority of just one seat in the upcoming Holyrood elections. (Photo by Russell Cheyne - Pool/Getty Images)

But the Greens and the Lib Dems would both take eight seats, an increase of two and three seats respectively.

Mr Struthers said: "Polling in 2020 showed the SNP consistently getting over half the vote, with some polls placing their support as high as 58 per cent 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.

He added: "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 poll also found that, with “Don’t Knows” removed, 52 per cent of Scotis support Scottish independence compared to 48 per cent who do not.

But, asked which issues they consider most important just 7 per cent of respondents chose Scottish independence/remaining in the UK, while 44 per cent chose coronavirus.

Ms Sturgeon’s handling of the pandemic also polled highly; 57 per cent of Scots think she has handled the crisis well, compared to 24 per cent for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

A comfortable majority (56 per cent) also said the pace of the Scottish Government’s plan to ease lockdown is “about right”.

SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown said: “It’s clear that people in Scotland believe they have the right to choose a better future as an equal, independent country – rather than being subjected to a Tory government which risks our economic recovery and threatens our NHS.

“The SNP is committed to delivering progressive policies which transform people's lives, and it is clear that people continue to trust Nicola Sturgeon to lead Scotland’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pamela Nash, chief executive of the pro-UK group Scotland in Union said: “As we emerge from the pandemic, the focus of all politicians should be on uniting society so that we can recover together.

“It is irresponsible for the SNP to even contemplate another referendum at this time and risk re-opening old wounds and re-igniting old arguments.”

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