Analysis: Squeaky bum time for the SNP as Sturgeon faces prospect of symbolic defeat

It is unlikely that in 2007 at the start of the SNP’s 14-year tenure in power that you would have found many SNP members or politicians claiming that failing to register a majority at the Holyrood elections should be considered an electoral failure.

However, given the recent sky-high polling numbers enjoyed by Nicola Sturgeon’s party both for independence and Holyrood voting intention, that is what is likely to be the takeaway from internal critics of the First Minister.

There’s some credibility in such an accusation.

Barring a complete collapse of the SNP support, the party will return to Holyrood in May as the largest party.

The SNP could be set to miss out on a majority in May's Holyrood elections.

But it would be fair to characterise a hung Parliament with the SNP in reach of a majority, but ultimately still dependent on the Scottish Greens to pass major legislation as a symbolic, if not actual, defeat for Ms Sturgeon and her party.

This election has been billed by many within the SNP as the best way to guarantee an independence referendum amid promises a majority would guarantee such an outcome.

Without one, Ms Sturgeon would lack some of the moral authority she wields within her party that she is the best choice to lead Scotland to independence and the door ajar for potential challengers.

After criticism around the SNP’s 2017 general election campaign, spearheaded by the First Minister, it could lead to further internal calls for a fresh change at the head of the SNP and by extension the Scottish Government.

This month’s polling makes grim reading for the SNP in recent weeks, with both support for the party and Scottish independence continuing to follow a downward trend.

But it is worth noting that as few as a thousand votes in favour of the SNP could see them pick up constituency seats narrowly missed in 2016.

The numbers are on such a knife-edge in this Savanta ComRes poll that it could be one constituency seat that makes all the difference.

It is therefore firmly in the realms of ‘squeaky bum time’ for the First Minister.

Her future remains under a cloud of uncertainty due to the Alex Salmond inquiry, but with minimum expectations for the SNP set at achieving a majority, anything less will be construed a defeat for the leadership.

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