Nicola Sturgeon 'bulletproof' despite trust in SNP leader taking hit due to Alex Salmond inquiry, poll shows

Trust in Nicola Sturgeon remains the highest of all Scottish political leaders despite the Scottish Parliament’s inquiry into the handling of harassment complaints against Alex Salmond, a new poll has shown.

The Salmond Inquiry has damaged Alex Salmond more than Nicola Sturgeon, a poll has suggested
The Salmond Inquiry has damaged Alex Salmond more than Nicola Sturgeon, a poll has suggested

The inquiry is examining the botched handling of complaints against the former first minister that led to a cost of more than £500,000 to the taxpayer following a successful judicial review action by Mr Salmond.

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The procedure used by the Scottish Government was deemed to have been “tainted by apparent bias”, the Court of Session said last year.

Viewed as a potential banana skin for the SNP and the First Minister and an opportunity for the opposition within Holyrood to air the party’s dirty laundry, the inquiry has been ongoing since restarting in June.

It has included intense scrutiny on the Scottish Government’s handling of the complaints and has seen Ms Sturgeon criticised for a lack of transparency and openness.

However, according to a poll by The Scotsman/Savanta ComRes, the First Minister has so far seen the least negative impact from the inquiry of all the main participants.

A total of 66 per cent of people said they were very or quite aware of the inquiry, with 22 per cent saying they were not that aware and a further 8 per cent stating they were not aware at all.

Despite this and the intense press interest surrounding the inquiry, levels of trust in the First Minister have been impacted the least.

The poll shows the inquiry has caused 36 per cent of people to trust her less, with 19 per cent trusting her more than prior to the inquiry, and 37 per cent trusting her the same with a net trust score of -17 per cent.

Ms Sturgeon is still viewed as the most trustworthy (50 per cent), honest (54 per cent), and genuine (57 per cent) of the Scottish party leaders, according to voters. Between 20 and 25 per cent of voters said the same applied to Scottish Conservative and Scottish Labour leaders Douglas Ross and Richard Leonard.

The SNP’s equivalent trust ratings see the party sitting at -23 per cent net trust and the Scottish Government at -28 per cent net trust.

However, the person worst affected by the inquiry is the former first minister.

Trust levels in Mr Salmond have dropped in the minds of more than half of voters (54 per cent), with fewer than a quarter saying their trust in the former SNP figurehead has stayed the same and just one in ten saying they trust Mr Salmond more than prior to the inquiry.

The survey interviewed 1,013 Scottish adults aged 16 or over online between December 11 and 15.

Chris Hopkins, associate director at Savanta ComRes, said the inquiry would not be enough on its own to potentially damage Ms Sturgeon’s hopes of being re-elected First Minister in May.

He said: “Awareness relating to the Salmond inquiry is fairly strong and it’s the former first minister, rather than the current one, who is coming out of the inquiry the worst.

"In fact, looking at other metrics regarding Nicola Sturgeon – her trustworthiness, her honesty, and her strength – she gives the impression of being almost bulletproof in Scottish politics and it will take much more than the Salmond inquiry to harm her claims.”

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