A TOP pollster has concluded the ongoing feud between Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond is having little effect on the SNP or the First Minister ahead of the crucial Holyrood elections.

Some Yes supporters have been nervous the ongoing saga could risk an independence majority in the Scottish Parliament ballot due to take place this May and damage the chances of a future referendum.

But according to Chris Hopkins, associate director of Savanta ComRes, the bitter affair has not caused the SNP or the First Minister to be seen in a negative way by voters.

“It is completely fair to say that the ongoing feud between Salmond and Sturgeon isn’t having a massive impact on the fortunes of the SNP or the First Minister ahead of the Holyrood elections,” he told the Sunday National.

“Previous polling from Savanta ComRes showed that while Scots do trust the First Minister a little less as a result of the Salmond Inquiry, they are much less likely to trust the inquiry’s other protagonists, namely Salmond himself, and the Scottish Government, as a result of the feud.

“Among her party’s own supporters, Sturgeon is actually trusted more as a result of the Salmond Inquiry, while the same cannot be said of Salmond himself.”

Hopkins added: “This wholesale backing of the First Minister from her own supporters, coupled with a perception from voters of other parties that she has handled the pandemic well – no doubt inflated by the sense that Boris Johnson and the UK Government have not managed the crisis effectively – means that those who did not vote SNP at the last General Election are now saying in significant proportions that they’re considering the SNP more seriously in May than they may have done before.”

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The Savanta ComRes poll, commissioned by the Scotsman and published last Thursday, found the SNP is on course for a majority as the First Minister’s coronavirus response attracts both former Tory and Labour supporters.

It found she had impressed “significant chunks” of voters with 37% of Labour’s 2019 voters, and 13% of Scottish Tory voters saying they were more likely to back the SNP at the next election than they had been before the pandemic.

Overall, 59% of Scots reported having a more positive view of Sturgeon than before the pandemic, including 46% of Scottish Labour voters and 36% of Scottish Tory supporters.

Asked about their voting intentions for the forthcoming Holyrood election, the findings show that the SNP would have the support of 53% of constituency votes and 44% of list votes, compared with 19% and 16% respectively for the Tories, and 18% for Labour in both the constituency and list votes.

If replicated in May it would give the SNP a 13-seat majority, according to The Scotsman.

The survey of 1016 people aged over 16 between January 8 and 13 – a period when a number of developments in the Sturgeon/Salmond feud dominated many of the headlines.

Many of the reports in this period related to the former First Minister’s submission to the investigation by James Hamilton, the independent adviser on the ministerial code who is examining whether the First Minister broke the code. Salmond claimed in his submission she did, while the First Minister maintains she did not with her spokesman accusing her former mentor of “seeking to malign the reputation of the First Minister by spinning false conspiracy theories”.

A separate Holyrood inquiry is investigating the Scottish Government’s bungled handling of sexual misconduct claims against Salmond in 2018, which he denied.

The former First Minister had the probe set aside in a judicial review by showing it was “unlawful” and “tainted by apparent bias” and was awarded £512,000 in costs.

He was cleared of sexual offence charges after standing trial last year at the High Court in Edinburgh.

The saga dominated the headlines while the polling company was doing its research this month. For instance on January 9, the Express declared: “’Days are numbered!’ Nicola Sturgeon told to RESIGN as pressure builds on leader.”

On January 12, a column by LibDem and Salmond committee member Alex Cole-Hamilton ran in the Edinburgh Evening News under the headline “Alex Salmond Inquiry: Does Nicola Sturgeon have something to hide? It’s starting to look like it – Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP.”