INSIDERS have described a mood of anger and dismay in the SNP and fear the feud between Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond could risk Holyrood’s pro-independence majority in May.

Loyalists around the First Minister lay the blame for the bitter row firmly at the door of her predecessor, describing the former party leader’s behaviour as that of “a narcissist” who avoids responsibility for his or her own actions.

“The general feeling is we’re in an election time. The Tories are trying to cause as much trouble as possible as they have nothing else to offer, no positive things to offer the country,” said one supporter.

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“It is sad to see what is going on with the Alex Salmond situation. He admitted to acting inappropriately. Yet he has managed to blame Nicola Sturgeon who has been the most competent leader Scotland has ever had in the Scottish Parliament.”

The activist added: “Alex Salmond has a massive ego and he is trying to save face. It is the classic behaviour of a narcissist. A narcissist can never lose, it is always someone else’s fault.”

It is an approach Sturgeon ramped up after Salmond attacked the leadership of the Crown Office and also claimed her close allies were involved in a “malicious and concerted” attempt to remove him from public life and even send him to jail.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon hits out after leak of Alex Salmond inquiry report

At First Minister’s Questions last month, the day before the former FM appeared in person at the Holyrood committee set up to see what went wrong in the Scottish Government’s investigation into complaints against him, Sturgeon rounded on her former friend and mentor.

“What is not legitimate is to pursue a conspiracy theory, a scorched earth policy that threatens the reputation and the integrity of Scotland’s independent justice institution just because you happen to dislike the Government and to sacrifice all of that, if I may say so Presiding Office, on the altar of the ego of one man,” she said.

But with the party severely divided over the row, others take a different view reflecting wider concerns among some over what they see as a lack of progress on indyref2 and shortcomings in party management.

They do not see the First Minister as blameless in the affair and worry that despite polling suggesting strong support among voters for her and for the party, public opinion may be on the brink of changing.

On Thursday a poll by Opinium recorded support for the SNP at 46% on the constituency vote for the May election, and 42% on the list vote – which could mean it gaining a majority, or just falling short. 

It also gave Nicola Sturgeon a very strong lead in approval ratings with +27, (compared to Boris Johnson's net score of -35, Keir Starmer's  -11 and Douglas Ross's –15). But the poll also showed voters think the SNP is divided rather than united (48% vs 39%).

“I am worried we are at at tipping point,” said one veteran.

“Like so many things in life, politics is driven by momentum. For the SNP and the pro-indy cause, the swing has been going in its direction but recent polls have been starting to show a dip. If momentum is shifting, it could shift more aggressively in favour of others.”

He added he had no doubt the Sturgeon-Salmond feud would have an impact on voters and activists were finding themselves struggling to defend the Government. “I think it will be significant,” he said.

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“For me it’s been the lack of transparency, the length of time it’s been dragging on. There is no doubt sadly that the FM is tarnished and damaged. We’re not going to get a majority. We’ve had a lot of political capital to deploy indyref2 and we haven’t deployed any of it.”

One leading figure pointed to the UK Government’s “love bombing” announcement on 1000 civil service jobs this week and said she could see the pro-Union side promoting a clear strategy to stop independence.

“Where is our strategy to get independence?” she asked.

Another senior insider said he regarded both Salmond and Sturgeon as friends and was not happy with the First Minister’s attack on her predecessor.

“I really didn’t like Nicola talking about ‘Alex Salmond and his cronies’. It made me feel very uncomfortable. There is a feeling that what may have been in our grasp maybe slipping away. Hopefully it won’t, hopefully we’ll weather the storm, but there is disquiet.”

A fifth source said: “The Salmond-Sturgeon business is just coming across as a really messy affair which people are scunnered with. Some people are happy with the line some in the SNP are going on that Tory ministers have breached the ministerial code and not resigned, but others are saying ‘hold on is that how we are measuring ourselves now?’

READ MORE: SNP members of Salmond inquiry brand Nicola Sturgeon leak ‘disgraceful and wrong’

“Whether it’s on Iraq, on nuclear weapons, the SNP took the moral high ground. We called it as it was. Now we’re using the corruption of the Tories as a reason why people shouldn’t resign. It’s a disaster.”

The insider added: “I think the big risk now is that we are in a reverse 2011. The SNP started 15 points behind but ran such a positive campaign we got a 15 point lead and a majority, whereas this year we were starting with a big lead but with what’s going on we could lose that and we may not even get a pro-independence majority.”