THE first poll of the views of SNP voters on their party’s leadership contest has found most don’t know who they will back – but Kate Forbes has emerged as an early front runner.

A survey of the party’s supporters, commissioned by communications agency The BIG Partnership, found 31% are undecided over who they want to see as Nicola Sturgeon’s successor.

Finance Secretary Forbes leads among those who have an opinion, with 28% saying they would support her - followed by Humza Yousaf on 20% and Ash Regan on 7%.

The poll was carried out between Monday and Wednesday this week, during which time Health Secretary Yousaf held a press conference to get his bid underway and Forbes gave a series of TV interviews. Former community safety minister Regan is to launch her campaign today.

READ MORE: POLL: Who should be the next SNP leader - Kate Forbes, Humza Yousaf or Ash Regan?

While much attention has been focused on Forbes’ views - such as her opposition to equal marriage - only 5% of SNP voters thought the new leader’s faith or personal beliefs are important.

In contrast plans by the new leader for tackling the cost-of-living crisis were seen as important by 58% of those surveyed, while growing the economy and improving health, education and other public services were rated as top issues by 53% of SNP supporters.

The National: Source: The BIG PartnershipSource: The BIG Partnership (Image: The BIG Partnership)

Around six in 10 – 61% - want to see a referendum on Scottish independence at some point within the next two years, and three-quarters want to see a referendum within the next five years.

The survey also found that support for the SNP “remains strong”, with only 12% those surveyed indicating they are “somewhat or very unlikely” to vote SNP on their second vote now that Sturgeon is no longer SNP leader.

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The findings have been released on the day that deadlines for nominations for the SNP leadership close.

The poll, carried out by Opinion Matters, surveyed around 1000 Scottish adults who voted SNP at the 2021 Holyrood election.

Paul Robertson, head of public affairs at The BIG Partnership said: “Our landmark poll suggests that the focus of the leadership election so far does not reflect the priorities of SNP supporters, many of whom may have a vote in this leadership election.

“Our poll indicates that SNP voters want to judge the candidates on their plans for the bread-and-butter issues of government - tackling the cost-of-living crisis, growing the economy and improving public services.

“These are the issues which our poll shows SNP voters think are most important, whilst questions of faith and personal belief, which have dominated the headlines, are relatively unimportant for those choosing the new leader.”

He added: “Neither is it surprising to see SNP voters impatient for a referendum – almost three quarters want a new referendum in the next two years.

“But when considering the top priorities for a new first minister, SNP voters seem to acknowledge that it is current issues like the health service, the cost-of-living, and the economy that should come first.

“This poses a challenge for leadership contenders who will be expected to have a clear plan to deliver a referendum, whilst also demonstrating they can address these key issues of government.”

Neil Gray, who is working as Yousaf's campaign manager, said: "Since launching his campaign, Humza has narrowed the gap significantly. We now have four weeks to speak with party members across the country about why Humza's plan to tackle the cost of living crisis head on and support working families makes him the top candidate to become Scotland's next First Minister."