THE ongoing police investigation into the SNP’s finances and a number of high-profile arrests have not dented support for the party or independence, according to Scotland’s leading poll expert.

Professor John Curtice said the scandals engulfing the SNP – including the arrest of former chief executive Peter Murrell and former party treasurer Colin Beattie – appear to have had little impact on the party in the eyes of voters.

The polling expert, who is a politics professor at Strathclyde University, said the SNP’s popularity had been hit during the bruising leadership contest which propelled Humza Yousaf to the top job earlier this year.

But he said Nicola Sturgeon’s personal popularity remained high and that support both for independence and the SNP had remained stable since the leadership election.

Prof. Curtice, writing in the i newspaper, argued voters may not be “as caught up in the drama as the opposition parties would like to think” – but cautioned the SNP that Yousaf suffered from an image problem.

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He said: “The drama has had remarkably little impact on support for either the SNP or for independence, while it appears to have done little damage to Ms Sturgeon’s personal reputation.

“To date, five polls of voting intentions for the next Westminster election have been conducted north of the border since Peter Murrell’s arrest in early April, following which he was released without charge. On average these have put support for the SNP at 38% – the same as in four polls that were conducted after Mr Yousaf was declared the winner of the SNP’s leadership contest but before that dramatic arrest.

“Meanwhile, at 3%, the average level of support for Labour in the most recent polls is actually a point down on the equivalent figure in the four earlier readings.

“Support for independence is running at 48%, much as it has done for the last two years, and actually slightly up on the position immediately after the SNP leadership contest. The problems that currently beset the SNP are seemingly not regarded as relevant to the much bigger argument about Scotland’s constitutional status.”

Sturgeon’s personal approval ratings appear completely unaffected by the recent scandals, Prof. Curtice added.

“So far as Ms Sturgeon’s personal reputation is concerned, a recent Ipsos poll found that 52 per cent say they are satisfied with how she performed as First Minister, while 43 per cent are dissatisfied – figures that match exactly those that Ipsos recorded the last time they asked the question when she was still in post, in December last year,” he wrote.

Writing on Monday, Prof. Curtice added that news of Sturgeon’s arrest the day before may not have had time to “percolate through to voters” and could have a much bigger impact on their views that more minor characters such as her husband or Beattie.

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He added: “Of course, there is no guarantee that the SNP will continue to be insulated electorally from the adverse publicity it suffers every time the investigation into its finances hits the headlines.

“Perhaps the arrest of Ms Sturgeon will percolate through to voters in a way that those of far less well-known party officers have not. But we should not assume that voters are as caught up in the drama as the opposition parties would like to think.”

The political expert said Yousaf’s long-term problems were that he “badly needs to persuade voters that he is a worthy successor” to Sturgeon as well as developing a strategy to win the electorate over to independence.

“But doing any of this is near impossible for as long as the SNP are repeatedly buffeted by the drama of a police investigation over which it has no control,” he added.

“For the time being at least, firefighting may be all that Mr Yousaf can do – and hope that he and his party are not eventually consumed by the flames.”