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Nicola Sturgeon approval rating plummets but FM remains most popular leader

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Nicola Sturgeon's popularity among Scottish voters has plummeted - but the First Minister still remains the highest rated party leader, a poll has found.

It comes as the veteran Nationalist last night signalled she intends to serve a full five-year term in Holyrood's top job following speculation over her long-term future.

A survey by YouGov found Sturgeon's personal approval rating has fallen by 40 points since August last year and now sits at +12 - meaning more respondents said they impressed with her performance than those who said they were unimpressed.

But the First Minister is still the only party leader with a positive rating. In comparison, Boris Johnson has an approval rating of -62 among Scots.

The same survey also found voters rate Scottish independence as only their eighth most important priority when presented with a list of policies.

Professor John Curtice, the country's leading polling expert, said that Sturgeon "is at risk of looking like a politician stuck in second gear" despite the SNP's continued position as the party most Scots would vote for.

Writing in The Times, - which commissioned the poll, Curtice said: "While she may still be Scotland's most popular politician (albeit not as popular as earlier in the pandemic) who leads by far and away Scotland's most popular party (albeit one dependent on the Greens for its Holyrood majority), there is little sense of progress towards its ultimate goal of independence."

Sturgeon's peak popularity in August 2020 came at a time Scotland was opening back up after the first national lockdown.

The First Minister was making daily televised media briefings on the state of the pandemic.

The latest YouGov also found that voters had dropped independence to eighth in their list of priorities, with less than a third of SNP supporters seeing it as a key objective of the Scottish Government.

Support for independence versus the Union remains almost deadlocked at 50-50, although the survey found the pro-Union side retains a narrow lead.

The SNP leader last night said she had "no intention of going anywhere" and insisted she would "fulfil" the mandate voters had given her at the Holyrood election.

Sturgeon was re-elected as First Minister in May for the second time after the SNP easily maintained its position as the largest party in the Scottish Parliament.

However, political opponents have suggested she will not serve a full term, which ends in 2026.

Her suggestion recently of an interest in becoming a foster parent fuelled claims she has an eye on life after politics.

In an interview with the BBC ahead of SNP conference this week, she said: "It is almost as if my opponents have concluded they can't beat me or remove me from office themselves, so they're kind of crossing their fingers and hoping that I'll remove myself from office.

"But they are going to be really disappointed because I'm going to be around a lot longer."

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