NICOLA Sturgeon has defended the media's right to operate free from political interference.

Ms Sturgeon's remarks came after her predecessor Alex Salmond was accused of pressuring the BBC in the run-up to the election.

The First Minister backed comments by the former director general of the BBC, Greg Dyke, who said politicians should not be allowed to define impartiality in reporting.

Her comments, at First Minister's Questions, came days after Mr Salmond launched a fierce attack on the BBC, again accusing the corporation of bias during the referendum campaign.

He claimed the BBC would only stop being biased against the SNP if powers over broadcasting were transferred to Holyrood.

His intervention, on the eve of the election campaign proper, was criticised by the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

Ms Sturgeon was challenged about his comments by Murdo Fraser, the Scots Tory MSP, who asked if he was speaking on behalf of the SNP.

Ms Sturgeon told him: "I think that everybody supports absolutely - I know that I do - the right of the media to be completely free of political interference."

The First Minister also condemned "vindictive" blogs.

Answering questions from Labour MSP Neil Findlay, who complained of "nasty, vindictive and gutter politics" in some blogs, she said: "I think that I might know about some of the websites and blogs that the member is talking about-they are nothing to do with this side of the chamber.

"I say clearly that, as somebody who is an enthusiastic-sometimes too enthusiastic-user of social media, I will always condemn anybody from any side of politics who indulges in abuse."