The First Minister began his "national conversation" with the people last night with an audience at the Edinburgh Book Festival, and made clear that the door was now closed on any formal coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

Alex Salmond also spoke of his dealings with former First Minister Donald Dewar and the former BBC director general Greg Dyke, and offered his view that the Scottish Parliament should have a full session every day.

He was speaking in the tented village in Charlotte Square overlooked by his official residence, Bute House, and began by joking that he had arrived by official limousine.

He admitted under questioning from the audience that he had been forced to alter his proposed white paper to fit the realities of minority government. "I envisaged before the election a document that would have been produced by a majority government," he said. "This document is judicious in terms of looking at the range of options on Scotland's future. There has to be a degree of humility by a minority government that says by all means we will put forward our own view, but we have to acknowledge there are different points of view."

He also looked back to May, saying: "Initially, I would have preferred a coalition deal. That was my expectation and I fully expected that within a few days we would be in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, but that bus has left the station.

"Where we are now is working very effectively. If we co-operate now it will be on a specific proposal."

He suggested that Holyrood's timetable might be more effective if there were full parliamentary sessions on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, with committee meetings on these three mornings, but he stressed that was a matter for the parliament itself, not for his executive.

He was accused of misrepresenting the view of Mr Dewar on devolution and Mr Dyke on broadcasting reform but replied that he only cited Mr Dewar's support for the right of Scots to decide their own future, while as for Mr Dyke he had spoken to him "only 10 minutes ago".