NICOLA Sturgeon has spoken of her “personal pain and anguish” at being separated from her predecessor as he faces trial for alleged sex crimes.

The First Minister told an Edinburgh Fringe audience she missed Alex Salmond after the sudden change in their 30-year relationship.

He had been a “really important, dominant person” in her life, she said.

Mr Salmond was charged in January this year with a total of 14 offences - two of attempted rape, nine of sexual assault, two of indecent assault and a breach of the peace. He strongly denies all the allegations and is expected to stand trial in early 2020.

Ms Sturgeon also spoke of her 2011 miscarriage and the loneliness of leadership in an hour-long conversation with the LBC presenter and political commentator Iain Dale.

After asking Ms Sturgeon if she was prepared to succeed Mr Salmond in 2014 following the No result in the independence referendum, Mr Dale asked if she missed her mentor.

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Ms Sturgeon, Mr Salmond’s SNP deputy for a decade, replied: “It’s a difficult thing for me to talk about for personal reasons. Much more importantly it’s a difficult thing for me to talk about for legal reasons.

“I’m hesitant to even put a toe into it right now in case I stray into areas I really shouldn’t go into. But I like to try and answer questions when they’re posed directly to me.

“Just think about how you would feel - anybody in any walk of life - when somebody has been a really important, dominant person in your life, in my case with Alex for 30 years.

“And suddenly for whatever reason, that relationship is different and you’re not able to have that same relationship. Is there a degree of personal pain and anguish in that? Of course there is.”

A special Holyrood committee is currently investigating why Ms Sturgeon continued to have meetings and phone calls with Mr Salmond over the summer of 2018, after he told her that two female civil servants had accused him of sexual misconduct.

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Ms Sturgeon also spoke about meeting Boris Johnson last week.

She said: “Boris Johnson is a Prime Minister the vast majority of people in Scotland, had they been given any choice, would not have chosen to give the keys of Number 10 to.

“He’s a Prime Minister that is intent on taking us out of Europe against our will. He looks intent on taking us out without a deal, and the catastrophe that would bring about is well understood here. I wasn’t overly thrilled to be standing on the steps of Bute House welcoming Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

“I will always be polite to visiting dignitaries, if I can call Boris Johnson a dignitary.

“But I abhor what Boris Johnson wants to do to the UK, and I certainly abhor what he wants to do to Scotland completely against our democratic wishes. So forgive me if I’m not going to be full of the joys when I’m meeting him. I never wanted to see Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.”

HeraldScotland: Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon

Ms Sturgeon meets Mr Johnson at Bute House

However she said he was at least more animated than his predecessor.

She said: “Having conversations with Theresa May was pretty soul-destroying. So talking to Boris, at least it was like having a conversation, albeit a bit of a crazy one. You could debate and share views and disagree on things. I’ll say that for him.”

She also admitted failing to recognise the new Scottish Secretary, Alister Jack, as he came up the steps as part of Mr Johnson’s entourage.

“I didn’t immediately recognise him, so it was kind of, ‘Who are you trying to get in ma hoose?’ Then I realised who it was and ushered him in.”

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In 2016, Ms Sturgeon spoke for the first time publicly about suffering a miscarriage five years earlier, just months before a Holyrood election.

She said: “Miscarriage is one of these taboos. It is changing, but the very fact that it’s still convention that a woman doesn’t talk about being pregnant until she’s three months gone, all of that gives this sense that that’s because if you miscarry it’s something you wouldn’t talk about it.

“Since I opened up about that, I’ve spoken to lots of women who talk about the personal pain of miscarriage and how that is compounded by the fact that they just haven’t felt they can be open about it and talk about it. I wanted in a small way to help that conversation along.

“There are a variety of reasons why women don’t have children. Sometimes they choose not to for a period, they choose not to permanently, they miscarry, whatever what it is. Women shouldn’t constantly be having to explain that.”

Ms Sturgeon said she intended to fight the next Holyrood election in 2021 as SNP leader, and hoped her party would win and she would remain First Minister for many years.

But, an avid reader, she also said she would “love to write” after leaving politics.

Said she would “love” to write fiction, but was unsure if she had it in her, and so meant non-fiction and possibly an autobiography.

She admitted being First Minister was a “lonely job”.

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She said: “Ultimately the decisions that you have to take, only you can take them. You have lots of advisers, official and unofficial advisers. There’s no shortage of people wanting to share their opinions. But ultimately you have to take are yours. The failures are yours, the mistakes you make are yours, and that can be lonely.”

She said that meant she had a sense of empathy with other political leaders, even ones she’s fundamentally disagreed with like Mrs May, because “I get how how difficult and lonely at times the position she was in must have been”.