NICOLA Sturgeon has compared the breakdown of her relationship with Alex Salmond to “a grieving process” as she stressed that Scottish independence will happen “sooner rather than later”.

The First Minister said it would be “a relief” when she is given the chance to have her say on the fallout as part of a Holyrood inquiry.

Ms Sturgeon will give evidence to a Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of two sexual misconduct complaints made against Mr Salmond in 2018.

Separately, Mr Salmond was later charged with sexual assaults - he was cleared of all 13 counts this March.

Speaking to Time Radio, Ms Sturgeon said the situation between her and Mr Salmond has been “personally difficult”.

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She added: “I suppose I would just reference or say to people, imagine how it would feel, you know, for any reason and whatever the circumstances if somebody that has been one of the biggest presences in your life, outside my own family, my husband, probably the most significant adult in my life for all of my adult life, and just imagine that and then imagine that they're not in that role anymore.

"I've not been able to talk about this because of the criminal trial and then when the criminal trial ended, I was immersed as I still am in Covid.

“I will get the opportunity to talk about that in the parliamentary inquiries that are to come and while I wouldn't say I relish that prospect at all, there will to some extent be a sense of relief, at just being able to have my say.

“There is a sense of something that I suppose is not a million miles from a grieving process, but you know, we all go through difficult things and we have to cope with them."

The First Minister warned she may not have started a career in politics if social media had existed when she was younger – and urged women in politics, particularly younger women, to "be yourself".

She said she was not targeted with overt acts of sexism in her early political life but looking back she now sees the levels of misogyny which existed.

She said: "The people out there who are deeply sexist and deeply misogynist have got more direct ways (with social media) of getting to you and that environment is in some ways more hostile.

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"I'm not sure, hand on heart, that if Twitter had existed when I was growing up, would I be sitting here right now? I don't know, genuinely.

"It's really, really hard if you're a younger woman in particular of finding ways of coping with that."

The SNP leader pointed to repeated comments about her appearance and, in the early part of her career, an accusation that she never smiled as examples.

When embarking on her career, Ms Sturgeon said she felt that in order to "get on" she had to "fit in", which led to her changing the way she presented herself publicly, becoming more aggressive in her demeanour with oppositions politicians.

She said: "I had this sense of the way to get on in politics was to fit in with the people around me.

"So I, subconsciously at the time but definitely the case, dressed more conservatively to look like the suited men around me, be a bit more adversarial than you were perhaps comfortable with being, because that's how it was done by the men around you.

"It's only relatively recently that I realised that the most important thing for any woman in any walk of life is to be yourself and not feel that you have to emulate the people around you."

The First Minister insisted that Scotland will become an independent country.

She said: “It won't happen because I say it should happen, or any other politician says it should happen, but I believe that is the path Scotland is on and I think when that day comes, and I think it will be sooner rather than later.

"We don't turn our backs on others across the UK. We become an equal partner and we take more responsibility for our own decisions and forge our own path in the world."