Nicola Sturgeon has denied being “the Liz Truss of the SNP” after effortlessly upstaging her successor at the party's conference.

The former First Minister was greeted by whoops and applause on the second day of the event in Aberdeen where she was hugged by a succession of tearful activists.

Ahead of her arrival, Humza Yousaf had predicted there would be “lots of love” and “adulation” for his predecessor.

Her rapturous reception proved him right and underlined the special status she retains in the party after taking it to eight election victories, despite her resignation in February triggering the most turbulent period in the modern SNP’s history.

Mr Yousaf, who has never stirred his party in the same way, has so far lost the Rutherglen & Hamilton West by-election and polls suggest he will lose MPs in the general election next.

At the recent UK Conservative conference in Manchester, Liz Truss grabbed the headlines from her successor by making a speech critical of the party’s direction under Rishi Sunak.

READ MORE: SNP would have independence mandate even with fewer votes, says Keith Brown

Ms Sturgeon praised Mr Yousaf, but also recalled her “fair amount of electoral success” and in an apparent Freudian slip said “I am the leader” before correcting herself.

She gave her backing to the party's new independence strategy even though it was a rejection of her own 'de facto refefrendum' plan.

Asked if she was the Liz Truss of the SNP, she asked the journalist who put the question to her: “How long did it take you to think that up?”

Asked again for the answer, she replied: “Don’t be ridiculous.”

One former Scottish Government aide said Ms Sturgeon's appearance had been extraordinary in the circumstances, adding: "Can you imagine if Alex Salmond had done that?"

Descending a staircase emblazoned with SNP policies at the Event Complex Aberdeen, Ms Sturgeon was met by dozens of cameras and reporters while activists and MPs lined the balconies above.

She was accompanied by three cabinet secretaries - Jenny Gilruth, Mairi McAllan and Shirley-Anne Somerville - and former SNP Westminister leader Ian Blackford.

On Sunday, the party, at Mr Yousaf’s urging, rejected her plan to fight the general election as a de facto referendum on independence as a “trap”. 

Asked if she was disappointed the party had ditched her plan, she said: “One of the reasons I took the decision to step down was that I believed I had given it my all in moving the country to independence, but that I had taken it as far as it could.

“I think in those circumstances it was right - in fact that was my objective - that the party took the time to consider the way forward it wanted to adopt. 

“It did that yesterday. It did that unanimously as far as I could see, and that position has my full, unequivocal support.”

Asked if her presence was a distraction for Mr Yousaf, she said: “Not at all. I have been watching from afar. This is a very different conference experience for me than the ones that I’ve been used to. But I've been watching from afar over the course of yesterday,

“You know that I think Humza is doing a fantastic job as leader of the party and as First Minister, and I don’t think there is any doubt  from what I’ve seen about who is in charge of this conference.”

She said she had not spoken to the police since her arrest and release without charge in the investigation into SNP finances in June.

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Asked if she was a liability to the SNP given Mr Yousaf had cited the police investigation as being a factor in the SNP’s loss in the Rutherglen by-election, Mr Sturgeon said: “I’m no longer the leader of the SNP. Humza is more than capable of speaking for himself.

“I am the leader… It’s fair to say I was a leader with a fair amount of electoral success under my belt. I look forward to supporting the SNP’s future electoral success.”

Asked why the SNP lost so badly in Rutherglen, she said: “I think the SNP is a government the best part of 20 years into office. I’ve just come down the steps there that are littered with the achievements of the SNP and I think what the party is doing, what the party needs to do, is remember and remind people why we have won so many elections in the past almost 20 years now. 

“It’s about being on the side of people who aspire for a better life, for themselves and their kids. It’s about standing up and providing a voice for people who are often marginalised.

“Where necessary, standing up to vested interests, and always standing up for Scotland and making the connection between our belief in independence and those issues that people have as a priority.”

Asked about a lack of internal debate under leadership, Ms Sturgeon said: “The SNP is a democracy, always has been, and has always been able and willing to debate the things it wants to debate. That’s always been the case and always will be the case.”

Asked if she could take criticism, she said: “I’ve always been someone who takes criticism on board and argues their case, will continue to argue my case. My record as SNP leader speaks for itself. It’s for other people to judge that of course.”

Later, delegates cheered a video tribute to Ms Sturgeon in the main hall while Mr Yousaf was absent from the stage.

Depute leader Keith Brown led activists in cheering her as she stood to receive the applause in the hall, followed by more of the same for former deputy FM John Swinney.

Scottish Tory chairman Craig Hoy said: “Nicola Sturgeon must be living on a different planet if she doesn’t think her appearance is overshadowing Humza Yousaf’s first conference as party leader.

“Activists and the media were falling over themselves to meet her and hear what she had to say. It is clear that the former first minister is still the star attraction at SNP conference, eight months on from when she stood down.

“Humza Yousaf may have publicly said he was delighted to see his predecessor turn up in Aberdeen, but privately he must find it utterly galling that she’s stealing the limelight away from him.

“He’s finding himself having to pick up the pieces of the divided party she left behind as well as the fallout from Nicola Sturgeon finding herself at the heart of a police investigation.

“Nicola Sturgeon’s presence at the SNP conference has only upstaged Humza Yousaf and undermined his attempts to try and stamp his authority on his party.”