THE SNP struggled to persuade women to stand as candidates at this year’s council elections, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Speaking to ITV’s Good Morning Britain, the First Minister said there was a sense that politics was not a “safe space”.

The SNP leader said that she had experienced a number of comments about her appearance when she started in politics but added that the “toxic culture” of social media had made it “worse today”.

Ms Sturgeon said: “People who will hurl sexist abuse at women in public life, they’ve always been there, but social media gives them direct access in a way that didn’t exist when I was much younger,” she said.

“I think it has also led to a situation where things that previously people would have thought but never said, there is a sense that they can say them now on social media because they don’t have to come face to face with people.”

The First Minister added: “In this election, my party – and I think it will be the same for other parties – have found it more difficult than at any election I remember to persuade women to come forward because there’s a sense that politics is not a safe space.”

Speaking to the Herald, Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar said he had also found it a “challenge” to encourage women to come forward to stand as candidates.

However, he partly blamed the inaction of political parties to tackle the "culture of division" within their own ranks.

“I think right across the board trying to attract more women to stand as candidates has been a challenge. I think it's important to stress though, that it's not just because of recent acts around misogyny and sexism as horrific as they are and as unacceptable as they are. 

“The wider culture of politics, where you look at people being shouted down. When you think about the division and the hatred that we have seen, where you see social media that are targeting particularly of women. And I would say every party is going to have to address this issue. 

“Every party is going to address the culture. Let's not ignore how our politics has helped to embed and strengthen that culture of division and decay. 

“And so yes, I'm going to look at that in my own political party but I would suggest other political parties have to look at as well. The culture that they've enhanced, promoted and allowed to develop that has got us in the situation we are in today.”