And she insisted that that her visit to the conference was not overshadowing Humza Yousaf despite receiving a rapturous reception from delegates.

The former First Minister spent a number of minutes hugging supporters and shaking hands as she made her presence in Aberdeen very well-known.

Some were even in tears as she communicated with them.

She answered questions from journalists about her position on the SNP’s new independence strategy after her “de facto” referendum idea was scrapped by her party and insisted that she was happy with the direction of travel they are going in.

She said she supported the majority of seats plan “unequivocally.”

Ms Sturgeon swiftly said “no” when asked whether she had been spoken to by detectives again since her arrest back in June in relation to Operation Branchform.

Police are looking at alleged embezzlement and misuse of funds following a report about an allegedly “missing” £600k of indyref2 funds.

She also denied that she was overshadowing Mr Yousaf despite the furore surrounding her arrival and the applause she received.

She said: “I’ve been watching from afar. This is a very different conference experience for me than the ones I’ve been used to. You know that I think Humza is doing a fantastic job as leader of the party and as First Minister.”

In a tightly controlled press huddle, she also responded to the SNP’s crushing defeat in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, where they lost to Scottish Labour with a 20 per cent swing.

She said: “I think what the party is doing and what the party needs to do is remember and remind people why we won so many elections in the past almost 20 years now.

Asked if she had become a liability to the party, after Mr Yousaf suggested the police probe was brought up numerous times on the doorsteps in South Lanarkshire, she rushed to defend her record.

She said: “I am no longer the leader of the SNP, Humza is more than capable of speaking for himself. I am a leader, it’s fair to say I was a leader with a fair bit of electoral success under my belt and I look forward to seeing the SNP’s future electoral success.”

And one question was asked about her decision to set up a new limited company to deal with the proceeds of her book deal, which is worth £300,000. The business means that she will be able to dodge some taxes when being paid by publishers Pan MacMillan.

She refused to say whether the profits from the autobiography would go to charity as she said that she is “concentrating on writing (her) book right now” and that she will discuss this at a later date.

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.”

Meanwhile, commenting in response to Keith Brown’s a radio interview this morning in which he agreed that independence was more important to him than the cost of living crisis and defended the SNP’s desperate election mandate plan, Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie, left, said: “This morning’s car crash interview from Keith Brown shows an SNP out of ideas, out of steam and out of touch with the people of Scotland.

“From putting independence before the needs of the Scottish people to parroting desperate Tory attacks on Labour, it is obvious that the SNP is a busted flush that has become completely disconnected from the concerns of the people of Scotland.

“While the SNP and the Tories offer nothing but more strife and incompetence, Scottish Labour is offering the people of Scotland a fresh start and real action to tackle the cost of living.

“Labour will make work pay, drive down bills and make Scotland a clean energy superpower.”


Top of page picture: Nicola Sturgeon with local SNP’s Brendan O’Hara and Martin Docherty-Hughes.

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