Alex Salmond has admitted he feels "sad" that his relationship with Nicola Sturgeon has broken down after she revealed she had previously loved her former friend and mentor.
The former First Minister, who has launched a rival party to Ms Sturgeon’s SNP and has accused her husband of conspiring to have him wrongly jailed, also denied a report that he had boasted that he could have "destroyed" his former protégé if he had wanted to.
Mr Salmond spectacularly fell out with Ms Sturgeon, who he had been close to for decades, in 2018 after she refused to intervene in a Scottish Government probe into sexual harassment complaints against him.
A major rift then turned toxic after Mr Salmond was charged with sexual offences and accused allies of Ms Sturgeon of plotting to have him imprisoned.
He also publicly accused the First Minister of lying to Parliament over her handling of the claims against him - an allegation that could have ended her political career. Meanwhile, Ms Sturgeon has regularly attacked him for failing to show contrition for inappropriate conduct towards female staffers, which he admitted in court, before he was cleared of all charges.
In an account of the episode in The New Yorker magazine this week, Ms Sturgeon described Mr Salmond as the most important person in her adult life apart from her husband and parents, and said he had been "somebody that I loved, on a level".
Asked about the comments, Mr Salmond expressed regret about the bitter end to his friendship with Ms Sturgeon for the first time publicly.
"Well I'm sure we both feel sad about the way things have developed," Mr Salmond said. "That's a very nice thing for Nicola to say.
"I’ve made it an absolute rule that there won’t be a word of criticism personally about Nicola from me in this campaign."
He said the claim that he had said "if I wanted to destroy her, that could have been done" had been taken "totally taken out of context" in the US magazine article.
Ms Sturgeon survived the furore over her handling of the Salmond affair after an independent probe cleared her of breaking the ministerial code, even though the majority of MSPs on a parliament committee concluded she had misled them.
She claimed her opponents - and potentially Mr Salmond himself - had attempted to "break her" over the scandal and that "there were days when they might have come closer than they knew".
In a press conference two days before the Holyrood election, Mr Salmond said he believed his Alba Party was poised to achieve a parliamentary breakthrough and could win representation in each region of Scotland - meaning it would return at least eight MSPs.
However, two polls published on Wednesday put Alba’s vote share at just two and three per cent, which if accurate would likely mean not a single Alba MSP would be elected.
Mr Salmond side-stepped questions about whether he would retire from politics if he is not elected on Thursday, saying the Alba leader would be elected by members at a conference next month. He did not say if he would be a candidate if he is rejected at the ballot box.