NICOLA STURGEON has opened up on the inner drive that has propelled her to the top in politics and how she has had to change as First Minister.

In a wide-ranging exclusive interview that covers her debt to family and friends, her marriage, her passion for reading, her political philosophy, her personal principles and her love of Doc Martens, the First Minister traces the roots of her success to her early life.

READ: Nicola Sturgeon: 10 things that changed my life

“There was definitely a drive within me. I struggle to articulate and explain what it was, but it was within,’’ she said.

She added: “My mother and father gave me self-belief. My mum was only 18 when I was born, my dad just a few years older, and yet they managed to give me this sense of belief that nothing was off limits to me. That is the most valuable thing any parent can give to a child.

She went to school at Greenwood Academy in Irvine before graduating with a law degree with honours at Glasgow University. Yet she confessed that being surrounded by privately-educated students could be “intimidating”.

“For the first wee while it was a bit intimidating. It was not until my first exam results were given that I said: ‘I can cope with being here.’

‘‘Up to then, you say: ‘Am I really up to this?’ I was coming from a state school and meeting privately educated people who exuded confidence in a way I was not familiar with.”

She added: “But you get through. I was really unsure when I started in September but when the exams came at Christmas I realised I had done as well – possibly a bit better – than some of the people I had been intimidated by.’’

Sturgeon, who joined the Scottish National Party as a 16-year-old, contested her first parliamentary election in 1992 when she was just 22. She was elected deputy leader of the party in 2004 and became SNP leader and First Minister in 2014.

She admitted her accession to Scotland’s most powerful job had been accompanied by a need to change.

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She said: “You learn there are things about yourself you have to change. I have had to learn to be a bit more patient, I always want things done now, so I have learned to mellow that but still try to get things done as quickly as possible.’’

She added: “Since I have been First Minister, I have had to learn how to delegate more.

‘‘I have had to learn how to lead a team as I am a bit of a control freak. It can be hard for me to let things go and trust people to get on with things. That is something, to be candid, that I have had to work at.’’

The First Minister, who has “a high tolerance to stress’’, said she found solace in reading and “refuge” in her Glasgow home and her marriage to Peter Murrell, SNP chief executive.

“Marriage has given me a lot,” she said. “It gives me a sense of stability, security, a sense that there is somebody there who knows you inside out, knows the real you, instead of the person you read about in the newspapers. Somebody that is on your side.

“There is a sense of loneliness in this job, very much so. There are things you can’t share, that you can’t always make someone understand. But Peter will be able to tell the times when there is stuff on my mind that I can’t really talk to him about. He understands enough to know how to support me without necessarily being explicit about it all. He has an intuitive sense of what I need.”