ALEX Salmond has come under fire for saying he could have "destroyed" his one time ally Nicola Sturgeon.

He made the remark in an interview with the American magazine the New Yorker, published yesterday, which profiled the First Minister ahead of the Holyrood election on Thursday.

The two politicians were once close friends but bitterly fell out in the aftermath of sexual harassment complaints made against the former First Minister by two civil servants which led to him successfully taking Sturgeon's government to court.

In January 2019, the Supreme Court ruled the Scottish Government's investigation into alleged misconduct by Salmond was unfair and “tainted by apparent bias” and awarded him £500,000 in legal costs. He was cleared of all charges at the High Court.

READ MORE: Alex Salmond rejects suggestion he has 'damaging information' on Nicola Sturgeon

Discussing his feud with Sturgeon and the Holyrood inquiry - set up to find out what went wrong in the Scottish Government's handling of the complaints - Salmond, who now leads the Alba Party, told the magazine: “If I wanted to destroy her, that could have been done.”

Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman hit out on Twitter making her views clear in response to a post highlighting Salmond's comments. 

She wrote: "Read it. Not one scintilla of personal awareness, honest reflection or personal responsibility. Quite the opposite demonstrated in those words. Utterly shameful. #BothVotesSNP."

But Chris McEleny, Alba's lead candidate in the west of Scotland, dismissed Freeman's criticism suggesting the remark had been misinterpreted.

He tweeted: "What did you read, Jeane? Alex laughed at the suggestion put to him, and highlighted he specifically had the opportunity at the inquiry into your Governments unlawful behaviour to say Nicola should resign if he wanted to do so but chose not to do so. Best to deal in facts."

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In the New Yorker interview Salmond also attacked his successor as SNP leader and first minister for failing to advance the case for independence since he left office in the wake of the No result of 2014. 

He said: “The problem that Nicola has, and it is one entirely of her own making, is that the case for independence hasn’t advanced one iota since 2014.”

Salmond's Alba is campaigning on a platform for a more urgent action to achieve independence.

The party is standing four candidates in all eight regions of Scotland, though it is not standing in any of the country's constituencies, where it is urging voters to back the SNP.

Former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill, fellow MP Neale Hanvey and former MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh are among the Alba's candidates who have defected from the SNP.

Polls put support for Alba at between 2% and 6% with some suggesting Salmond could return to Holyrood as an MSP for the north east, where he is the party's lead candidate.

Sturgeon was also interviewed for the New Yorker feature, revealing she felt close to being "broken" at the height of the traumatic row with Salmond.

"The past year has accentuated Sturgeon’s leadership qualities," the feature by the periodical's London-based journalist Sam Knight reported.

"But it has also been politically traumatic. In 2018, Salmond, her predecessor and mentor, was accused of sexually harassing staff while he was in office.

"An investigation by Sturgeon’s government into the allegations was mishandled, and a subsequent criminal prosecution, in which Salmond was tried for attempted rape, ended in his acquittal."

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon tells New Yorker she felt close to 'broken' by Salmond feud

It added: "The scandal ruined one of the most important relationships of Sturgeon’s life and came close to removing her from office. Earlier this year, two separate inquiries into the Salmond case explored whether Sturgeon had lied to the Scottish Parliament.

"She narrowly survived. 'I think my political opponents—I don’t know, maybe Alex himself ... There was an element of ‘We can break her,’ you know?

"Almost kind of personally as well as politically. That was how it felt,' Sturgeon told me. 'And, you know, there were days when they might have come closer than they knew. But they didn’t.'"