ALEX Salmond has dismissed suggestions he has “damaging information” which could “destroy” Nicola Sturgeon.

The Alba leader came in for criticism from SNP figures after he was quoted in the New Yorker as saying of his former protégé: “If I wanted to destroy her, that could have been done.” The article states that he chuckled for several seconds before making the remark.

The former First Minister, who accused reporters of misrepresenting his comments, stressed that he does not want to personally attack the current SNP leader and is concentrating on making the “positive” case for independence.

In a wide-ranging Q&A session, Salmond also took aim at the BBC and said there is no "exact number" for what would constitute a supermajority for independence in the Scottish Parliament.

On the reported comments about his successor, he said: “I have not made a single personal attack on Nicola Sturgeon and I don’t intend to start now. Alba have been trying to bring forward the issues in a sensible way, particularly the issues of independence in an entirely positive perspective.

“The New Yorker [article] is totally taken out of context. I did not ‘chuckle’ … I think I guffawed at the suggestions that was being made.”

It was put to Salmond that the New Yorker article suggests he is concealing “damaging information” which could harm Sturgeon’s reputation.

He insisted that people would only get that impression if they read “misrepresentations” of his comments in the New Yorker and in subsequent reports from other media outlets.

“My attitude stands: I will make no personal criticism of Nicola Sturgeon in this campaign and am entirely focused on taking matters forward for Scotland,” he said. “I think that’s the right way to approach to these things.”

READ MORE: Minister attacks Salmond for claim he could have 'destroyed' Nicola Sturgeon

Salmond denied that the New Yorker report could damage his party’s electoral chances. He also noted that he had declined to demand the First Minister’s resignation during the Holyrood harassment committee’s probe into the Government’s botched investigation into claims made against him.

“I don’t think people pay much heed to misreporting or misreporting of misreporting,” Salmond said.

“I think most people in Scotland are aware of such things know that I refused the committee’s invitation to call for Nicola’s resignation. And most people that are aware of such things would be deeply suspicious of the pejorative way in which the New Yorker journalist presented that.

He added: “I’m going to stick to Alba’s position of being positive throughout this campaign. I’ll continue to do that because I think this campaign is about ideas and a positive vision of an independent Scotland. I think that is Alba’s contribution to the campaign.

“Knockabout stuff of any kind I think deflects from that so I’m not going to do it. I’m going to stay positive and keep focused.”

Earlier, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman condemned Salmond over the comments in the New Yorker interview. She tweeted: "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."

Salmond did criticise Sturgeon in the New Yorker article over her efforts to secure independence.

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 was also asked about what would constitute a "supermajority" at Holyrood. 

The 2016 Scotland Act defines a supermajority as two-thirds of MSPs, meaning 86 of the 129 at Holyrood. The Alba leader pointed out recent polling indicates there could be almost 80 pro-independence MSPs in the next Parliament. 

He commented: "Eighty is not the limit, nor do we have an exact number. The more independence-supporting MSPs, the more 'super' the majority becomes.

"The more there is a supermajority, the stronger the Scottish Parliament's influence in the independence negotiations will become, and the stronger Scotland's hand becomes in seeing off Boris Johnson or whoever is there by the time we come to the negotiations."

The former First Minister went on to claim that his show on Russia Today is more balanced than BBC Scotland’s coverage as he took aim at corporation chiefs over his party’s exclusion from leaders’ debates and news programmes.

He contrasted BBC Wales’ decision to include Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party in its election debate with BBC Scotland’s decision to omit Alba from tonight’s programme.

The National:

READ MORE: Alba project message onto BBC Scotland building amid 'censorship' row

Salmond told the media briefing: “The biggest contrast that I think the BBC find it impossible to explain, and we’ve gone to Ofcom with this example, is the decision of BBC Wales to include the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party as part of their main debate … while they simultaneously exclude Alba in Scotland.

“By an measurement – the number of councillors, the number of MPs, the opinion polls suggesting a parliamentary breakthough – it is an impossible contrast to explain.”

For the second time during this election, five of Scotland’s political leaders will face off in a BBC Scotland leaders debate. The SNP, Tories, Greens, Labour and LibDems will all be represented, but Alba will not.

Salmond continued: “I think most viewers would have enjoyed having three independence supporters supporting independence as party leaders in the debate and three opposing independence. That would seem to be a better balance of debate, as well as it being of interest.

“I also think it’s really important that we get the whys and wherefores of independence, we answer the questions on Europe, on currency … I think that’s good for the independence campaign but I think there is a public duty to allow that case to be heard. Up until now at least, I think the BBC have manifestly failed in that public duty.”

The Alba chief also faced questions about his politics show on the Kremlin-backed Russia Today channel. But he insisted it strikes a better balance than the BBC’s election coverage.

“The programme for which I am responsible, the Alex Salmond Show, I would regard as more balanced than the political discussion shows I’ve seen in this election on BBC Scotland,” Salmond said. “I think that is self-evident because in the show that I do, outwith election time of course, we make a real effort to [hear from] people from a distinct point of view.”

He added: “The whole purpose of the programme is to get politics outside Westminster and take perspectives from outiwth the Westminster bubble. We give people from a variety of viewpoints a good a hearing as we possible can. I don’t think that’s been the case of BBC Scotland.”

The comments come after Alba projected their onto the BBC’s Scottish headquarters amid claims they’re being “blacked out” by the broadcaster.