NICOLA Sturgeon has paid tribute to her deputy John Swinney following her final Cabinet meeting as First Minister.

On Tuesday afternoon, Sturgeon chaired her final round table of her Cabinet Secretaries in Edinburgh.

It came hot off an appearance on Loose Women on Monday where she admitted the SNP had “mishandled” the row over membership numbers, and her final public speech as FM to the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) in London later that afternoon, where she warned against the dangers of social media on political discourse.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: Minimum unit pricing among my proudest achievements

And now, the FM has chaired her last Cabinet meeting in Bute House, Edinburgh, where Cabinet Secretaries "took time to reflect and pay thanks" to the FM and Deputy FM.

The official residence is set to close for at least four months, leaving the incoming SNP leader having to deal with temporary accommodation while repairs are underway.

Writing on Twitter, the FM said: “This morning I chaired my last meeting of @scotgov Cabinet.

“By my side, as he has been throughout my time as First Minister, and also taking part in his final Cabinet meeting, was @JohnSwinney.

“It has been a privilege beyond words.”

The FM accompanied the post with a black and white photograph of the pair sitting at the Cabinet table laughing and smiling. Swinney previously announced that he would be standing down as Deputy First Minister when Sturgeon officially leaves the government.

Swinney retweeted the FM, adding: "To serve Scotland has been the privilege of my life."

In a readout of the FM's final Cabinet meeting, Sturgeon told her ministers that she had calculated the meeting was the 637th cabinet under the SNP Government.

She added that one of her proudest achievements discussed around the Cabinet table related to minimum unit pricing (MUP).

The National: The FM chaired her final Cabinet meeting in Bute House on TuesdayThe FM chaired her final Cabinet meeting in Bute House on Tuesday (Image: Scottish Government)

The FM described it as an ambitious policy that took time to become law in the face of parliamentary opposition and legal bids to thwart it but is evidently saving lives.

An article in the medical journal The Lancet found 156 deaths per year on average in Scotland may have been prevented due to the pricing policy, which was implemented in May 2018.

As well as thanking Cabinet colleagues, the FM and the DFM also paid tribute to the many civil servants who had helped and supported them over the years.

A spokesperson for the FM said: “Today’s Cabinet allowed colleagues to thank the First Minister and Deputy First Minister for their tireless commitment to public service and to making Scotland a better country for all of those who call this nation home.

“The FM and DFM in turn thanked colleagues for their unstinting backing – and also made clear they will continue to offer their support from the backbenches as a new generation takes up the baton to take Scotland forward and complete the country’s journey to independence.”

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Under the FM's tweet, SNP Fife councillor Stefan Hoggan-Radu wrote: “Thank you for everything.”

One social media user added: “Thank you for your leadership through the past 8/9 years! You will be missed as FM.

“I hope you will use your experience to guide the next first minister in their new path.”

Another added: “Wishing you all the very best for whatever you do next, Nicola. You’re an inspiration.”

While one said simply: “Thanks for your leadership of our party, you’ll be missed.”

The FM is expected to offer an apology to women who were forced to give up their babies for adoption due to being unmarried on Wednesday, followed by FMQs on Thursday and then a final speech to Holyrood shortly afterward.

With the leadership contest due to conclude on Monday March 27, with the winner announced after the ballot closes at noon, the FM’s final engagement will be on Friday, reportedly in a “healthcare setting”.

It comes as the Scottish Tories accused the SNP of trying to cancel next week’s FMQs in a bid to protect the incoming leader “from scrutiny”.