The first minister said she has learned things about Alex Salmond “over the past couple of years that have made me rethink certain things I thought about him”.
Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs on the committee investigating the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints against the former first minister that she has had to “go through a process of reassessing all sorts of things around that”.
During almost eight hours of testimony it was the moments of rawness and candour about her feelings, and long friendship with Mr Salmond, that will have surprised viewers not used to seeing Ms Sturgeon so emotionally open.
Following questioning from Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser, the SNP leader said she has “no doubt” Mr Salmond had also reflected on his relationship with Ms Sturgeon in the wake of the matter.
She said: “As I was watching him on Friday lashing out – that’s my words – against us, I don’t know whether he ever reflects on the fact that many of us, including me, feel very let down by him.
“That’s a matter of deep personal pain and regret for me.”
Appearing close to tears, Ms Sturgeon said: “I think I probably should stop there.”
She added: “I do not think it is reasonable to ask me to apologise for the behaviour of Alex Salmond.
“I think the only person who should apologise for behaviour on his part – which he was asked to do on Friday and failed to do – is Alex Salmond.”
Ms Sturgeon faced a mammoth eight-hour evidence session before MSPs, becoming visibly emotional when discussing her previously close relationship with Mr Salmond.
She told MSPs she is “really sad” with how things have played out involving a man she “cared about for a long time”.
The SNP leader described her former ally as someone she had “looked up to and revered” since she was “20, probably younger than that”.
She said she had “thought often” about the impact on Mr Salmond but found herself “searching for any sign, any sign at all, that he recognised how difficult this has been for others too”.
Mr Salmond has alleged that a group of senior figures plotted to have him jailed because they were scared that his victory in a civil case would have “cataclysmic” consequences for Ms Sturgeon’s government.
He spoke of the “nightmare” he had experienced and said he could not “move on” until the “decision-making which is undermining the system of government in Scotland is addressed”.
However, he refused to apologise for his own behaviour when asked if he would say sorry to the women involved.
The Holyrood committee was set up after Mr Salmond received a £512,000 pay-out following the Court of Session civil ruling that the Scottish Government’s handling of the complaints was “unlawful” and “tainted by apparent bias”.
Separately, the former first minister was cleared of 13 charges, including sexual assualt, indecent assault and attempted rape, following a trial last year.
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs she “refused to follow the age old pattern of allowing a powerful man to use his status and connections to get what he wants”, as she repeatedly maintained she had not intervened in the process.
Recalling a meeting with Mr Salmond at her home on April 2 2018, the first minister said he asked her to read a letter he had received from Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans which set out complaints that had been raised against him from two women.
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that reading the letter was a “moment in my life I would never forget”.
Although he denied the allegations, Ms Sturgeon alleges that Mr Salmond gave her his account of “one of the incidents complained of which he said he had apologised for at the time”.
She said: “What he described constituted in my view, deeply inappropriate behaviour on his part, perhaps another reason why that moment is embedded so strongly in my mind.”