NICOLA Sturgeon has said the thought of politics without Alex Salmond would be “like losing a limb” – even though sometimes his jokes “aren’t funny”.

The First Minister said her predecessor at Holyrood, who lost his Westminster seat at the snap election in June, would “inevitably” come back to elected politics, while giving her support to Angus Robertson continuing as depute SNP leader despite having also lost his seat.

Writing for Holyrood Magazine, former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill questioned whether Robertson could continue in the role. But in an interview with the same publication, out today, Sturgeon backed Robertson who will speak at the SNP’s conference tomorrow.

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After backing Robertson, the First Minister noted how “one of the strengths of the SNP and one of the ingredients of our success over the years has been our connection with communities”.

She said having senior people in the party who are not in elected office can be a strength, and added: “I wouldn’t have chosen for it to happen in the way it did – but yes I think it can be an opportunity.”

Sturgeon said the loss of Robertson and Salmond, had been “difficult to take”.

“I think Alex inevitably will come back into elected politics at some point. I don’t know whether to describe Alex as like my uncle or my big brother or whatever, he’s just such a part of my life and existence, and the thought of politics without Alex Salmond to me is like losing a limb.

“Alex is a big figure, sometimes his jokes aren’t funny, but would he still be one of the first people I would want to talk to about a big political issue? Of course he would.

She added: “He’s just got such an incredible political brain and insight and you know, inevitably any time I speak to Alex, he always kind of gives an angle on something you hadn’t thought of before. I would always rather have Alex as part of the picture than not.”