Alex Salmond has said he regrets the way remarks he made about Vladimir Putin were "characterised". The First Minister said he admired "certain aspects" of the Russian president's leadership in an article in GQ magazine earlier this year. His comments caused upset among the Ukrainian community in Scotland, and provoked criticism from his political rivals.
Salmond was asked whether he regretted the comments during a question and answer session at an event on the referendum in Dundee. A member of the audience asked him what the topic of conversation would be were he to be stuck in a lift with Better Together leader Alistair Darling, the Prince of Wales and Putin.
"The topic of conversation most certainly would be how to conduct interviews without getting your foot stuck in your mouth," Salmond said. Asked about the GQ interview, he said: "I regret the way it was characterised. I defended the remarks I made in the Parliament.
"I suppose maybe I should have had the wit to realise that Alastair Campbell doing an interview for GQ...was probably an occasion where I should have been more careful with my language. Prince Charles and I know well that you have to be careful with comments."
Salmond answered questions on a wide range of issues during the event, which was part of Dundee University's Five Million Questions project, aimed at giving people information in the lead up to the referendum. The audience of more than 700 people questioned him on everything from compulsory voting and how he will close the gap in the polls, to funding for further education and scientific research in an independent Scotland.
On compulsory voting, Salmond said: "I actually like the idea of compulsory voting - there is a lot to be said for it. I have to say in the referendum I don't think it is necessary. I think we are heading for an 80% turnout in this referendum. I don't think it (compulsory voting) will ever be introduced because it is against the accepted political culture."