Nicola Sturgeon says England has nothing to fear from Scottish National Party

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionNicola Sturgeon takes a walk with the BBC's James Cook, telling him about her life along the way

The first minister of Scotland has said people in England have nothing to fear from the Scottish National Party.

However, Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC's James Cook that her party could be expected to "assert itself" after the 7 May general election.

Recent polling has suggested the SNP will win most of the 59 Scottish seats at Westminster.

This has led to speculation that the party could play a power broker's role if there is a hung parliament.

The Labour Party has ruled out a formal coalition with the nationalists and the SNP has ruled out doing any deal with the Conservative Party.

In the BBC interview - which is part of a series with the UK's party leaders - Ms Sturgeon was asked what message she had for voters in England.

There is nothing to be frightened of from the SNP - wanting Scotland to be independent is not turning our back on England."

She said: "There is really nothing to be frightened of from the SNP. Everybody knows we want Scotland to be an independent country - but wanting Scotland to be independent is not turning our backs on England.

"Scotland has been told this, repeatedly during the referendum, that we were an integral part of the UK - our voice was to be heard and mattered and what we thought really counted.

"So don't be surprised if Scotland wants to take those Westminster politicians at their word, and say OK, we want to assert ourselves and try and influence the direction that politics in Westminster takes."

Thatcher era

Ms Sturgeon spoke to James Cook about her formative years growing up in the Ayrshire town of Irvine.

She got the political bug early in life and was campaigning with the SNP from the age of 16.

The 44-year-old said: "When I grew up here the Tories were in power.

"Margaret Thatcher was prime minister. There was a sense of real, almost hopelessness.

"You had the prospect of leaving school and maybe never getting a job."

Five facts on Nicola Sturgeon

Image caption Nicola Sturgeon spoke to the BBC's James Cook in Irvine where she was born and brought up
  1. Nicola Sturgeon says she irons her husband Peter Murrell's shirts.
  2. The first minister is "terrified" of dogs.
  3. The 44-year-old spent many happy Saturday evenings as a youngster at Frosty's Ice Disco. "It was fantastic - I loved it."
  4. The MSP says she gets upset by disparaging comments - "I'm human, shock horror," she adds.
  5. Scotland's first female first minister says there is still a long way to go for women "making progress" in society. She says: "I want to help change this for the better for women, from all walks of life."

However, she said turning to Labour was not an option for her.

Ms Sturgeon explained: "I think even back then it just seemed to me that Labour wasn't able to offer real protection against the Tories.

"For me it was: what's the point of voting Labour if you've got, I think in those days it was 50 Labour MPs, but they could do nothing to stop what Mrs Thatcher was doing?

"And that very directly is what led me to think, well why should we have governments that we don't vote for? Surely it would be better if Scotland was independent, choosing our own governments."

Cabinet minister

She said her support for Scottish independence did not stem from identity or culture, but rather a belief that Scotland as a nation should be in full control, politically and economically.

Ms Sturgeon added: "What I don't argue is that Scotland is better than any other country or that we have got higher values than any other country."

The MSP was asked how it felt when disparaging comments were made about her in the media, and by fellow politicians.

Any politician who says they don't get upset, occasionally, by things they read in the media, is not being honest."

She replied: "I am human - shock, horror, politician is human. Any politician who says they don't get upset, occasionally, by things they read in the media, is not being honest."

Nowadays Ms Sturgeon divides her time between her home in Glasgow and Bute House, the official residence of the First Minister in Edinburgh's New Town.

She has been a member of the Scottish Parliament since its creation in 1999 and prior to her leadership was a Scottish Cabinet minister from May 2007 until just after the referendum in September 2014.

UK leader stories

The BBC is interviewing the UK's party leaders about their lives, in and out of politics.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage told deputy political editor James Landale that he loved to go fishing, on the Kent coast, at night, and by himself.

Labour leader Ed Miliband told James Landale that he did not care what people threw at him. And the MP's wife Justine said she was "up for the election" fight which she believed would get "really vicious".

More on this story