Nicola Sturgeon has cited the deaths of M9 crash couple John Yuill and Lamara Bell as the lowest point in her career as First Minister.
She revealed “you do feel these things very deeply” as she described the incident – in which police failed to respond to reports of a car going off the motorway for three days – as being a “dreadful failure”.
Despite that, however, she said she was “very proud” of the SNP’s record on policing, including the merger of eight regional forces to create the national body Police Scotland.
Ms Sturgeon, who took over as First Minister from Alex Salmond in November 2014, is for the first time asking Scots to elect her into the role.
She told Press Association Scotland the deaths of Mr Yuill and Ms Bell were the lowest point in her career as First Minister.
“With any public service, not everything will go right all of the time,” she said.
“The dreadful failure in terms of the call that went unanswered at the police which resulted in a terrible tragedy for two families, that was obviously tragic beyond words for the families concerned.
“It’s still under investigation, so I can’t say too much more, but as First Minister you do feel these thing very deeply.”
She added: “We’re very proud of the work that we have done to keep extra police on the streets, to create a single police force which allows us to cut out a lot of unnecessary duplication and bureaucracy in the police service, and therefore spend more money on frontline policing.”
With polls putting the SNP on course for a second majority at Holyrood after May 5, she told the Press Association her biggest challenge is “convincing people that success for the SNP is not guaranteed”.
She said: “It has to be delivered in the ballot box.
“That’s why I am spending so much time out and about, chapping the doors, convincing people that if you want to keep me as First Minister and want to have an SNP government, then it has to be both votes SNP.”
She added: “The only person not taking the outcome for granted is me and the SNP.
“We’ve got Labour and the Tories who, by their own admission, are battling it out for second place. That’s a strange place for any party to be in.”
Speaking at the Glad Cafe in Glasgow, a local business close to her constituency office in Pollokshaws, she revealed “caffeine and Berocca Boost” keep her going on the election trail
Ms Sturgeon is often on her third coffee of the day by 8am, her adviser says, revealing the source of the energy that keeps her focused.
She also hinted the SNP manifesto, which she will launch on Wednesday, will include more detail on her plan to build a new “realistic and relevant” case for independence.
“Our job, and my job, in the years ahead is to try to persuade a majority of people that it is the right future for Scotland,” she said.
“We will set out, starting this summer, a programme of work to convince people – the people we didn’t convince in 2014 – of the case for independence.”
The recent downturn in the North Sea has left her enthusiasm for independence undimmed, she added.
“When you are faced with a fiscal position or an economic position that is less than you would want it to be, that is not an argument for the status quo – that’s an argument for change,” she said.