Alex Salmond charged with attempted rape and sexual assault

Former first minister of Scotland rejects ‘absolutely’ all charges against him

Former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has denied committing any crime after he appeared in court in Edinburgh charged with multiple sex offences including attempted rape. Video: Reuters

 

Alex Salmond, the former first minister of Scotland and one of the most prominent figures in modern Scottish politics, has been charged with two counts of attempted rape and other offences including sexual assault.

Mr Salmond (64) did not enter a plea at a brief closed hearing at the Edinburgh sheriff court before being released on bail. The former first minister, who led the Scottish government from 2007 to 2014, said afterwards that he rejected “absolutely” the charges against him.

“I am innocent of any criminality whatsoever,” Mr Salmond said. “I’ve got great faith in the court system of Scotland ... that is where I will state my case.”

The charges against the former first minister were the most serious against a major UK politician in many years. They mark the most dramatic developments yet in a career that took Mr Salmond and his Scottish National party from fringe political force to devolved government and an independence referendum.

Prosecutors did not give any details of the 14 charges against Mr Salmond, which along with the two attempted rape charges include nine counts of sexual assault, two of indecent assault and one of breach of the peace. The investigation is still active.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister and SNP leader, said it would be “completely inappropriate” for her or anyone else to comment on the proceedings against her former mentor. “I know this will be a shock to many people, but as Police Scotland have said today, these are now live criminal proceedings,” she told journalists.

Mr Salmond stepped down as first minister after Scottish voters rejected independence in the 2014 referendum and in 2017 lost his Westminster seat, but he retained substantial support among independence supporters.

This week the pro-independence National newspaper featured on its front page Mr Salmond’s call for Ms Sturgeon, his chosen successor as head of the Scottish government, to use Brexit as an opportunity to relaunch the push to leave the UK.

“Nicola should be concentrating all her energies on the independence agenda when we will never have better circumstances,” Mr Salmond told the newspaper.

“The Westminster political establishment is at its weakest point in my lifetime while the national movement is in good heart,” he said. “There is not likely to be a better time to force the issue.”

Tensions

However, allegations against Mr Salmond and a Scottish government investigation into them have fuelled differences within the SNP, which has been known for years for its tight discipline and unity.

Tensions within the SNP bubbled over last week, with Ms Sturgeon’s spokesman accusing people close to Mr Salmond of trying to smear the party leader following local media reports quoting them as questioning her account of when she learnt about allegations against him.

Ms Sturgeon now faces a review by independent advisers into whether she broke the ministerial code in her response to the civil servant-led investigation into allegations against Mr Salmond.

A committee of the Scottish parliament will also hold an inquiry into that investigation and its aftermath, while the Scottish Information Commissioner’s Office, an independent watchdog, has been making inquiries into the leak of information about it.

The Scottish government accepted this month that that investigation into Mr Salmond was “tainted by apparent bias”.

Ms Sturgeon had no role in the civil servant-led investigation, but has defended the process and insisted there was no actual bias against Mr Salmond. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019