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Salmond appears in court charged with attempted rape and sexual assault

Media and police at Edinburgh Sheriff Court where former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond appeared on Thursday after he was arrested and charged by police. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA
Hilary Duncanson

FORMER Scottish first minister Alex Salmond has appeared in court charged with attempted rape and sexual assault.

Afterwards, he addressed the media and said he is "innocent of any criminality".

Salmond faced a total of 14 charges when he appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Thursday.

He was charged with two counts of attempted rape, nine counts of sexual assault, two of indecent assault and one breach of the peace during the brief hearing in private.

Speaking after the sitting, Salmond said: "I refute absolutely the allegation of criminality and I will defend myself to the utmost in court."

The 64-year-old was arrested after attending a police station in central Scotland on Wednesday, with the fact of his arrest emerging on Thursday morning.

Hours later, he attended at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, in the city's Chambers Street, shortly before 2pm, for the private hearing on petition.

The short first hearing before a sheriff in court number two appeared to last around five minutes, with details of the charges released following the sitting by the Crown Office.

Eleven of the 14 charges – those alleging attempted rape and sexual assault – fall under two sections of the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009.

Salmond, whose address was given as Aberdeenshire, made no plea during the hearing and was released on bail.

The date of the next hearing in the case has not yet been fixed.

Addressing reporters outside the court, shortly after the sitting, Salmond said: "Let me say at the outset, I am innocent of any criminality whatsoever.

"Now that these proceedings, criminal proceedings, are live, it's even more important to respect the court and therefore the only thing I can say is I refute absolutely the allegation of criminality and I will defend myself to the utmost in court.

"I have got great faith in the court system of Scotland. I have got recent cause to have great faith in the court system of Scotland – that is where I will state my case."

Salmond then returned to the court building, where he said he was consulting his legal team.

Earlier this month, the former SNP leader – who resigned his membership of the party in August 2018 – won a procedural case against the Scottish government over the process of its investigation into harassment allegations against him.

In the case, referred to in Salmond's statement on Thursday, the Scottish government's handling of the allegations against Salmond was ruled unlawful by the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

At the same time, Police Scotland had been investigating following the complaints of harassment.

Salmond was Scotland's first minister from 2007 to 2014.

He guided the party to a narrow Scottish election win in 2007 and then led a minority government as he became Scotland's first SNP first minister.

In the 2011 election, he led the party to a majority win, meaning the SNP's manifesto pledge to hold an independence referendum could be delivered.

But the result of the 2014 referendum – a 55 per cent to 45 per cent vote to stay in the UK – led to him stepping down as first minister and SNP leader.

He lost his Gordon constituency seat at Westminster to the Conservatives in the 2017 General Election.

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