Former Scotland leader Salmond arrested in sexual harassment probe

Published 24.01.2019 12:53
Updated 24.01.2019 18:22
Alex Salmond, the former leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) waits for a television interview in Westminster, London, Britain, December 18, 2018. (Reuters Photo)
Alex Salmond, the former leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) waits for a television interview in Westminster, London, Britain, December 18, 2018. (Reuters Photo)

Alex Salmond, the former first minister of Scotland and the former leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), arrested Thursday by police believed to be over an ongoing sexual harassment probe.

"We can confirm a 64-year-old man has been arrested and charged and a report has been sent to the procurator fiscal. Proceedings are now live under the contempt of court act," said Police Scotland when asked about the reports. A source confirmed to Reuters that the man was Salmond, 64.

The police did not name the man or detail what offenses he has been accused of committing.

The Crown Office later revealed that Salmond was charged with sexual offenses including two counts of attempted rape, indecent assault and breach of peace.

Salmond denied committing any crime after appearing outside court on Thursday. "I am innocent of any criminality whatsoever," he said outside Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

"I refute absolutely these allegations of criminality and I will defend myself to the utmost in court. I would love to say a great deal more but I've got to observe the rules of the court and in court is where I will state my case."

Salmond led the devolved Scottish government for seven years until 2014, and is credited with helping to push support for Scottish independence from the United Kingdom to record levels during the 2014 referendum campaign.

Losing his parliamentary seat in last year's election, Salmond said early January there were forces trying to destroy him because he is a "political threat."

The issue also caused problems for the incumbent First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, who was referred to a watchdog panel because she spoke with her former mentor Salmond after sexual harassment allegations were made against him.

Sturgeon said she met with Salmond three times and spoke with him on the phone twice after two women brought allegations against him to the Scottish government a year ago.

Sturgeon says she's acted appropriately but "the fact remains that at the center of this issue are two women whose complaints could not be swept under the carpet."

Opposition parties had called on Sturgeon to make the referral to standards watchdog for government ministers.

Salmond took legal action against the government -- now led by former party colleague Nicola Sturgeon -- over how it handled the complaints process against him in the case.

He won his judicial review earlier this month after the government conceded it had acted unlawfully while investigating the harassment claims against him.

However, Police Scotland last year launched their own separate investigation into the complaints, made by two female members of staff, leading to Thursday's arrest.

Welcoming the government's announcement on Jan. 8 that the case had been settled, Salmond said the process had been "completely unnecessary" and accused the government of deliberate media leaks about the case.

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