Sturgeon says due process must be respected as Salmond denies sexual assault charges

Scotland’s First Minister has insisted due process must be respected after her predecessor appeared in court on a series of sexual assault charges.

Alex Salmond pleaded not guilty on Thursday to 14 separate allegations involving 10 women.

He faced a charge of attempted rape, 11 charges of sexual assault – including one with intent to rape – and two charges of indecent assault.

Speaking outside the High Court in Edinburgh, the former SNP leader said: “I am innocent and I will defend my position vigorously.”

Ms Sturgeon said her only interest was that “justice is done, whatever that might be”.

The current SNP leader, who was campaigning in Glasgow in the run-up to December’s General Election said: “This is a live, ongoing criminal trial so there is nothing it is appropriate for me to say, in fact there is nothing it is appropriate for anybody to say because it is absolutely essential that due process is allowed to take its course.

“My only interest as First Minister and as an ordinary citizen is that justice is done – whatever that might be.

“So I will say nothing that in any way might influence or prejudice that trial because it is vital that goes ahead and due process is respected.”

Salmond vows to ‘vigorously’ defend himself

Alex Salmond has said he will “vigorously” defend his position after pleading not guilty to offences against 10 women.

The 64-year-old appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh on Thursday to face 14 allegations, including an attempted rape at the official residence of the first minister of Scotland during the independence referendum campaign.

As well as that charge, Salmond faces a further 11 charges of sexual assault – including one with intent to rape – and two of indecent assault.

Speaking outside court after the hearing, with a trial date set for March 9, the former first minister confirmed a not guilty plea had been submitted.

He said: “I’m not permitted to say too much today save that we’ve launched our defence statement with the court.

“It pleads not guilty to all charges and explains some of the circumstances in which they’ve come about.

“I’m also conscious we’re in the middle of a General Election campaign. I’m not going to say anything which would influence that democratic process.

“We’re now into a second year of court actions, first civil and now criminal – it’s over 10 months since we won the civil action.

“I am innocent and I will defend my position vigorously but the only place, the only proper place to answer criminal charges, is in this court – and that’s exactly what we intend to do next spring.”

The charges span a period between June 29, 2008 and November 11, 2014

– with one sexual assault alleged to have taken place in the month of the referendum.

Salmond attempted to rape a woman at Bute House in Edinburgh in June 2014, the indictment alleges.

It is said he placed her legs over his, repeatedly kissed her face and neck, groped her, then blocked her path.

Salmond is then alleged to have pinned her against a wall, pulled at her clothes and stripped himself naked before trying to rape her on a bed.

The former MP and MSP is also accused of sexually assaulting a woman with intent to rape in December 2013.

He is alleged to have forced a woman to lie on his bed at the first minister’s official residence, then pulled up her dress with intent to rape her.

Both incidents were said to have taken place between the date of the Edinburgh Agreement in 2012 and the day of the independence vote in September 2014.

The first of the charges involved incidents where Salmond allegedly indecently assaulted a woman by kissing her mouth and groping her on various occasions around Glasgow between June 29 and July 24, 2008.

It is also alleged he sexually assaulted a woman on various occasions between May 2011 and June 2013 at the Scottish Parliament, Bute House and elsewhere by touching her bottom and stroking other parts of her body.

Salmond – who was Scotland’s first minister from 2007 to 2014 – is also accused of taking off a woman’s shoe and trying to kiss her foot in October 2013.

The indictment states that in September 2014, Salmond grabbed a woman by her shoulders at Bute House, repeatedly kissed her face, tried to kiss her lips and touched her leg and face.

Several charges involved the accused allegedly groping women, including one incident at the Ego nightclub in Edinburgh in December 2010 or 2011, and another at the Ubiquitous Chip restaurant in Glasgow in March 2012.

Gordon Jackson QC, representing Salmond, said his client denied the allegations.

Judge Lady Dorrian continued the preliminary hearing until January 22, with the trial in March expected to last four weeks.

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