Alex Salmond protested his innocence yesterday after appearing in court charged with multiple counts of attempted rape and sexual assault.
The former First Minister made a brief appearance in Edinburgh Sheriff Court to face a total of 14 charges – two of attempted rape, nine of sexual assault, two of indecent assault and one of breach of the peace.
The seriousness of the charges sent shockwaves throughout Scottish politics and beyond. If convicted, Salmond could face a lengthy jail sentence.
A police investigation has been ongoing into the former First Minister for the past four months, which culminated in his arrest on Wednesday evening.
Just a fortnight ago, Salmond won a dramatic victory over the government he once led in Scotland’s Court of Session over the way it investigated complaints against him.
He pledged to fight the criminal charges he now faces as he addressed reporters outside court yesterday.
“Let me say at the outset I am innocent of any criminality whatsoever,” the former SNP leader said.
“As you’ll remember in the long process of judicial review I made it clear in order to respect the court I would make no comment until proceedings are concluded.
“That I did in the statement I made in the steps of the Court of Session two weeks ago. Now that these proceedings – criminal proceedings – are live it is even more important to respect the court.
“And therefore the only thing I can say is that I refute absolutely these allegations of criminality and I will defend myself to the utmost in court.
“I’ve got faith in the court system in Scotland. I’ve got recent cause for great faith in the court system in Scotland. That is where I’ll state my case.”
The former SNP leader said he would “love to say a great deal more” but was prevented from doing so as a result of court rules.
It is not known what time period the charges cover, nor how many individuals have made allegations against Mr Salmond.
At Holyrood, Nicola Sturgeon said the news of her predecessor’s arrest would come as “a shock to many”, but added due to proceedings now being live she would not comment in detail.
Speaking before First Minister’s Questions yesterday, she said: “I know this will be a shock to many people but as Police Scotland have said today, these are now live criminal proceedings
“Now more than ever it would be completely inappropriate for me or anyone else for that matter to comment in any detail.
“I hope both the media and indeed members of the public will understand that position.”
It is not unusual for charges to be changed, and for some even to be discarded, before they come to trial.
However, if the former SNP leader does end up facing 14 charges at trial, the court proceedings could last several weeks.
The case is still being investigated by Police Scotland and a further appearance in the case is likely in the coming weeks.
Mr Salmond was arrested on Wednesday evening by prior arrangement with Police Scotland. He was released on condition that attended court yesterday to face the charges against him.
News of his arrest was confirmed publicly when a statement was issued by police yesterday morning.
Mr Salmond is currently presenting a weekly current affairs show on RT, along with former SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh.
Originally from Linlithgow, West Lothian, Salmond was Scotland’s longest-serving first minister, holding the post from 2007 to 2014.
He resigned his membership of the SNP in August 2018.
He guided the SNP into government for the first time with the historic Holyrood election victory of 2007 which saw him lead a minority government for four years.
In the 2011 election, he led the party to an unprecedented victory with a majority win, meaning the SNP’s manifesto pledge to hold an independence referendum could be delivered. Although the result was closer than many had expected, Scots voted 55 per cent to 45 per cent in favour of staying in the UK and Mr Salmond stood down as first minister and SNP leader the day after the vote.