Alex Salmond pledged to defend himself “vigorously” after the full details of the 14 criminal charges he faces were revealed by prosecutors.
The former SNP leader, 64, appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh on Thursday for a preliminary hearing where he pled not guilty to a series of sexual offences against ten women.
He denies all the allegations, which include an attempted rape at Bute House, the official residence of the First Minister, during the 2014 independence referendum campaign.
As well as that charge, the ex-MP faces a further 11 charges of sexual assault - including one with intent to rape - and two of indecent assault.
Mr Salmond’s QC, Gordon Jackson, said his client was pleading not guilty, and judge Lady Dorrian set the trial date for 9 March next year. The full trial is expected to last about four weeks.
Addressing the 50 or so media representatives who had gathered outside the court in the Lawnmarket after yesterday’s hearing, Mr Salmond confirmed a not guilty plea had been submitted.
“I’m not permitted to say too much today save that we’ve launched our defence statement with the court,” he said.
“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 ten 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 full indictment against Mr Salmond contains 14 charges that span a period between June 2008 and November 2014.
Prosecutors allege the then First Minister attempted to rape a woman at Bute House in June 2014, at the height of the independence referendum campaign.
It is said he placed her legs over his, repeatedly kissed her face and neck, groped her, then blocked her path.
Mr 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 Mr Salmond allegedly indecently assaulted a woman by kissing her mouth and groping her on various occasions around Glasgow in the summer of 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.
Mr Salmond 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.
Asked at Holyrood about Mr Salmond’s case, Nicola Sturgeon, said it would “not be appropriate” to comment, but added: “The only thing I would say as First
Minister and as an ordinary citizen is that my only interest is in seeing justice done, whatever that may be.”
Asked whether she believed that Mr Salmond’s case might have an impact on the general election campaign, she replied: “No, I don’t.” She added: “There will come a point where you will have questions and I will be very willing and very keen to answer all of those questions, but that time, for reasons you understand, is not now.”