Alex Salmond last night admitted to making “mistakes” in his personal life but insisted he has never sexually harassed anyone after it was confirmed an investigation into his conduct as First Minister was passed to the police.
He revealed that he has spoken three times with Nicola Sturgeon about the investigation into complaints against him by Scottish Government staff members while he was in office. And although the detail of the conversation was undisclosed, Salmond said he told everyone he spoke to about the process that it was “fundamentally flawed”.
He was told by Ms Sturgeon that she could not intervene in the investigation.
The revelations which emerged on Wednesday evening have rocked Scottish politics. Salmond yesterday repeatedly refused to say when questioned if he had been previously spoken to about his conduct towards civil service staff while in office or if he had been approached about other harassment claims.
He said: “I’ve made many mistakes in my life, political and personal, but I have not sexually harassed anyone and I certainly have not been engaged in criminality.
“I’m not a saint, I’ve got flaws, I understand that.”
He will now spend the next three months challenging the newly introduced process which was used by the government he formerly led in the Court of Session, insisting he has been denied “natural justice” during the seven-month investigation. The Scottish Government’s top civil servant Leslie Evans, who introduced the new process to investigate ministers last December, has pledged to “vigorously defend” the judicial review and said Salmond’s statement contained “significant inaccuracies”.
The SNP is now facing calls to suspend its former party leader over the allegations.
But Mr Salmond went on the offensive yesterday as he spent the afternoon giving media interviews in his native Linlithgow showing his anger at the situation.
Two people have made complaints against Salmond relating to conduct in December 2013 at his official Bute House residence in Edinburgh.
Mr Salmond said last night that he can’t be certain of the identity of his accusers and bears them no “animosity” but insisted the claims are untrue.
He sought to focus on the new investigatory process which was established by Ms Evans in the aftermath of allegations of harassment at Westminster and Holyrood following the Weinstein scandal in the US. Salmond claims it has “obvious defects”.
He said: “If you’re doing something anything with any judgment, people have to see the accusation and who is accusing them. That is necessary if you’re having any sort of judgmental outcome and you have to see what the evidential base is. You have to see the written statements, so you can challenge it. You have to be able to present your own case.”
Instead just a summary of the complaints and Ms Evans findings were presented to Salmond’s legal team.
The former first minister had sought a court order to stop the Scottish Government going public with the claims, before the allegations were published by a newspaper. This was leaked, according to Salmond, by the Scottish Government and he has asked for an inquiry into this.
“I’ve asked Leslie Evans to launch an inquiry to find out [how that happened] because clearly that is a serious breach of confidence even in the new terms of the Scottish Government,” he said.
The country’s top judges at Court of Session will now rule on the process used to investigate Salmond over the next three months. His legal team will include the former Nationalist MSP Duncan Hamilton.
And he insisted that Ms Evans will have “serious questions to answer” if the government loses.
He informed Ms Sturgeon, about the investigation in April and spoke with her on two other occasions about it.
“Although the Scottish Government’s procedure prevents me from speaking to civil servants there is no prohibition on me speaking to the First Minister,” he said.
“There is no reason why I shouldn’t speak to the First Minister.
“She’s a close friend and colleague for many years. She was Deputy First Minister when these complaints were purported to have taken place. There is no reason why I shouldn’t speak to her. And she’s not part of the process.”
He declined to set out the detail of “private conversations” with Ms Sturgeon.
He added: “What I would say is the very legitimate concerns, reservations, arguments about the nature of this I have made to everybody at every possible opportunity.”
The SNP leader herself made it clear that she was not prepared to step in after telling Ms Evans she was aware of the investigation.
“I made it very clear to her [Ms Evans], as I had to Alex Salmond, that I would not intervene in that process.”
Mr Salmond stepped down as First Minister nine months after the claims against him were alleged to have taken place. He was elected as the SNP MP for Gordon in 2015 before losing the seat in the snap general election two years later.
He was repeatedly asked yesterday during a 40-minute briefing with journalists about his conduct towards women. He refused to be drawn when quizzed about whether his behaviour towards Scottish Government staff had been raised as an issue with him while in office or if he had been approached about other harassment allegations in the past 18 months.
But asked whether he regretted his behaviour towards women in the past, he said; “I’ve made a number of mistakes both politically and personally. I shall keep them to myself.”
Labour last night called on Mr Salmond to be suspended while the court case is
Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Equalities Monica Lennon said: “Given the serious nature of these allegations, it would be appropriate that the SNP suspends Alex Salmond’s membership of the party with immediate effect.”
But the former First Minister insisted due process should be allowed to take it’s course.
“My view on that is that it’s now before the Court of Session and the judicial review is going to be a two or perhaps three months process,” he said
“I would advise anybody to suspend judgement before the court can make a judgement.”
Ms Sturgeon admitted that she had been rocked by the claims.
She said: “My relationship with Alex Salmond obviously makes this an extremely difficult situation for me to come to terms with.
“I am also acutely aware how upsetting this will be for my party. However the over-riding priority must be to ensure fair and due process. I would also ask that the privacy of those who have complained be respected.”