Updated: Apr 3, 2020
Alex Salmond has been acquitted of all charges of sexual assault after a jury found him not guilty at the high court in Edinburgh on Monday.
A jury of eight women and five men dismissed charges that included attempted rape, sexual assault and indecent assault after about six hours of deliberations.
It prompted immediate accusations and demands for resignations within the Scottish National Party (SNP), with Salmond’s allies suggesting that he was a victim of a witch-hunt within the party.
Salmond welcomed the outcome and praised the judicial system. He also called for Scotland’s attention to return to the threat posed by coronavirus.
After the verdicts were read out, Salmond displayed little emotion, but thanked court security officers and the judge, Lady Dorrian, Scotland’s second most senior judge.
Speaking outside the court afterwards, Salmond said his faith in the judicial system had been “reinforced”. Thanking his friends, family and supporters for standing by him throughout the trial.
He said his own “nightmare” could not compare with the coronavirus crisis.
The nine women involved in the charges were all current or former Scottish government officials, or SNP politicians. Nicola Sturgeon’s government has already lost a judicial review started by Salmond into its handling of an internal review of two misconduct complaints against him in 2018.
After thanking his legal team, Salmond said he planned to release further information about the case at a later date.
“As many of you will know, there was certain evidence I would like to have seen led in this trial but for a variety of reasons we weren’t able to do so. At some point that information, that fact and that evidence will see the light of day but it won’t be this day, for a very good reason,” he said.
The SNP leader and first minister, Ms Sturgeon, said the verdicts “must be respected”, but added that her focus was currently on steering the country through the coronavirus crisis.
“I am a strong believer in a vigorous, robust, independent judicial process where complaints of this nature, if they come forward, are properly and thoroughly investigated, due process takes its course and a court reaches a decision, and that’s what has happened today,” she said.
She added: “I have no doubt that there will be further discussion around this issue in due course, in the fullness of time – and I will welcome that. But that time is not now.”
Salmond was originally charged with 14 offences but was formally acquitted of one charge, a 10th sexual assault charge, after the prosecution withdrew it halfway through the trial.
The Scottish Conservative leader, Jackson Carlaw, said the verdicts raised further “serious questions” for the SNP, the Scottish government and Sturgeon, which would be investigated by a forthcoming Scottish parliament inquiry.
Pauline McNeill, the Scottish Labour equalities spokeswoman, said the trial was extremely traumatic for all involved.
She added: “The verdict of this trial does not take away from the serious concerns about the Scottish government’s handling of this. We would expect questions about this to be fully explored during parliamentary scrutiny of this.”
Rape Crisis Scotland thanked the complainants for appearing in court. The group said that regardless of the verdict, the detailed descriptions and court coverage has been triggering and very hard for many people.