In Depth

Alex Salmond cleared of all sexual assault charges

Former first minister of Scotland not guilty of 12 charges, with one charge ‘not proven’

Alex Salmond, the former first minister of Scotland, has been acquitted of all sexual assault charges after a two-week trial.

The jury at the high court in Edinburgh found Salmond not guilty of 12 charges of attempted rape, sexual assault and indecent assault.

Using a decision unique to Scottish courts, the jury reached an outcome of not proven on one charge of sexual assault with intent to rape. This stops short of a finding of not guilty but means the accused is innocent in the eyes of the law.

Jurors “reached majority verdicts on all charges”, says The Guardian.

What were the allegations?

Salmond initially faced a total of 14 charges of alleged offences against ten women – all of which he denied. The charges comprised one of attempted rape, one of sexual assault with attempt to rape, nine of sexual assault and two of indecent assault.

He was formally acquitted of another sexual assault allegation earlier this month after the charge was withdrawn by the prosecution, The Guardian reported. 

The allegations related to alleged incidents between 2008 and 2014, when Salmond was first minister of Scotland, and were said to have occurred at locations including his official Bute House residence and the Scottish Parliament, both of which are in Edinburgh.

The attempted rape allegation was said to have happened in June 2014 at Bute House.

Speaking outside court after his acquittal, Salmond said that his faith in the judicial system has been “much reinforced”. Thanking his friends and family for standing by him throughout the trial, the 65-year-old added that his own “nightmare” could not compare to the coronavirus crisis.

Salmond said: “As many of you will know, there is certain evidence I would have liked to have seen led in this trial but for a variety of reasons we were not able to do so.

“At some point, that information, that facts and that evidence will see the light of day.”

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What did the trial mean for Scottish nationalism?

The Sunday Times had warned that the trial “could have a far-reaching effect” on the SNP’s push for independence, with the ruling party “already in the grip of an unprecedented level of infighting”.

Derek Mackay, who had been tipped as a future SNP leader, was forced to resign as finance secretary last month after admitting bombarding a teenage boy with suggestive text messages, and “Nicola Sturgeon, Salmond’s one-time protege and deputy, has never looked more vulnerable”, the newspaper before the trial. 

Her reputation may be damaged by “persistent claims that she mishandled the allegations against Mr Salmond when they first surfaced”. And, whatever the outcome of the trial, she heads a party that “looks more divided than when she took it over”, says The Economist.

But John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, argued that “it would be unwise to presume that attitudes to independence are likely to be influenced in the long term by the fortunes of one politician – however prominent they might once have been”.

Following Salmond’s acquittal Joanna Cherry was one of the first senior SNP figures to react, says The Scotsman.

The Westminster MP said: “It goes without saying that Mr Salmond must be allowed to re-join the party without delay, if that is what he wishes to do, and that his place in the party’s history must be restored to the prominence it deserves.”

Meanwhile, former Scottish justice secretary and East Lothian MP Kenny MacAskill tweeted: “Delighted for Alex Salmond. Some resignations now required.”

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