Alex Salmond, Scotland’s Ex-First Minister, Cleared of Sexual Assault

By Iliana Magra

A jury found Mr. Salmond, who led the push for independence in a 2014 referendum, not guilty of attempted rape and sexual assault.

Scotland’s former first minister, Alex Salmond, center right, arriving at the High Court in Edinburgh on Monday.
Scotland’s former first minister, Alex Salmond, center right, arriving at the High Court in Edinburgh on Monday.Credit...Andy Buchanan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Iliana Magra

Alex Salmond, the former first minister of Scotland, was acquitted on Monday of sexual offenses that involved accusations from nine women.

A jury at the High Court in Edinburgh found Mr. Salmond, the former leader of the Scottish National Party, not guilty of 12 charges, including one count of attempted rape and several sexual assault charges.

The trial, which started on March 9, ended on Monday after the jury deliberated for about six hours, according to British news reports.

Mr. Salmond, who was first investigated by Police Scotland after two women said that he had sexually harassed them in the past, was initially charged with 14 offenses, in January 2019. He denied all the accusations against him.

The claims against Mr. Salmond, who led the push for Scottish independence that led to a 2014 referendum, date back to the years he was Scotland’s first minister, from May 2007 to November 2014. Mr. Salmond resigned after voters rejected independence from Britain in the referendum.

He told the court that the allegations, made by a politician from the Scottish National Party, current and former civil servants, and other women, were “exaggerations” and “deliberate fabrications for a political purpose,” the BBC reported.

Speaking to journalists after his acquittal, Mr. Salmond said that his faith in Scotland’s court system had been “much reinforced” and that new evidence would eventually “see the light of day,” but only after the coronavirus outbreak is over.

“Whatever nightmare I’ve been in over the last two years, it is nothing compared to the nightmare that every single one of us is currently living through,” Mr. Salmond said of the outbreak. He urged people to go home and take care of their families.

Mr. Salmond’s acquittal was received on social media with equal measures of dismay and approval.

Rape Crisis Scotland, a nonprofit organization based in Glasgow, said Monday was “a really difficult day” for survivors who had been following the case.

“The vast majority of survivors don’t even see a courtroom, let alone justice, and today like every day we stand firm in our belief in survivors,” the group said in a statement.

It described Mr. Salmond’s legal defense as “trivializing behaviors that would amount to sexual assault,” and said the acquittal could set back the fight against sexual violence.

The Scottish Women’s Rights Center, which provides legal information to women affected by violence or abuse, voiced solidarity with the nine women who came forward with their accusations and made Mr. Salmond’s trial possible.

“Only a small percentage of rape and sexual assault cases in Scotland make it to court and it is important to highlight that the evidence in this case was significant enough to take it to this point,” the group said.

But the center said that the case pointed to “serious gaps in the response to sexual harassment incidents in the workplace."

Others welcomed the verdict.

Joanna Cherry, a lawyer and Scottish National Party lawmaker for Edinburgh South West, said she was “very pleased” that Mr. Salmond had been acquitted.

“Those of us who know him, and indeed many of the thousands of people who have met him over the years, did not recognize the man described by the evidence led for the Crown,” she said in a statement posted on Twitter. She called for an independent inquiry into how the party dealt with the allegations.

Angus MacNeil, another lawmaker for the Scottish National Party, also stood behind Mr. Salmond.

“Glad that Alex Salmond found not guilty,” Mr. MacNeil wrote on Twitter. He called his party’s former leader “a man with much more to contribute to Scotland’s cause.”