Scottish ex-premier pleads not guilty to sexual assault charges

Alex Salmond, for years the leading face of the Scottish independence campaign, appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh on Thursday and pleaded not guilty to multiple sexual offenses.

The former Scottish premier faces multiple charges, including “a charge of attempted rape, 11 of sexual assault — including one with intent to rape — and two of indecent assault,” according to PA news agency’s reporter in court.

“I am innocent and I will defend my position vigorously,” Salmond told journalists outside the court.

“I’m not permitted to say too much today, save that we’ve lodged a defense statement with the court. It pleads not guilty to all charges and explains some of the circumstances in which they’ve come about,” he said.

“I’m also conscious that we’re in the middle of a general election campaign, and I’m not going to say anything that would influence that democratic process.”

Salmond stood down as first minister and SNP leader following defeat in the November 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, which he had long championed. He was replaced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Despite leaving Scottish parliament, Salmond has remained a prominent figure in both Scottish and British politics, working as a commentator and hosting “The Alex Salmond Show” on Russian state broadcaster RT.