Nine women who accused former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond of sexual offences have said they were “devastated” by his acquittal, but that coming forward to report their experiences was the “right thing to do”.
Mr Salmond was acquitted by a jury at the high court in Edinburgh of 13 charges including attempted rape and sexual and indecent assaults against a total of nine women. A further charge of sexual assault against another woman by the former first minister and Scottish National party leader was dropped by prosecutors.
Mr Salmond had denied all allegations of criminality since first charged with sexual offences in January 2019. Giving evidence at his trial, he said some of the charges against him were “fabrications for a political purpose” and others were exaggerations.
At the trial, Gordon Jackson QC, Mr Salmond’s lawyer, admitted the former first minister had acted “inappropriately” with much younger female subordinates. Mr Salmond himself said he had two consensual sexual encounters with two of the women at his official residence of Bute House in Edinburgh.
The Sunday Times released a video that appeared to show Mr Jackson describing Mr Salmond as an “objectionable bully to work for” and suggesting plans by the defence to “put a smell on” one of his accusers.
The Sunday Times said the video was taken during the trial by a passenger on the same train as Mr Jackson. “I think he was a nasty person to work for,” Mr Jackson can be heard to say in the video.
The newspaper said Mr Jackson identified two of Mr Salmond’s accusers by name and another by description and that he described the tactics he intended to use to discredit a woman’s evidence. “All I need to do is put a smell on her,” he can be heard to say.
In a statement released by the charity Rape Crisis Scotland, the nine alleged victims, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, said women’s fight for respect had “far to go”. “While we are devastated by the verdict, we will not let it define us,” the statement said.
“It was our hope, as individuals, that through coming forward at this time we could achieve justice and enact change,” it said. “We remain firm in our belief that coming forward to report our experiences and concerns was the right thing to do.”
The nine women, who include officials in the SNP government, civil servants and an SNP politician, signed the statement using the letters adopted by broadcasters to distinguish them during the two week trial.
The women’s statement did not refer to defence suggestions that their accusations were politically inspired.
Mr Jackson had argued in court for the former first minister that there was evidence of collusion among his alleged victims, who were all from within Scotland’s “political bubble”.
The women took aim at Mr Jackson’s suggestion during the trial that some of the allegations against him were “trivial”. “The behaviours that Alex Salmond and his defence team admitted to in evidence were not and are not trivial,” they said.
Separately, Rape Crisis Scotland criticised Mr Jackson, the dean of the Faculty of Advocates and one of Scotland’s most senior lawyers, over the conversation in the Sunday Times video.
In a statement on the report on Sunday, Mr Jackson said he deeply regretted “the distress and difficulties” that had been caused and that he had referred himself to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.
Roddy Dunlop QC, vice-dean of the Faculty of Advocates, said it took the matter extremely seriously. “It plainly warrants investigation,” Mr Dunlop said.
Mr Salmond declined to comment on the women’s statement or the report about Mr Jackson.