LONDON — The former leader of Scotland, Alex Salmond, was charged in court Thursday with multiple counts of sexual assault and two of attempted rape.
Details of the charges were not released, including the names of the alleged victims.
Salmond was the latest — and most prominent — British politician accused since the emergence of the #MeToo movement, which has given new focus to sexual harassment and assault here, especially by men of privilege.
Salmond, 64, served as leader of the Scottish government for seven years. He resigned as first minister after his side lost the Scottish independence referendum in 2014. He led the Scottish National Party for 20 years.
Salmond lost his seat in Parliament in 2017 and has been working as a radio talk show host.
After exiting a closed session at the Edinburgh Sheriff Court, Salmond said, “I am innocent of any criminality whatsoever. . . . I refute absolutely these allegations of criminality, and I will defend myself to the utmost in court.”
Salmond said, “You know me well enough to know that I’d love to say a great deal more, but I have got to observe the rules of the court, and in court is where I will state my case.”
The Times of London reported that “the charges follow a five-month police investigation into allegations from two women of sexual harassment dating back to 2013 when Mr Salmond was in office.”
Speaking earlier in the day, the current first minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon, said: “Obviously this news this morning will be a shock to many people. But as Police Scotland have made clear this morning these are now live criminal proceedings. That means now, more than ever, it would be completely inappropriate for me or anybody else for that matter to make any comment on the situation.”
Salmond was released on bail.
Before Thursday’s charges, Salmond was known for his mastery of electoral and parliamentary politics, his keen interest in horse racing, support for sustainable energy and Scottish independence.