DAY 6 – Monday 16 March 2020
a. First witness today is Woman B – Alex Salmond is accused of indecently assaulting her. She was a civil servant in the Scottish government. Court discussing the creation of Alex Salmond’s official Christmas card – Woman B says she didn’t think one year’s design by Jack Vettriano was appropriate as it featured a man and a “quite scantily clad” woman kissing. She says Alex Salmond agreed to change the card, but after discussing it he wanted to “recreate the pose” on the card and grabbed her wrists and tried to kiss her. She says she was trying to get away but it was like “wrestling with an octopus”. She says “it felt like it went on forever”, but it was probably only seconds or a minute – she says someone came into the room and Alex Salmond stopped, and she left. She says she spoke to her line manager but she didn’t feel there was a option to “take things further. The relationship which existed between the civil service and the first minister, if I had complained formally I would have been the problem and I would have been removed – and I had worked really hard”.
b. In cross examination, Shelagh McCall asks if Alex Salmond and Woman B had a “reasonably respectful” relationship, and he respected her work and professionalism; she says yes. McCall asks if Alex Salmond was in a “playful” mood; she says “I think even if he was in a light-hearted mood there was always an underlying tone of – you would never relax in his company”. McCall asks Woman B why she didn’t complain at the time; she says “if I had complained it would have been swept under the carpet and I would have suffered in my career….I never saw anyone in a senior position in the Scottish government tackle the FM on his behaviour”.
c. Next witness is a colleague of Woman B, who says she told her about the alleged incident the following day. In cross examination witness tells McCall she thought Alex Salmond was in a “cheerful and playful” mood.
d. Next witness is a civil servant, who worked with Woman F – he says he met with her at time of alleged incident and she was “unusually upset” and “very nervous” – he says she told him Alex Salmond had encouraged her to sit on his bed. He says she seemed “traumatised”. Witness tells the court that after incidents involving Woman F and Woman G “we changed the rota meaning that no female [civil servant] would be alone in Bute House”. He doesn’t know if it was ever written down but would have been reflected in rotas. She said he would not have trusted the civil service procedures in place at the time to be able to handle sensitive issues; and he said stress of the job caused some mental health issues and others to stop working with the FM
e. Another civil servant tells the court this was “more an operational response than an official policy”, but efforts were made in civil service to either “double up” or “avoid single female contact with Mr Salmond after certain points of the evening”.
f. Crown has withdrawn charge six (a charge of sexual assault on Woman E, who has not given evidence). Alex Salmond stands and is formally acquitted of this charge. Some tweaks made to other charges, and the Crown closes its case.
DAY 7 – Tuesday 17 March 2020
a. Defence begins their case. Alex Salmond says there was a “blurring if the normal social-professional boundaries” in his private office – there was an “informality” as it was a 24/7 operation where people were “living out of each others pockets”.
b. On to the specific charges – Gordon Jackson, his QC, asks about the allegation by woman B about the Christmas card. Alex Salmond says she has “mis-remembered” – he says he took her hands and suggested they reenact the card as “a piece of fun” and “high jinks”. Story has “developed” over time. Asked if he now wonders if he went too far, Alex Salmond says “from where I’m standing now, yes…I rather I hadn’t told that joke or had that idea of fun. But at the time it wasn’t regarded as its being presented now”.
c. On to Woman C – Jackson asks if Alex Salmond “disputes” the claim he touched her leg in the car. “Yes,” he says. He says back seat armrest couldn’t go back because it had a phone fitted in it; you couldn’t have your hand on someone’s knee without those in the front seeing.
d. On to Woman D – Alex Salmond says he had no sexual contact with her but would occasionally “tug her hair” in an “affectionate gesture”, as it was so curly it would spring back immediately. He says he believes others did this too and that she never seemed offended or upset. He says they had attended the Ryder Cup for meetings as Scotland was hosting the next one at Gleneagles. He acknowledged further that Woman D had shown him a bikini shot of her holiday in Jamaica. He agrees that he told her she looked like Ursula Andress in ‘Dr No’. Alex Salmond says from where he stands now he wishes he’d been “more careful with people’s personal space”, but “I’m of the opinion that events are being reinterpreted and exaggerated out of any possible proportion”.
e. On Woman G’s claim Alex Salmond touched her bottom after a dinner, Alex Salmond says any touching was on the stairs on the way in, when he gave her a “gentle shove to chivvy her up the stairs”, touching her lower back. He says it was “totally and utterly harmless”. On the other charge involving Woman G, of sexual assault at Bute House, Alex Salmond says he put his arm around her to “comfort” her but says he didn’t try to kiss her and says there was nothing sexual about it whatsoever.
f. On to Woman J – the “zombie impression” claim – Alex Salmond says this didn’t happen; he says the only physical contact he had with Woman J was to tap her on the nose before he went off to bed, leaving her working on his computer. He says “nothing improper” happened.
g. On to Woman K, who says Alex Salmond touched her bottom as they had their photo taken – he says “it didn’t happen, I didn’t grab her bottom.” Adds, his wife Moira had been between Alex Salmond and Ms G when he reached up to give the shove.
h. On to Woman A. Alex Salmond says claims he kissed and touched her are “a fabrication from start to finish”; they were out in public at the centre of attention, it “would be insane to be doing anything like that”. He says the claim he sexually assaulted Woman A is “not just a fabrication, it’s ludicrous”. He accuses Ms A of recruiting and encouraging five of the other accusers also to make fabrications against him. He describes Ms A as extremely close to Nicola Sturgeon. He says it “accusations make no sense whatsoever” and says Woman A has encouraged some of the other complainers to “exaggerate or make claims against me. Some are exaggerations that are taken out of proportion and I think that the impact of some of the publicity of the last 18 months might have led some people quite innocently to revise their opinions and say ‘oh well something happened to me’ and it gets presented in a totally different way. And [then] people get in a sausage machine and can’t get out of it, even if they want to.”
i. On to Woman F, the charge of sexual assault with intent to rape. Alex Salmond says the two had a “sleepy cuddle” on his bed after drinking Chinese liquor. He says “it shouldn’t have happened”, but says it was a cuddle and there was “no struggle whatsoever”. Jackson notes this is a charge of sexual assault with intent to rape. “It’s not true” says Alex Salmond. “Not in the slightest. I’ve never attempted to have non-consensual sexual relations with anyone in my entire life.”
j. Court having a legal debate – jury are sent out, nothing can be reported at this point.
k. Court back in open session. Jackson asks Alex Salmond about Woman H; he denies there was sexual contact on either of the occasions listed in the charges, but says there was a “consensual sexual encounter” on another occasion. Alex Salmond says there was a “consensual sexual liaison [with woman H] in the bedroom which did not involve full undress of either of us”, and says “we parted good friends with no damage done”. He says this was on a date prior to those in the two charges which he denies happened.
l. Back in session. Gordon Jackson is taking court through Alex Salmond’s diary and calendar for the month of one of the charges involving Woman H – defence has lodged a special defence of alibi on this charge. After running through a series of dates, Jackson says from the diary and calendar, is there any time that month that Woman H could have been at Bute House with Alex Salmond? “No there’s not”, he says. On to the attempted rape charge; Alex Salmond says he was “never” involved in anything like this with Woman H. He says he remembers the dinner with a celebrity she says she was at and says it’s “not possible” Woman H was there. He says he remembers the dinner and “she wasn’t there”.
m. Jackson says Alex Salmond’s position couldn’t be simpler – the allegation is “just a lie”. “Yes, that’s correct,” he says. He says Woman F was annoyed that he hadn’t backed her in a personal political project. Defence concludes questioning of Alex Salmond.
n. Alex Prentice cross examines for the Crown. Prentice is repeating a question at Alex Salmond. Prentice repeatedly asked if Alex Salmond had “any regard” for Woman B’s feelings when he tried to reenact the Christmas card. He says “it was a joke, it was high jinks”. He says he wouldn’t do it again, it’s a “good lesson” not to invade people’s personal space. Prentice asks if Alex Salmond instilled a sense of fear in staff? “That’s not my belief, intent or perception”. He says some people have said they found him intimidating, but “clearly it’s not a universal belief”. Prentice asks if Alex Salmond has respect for women? “I did and I do”. Did he seek to avoid humiliating women? “Always”. Did he have a duty of care to staff? “Yes” – and he regarded sexual harassment as a serious issue. Was Alex Salmond surprised to hear one witness claim that staff had suffered mental health issues? “I think it was unfair of him to say that. He was misleading, intentionally or otherwise.”
o. Prentice asks if it surprised Alex Salmond to hear rotas were changed so female staff were not alone with him? “I had no knowledge at the time and it couldn’t have been put into effect without me noticing….I don’t think the arrangement could have been put into effect”. Prentice asks if Alex Salmond thought it was appropriate to touch Woman D’s hair. “I tugged her hair occasionally, it was not meant to convey anything sexual”. What about the age difference between them? “I wasn’t in any way shape or form pursuing a sexual relationship”. Did Alex Salmond consider himself so powerful that he could reach out and touch her hair in the presence of a senior civil servant, Alex Prentice asks? “I had no reason to think she would have found it offensive”. “It wasn’t a sexual thing.”
p. On to Woman F – Alex Prentice asks if Alex Salmond can see how “chilling” it was for the FM to ask a younger female staff member to sit down on his bed? “That’s not what happened, she went to sit there to put on her boots”. What is a sleepy cuddle, Prentice asks? Alex Salmond says “both of us were slightly tipsy and it was something that wasn’t meant to happen, it was across the bed with her feet on the floor…it wasn’t a pre-arranged anything.” He says Woman F left “in perfect order”. Prentice asks if Alex Salmond can see how demeaning it would be for a young woman to have her bottom smacked in public; he says yes, but that’s not what happened with Woman G. He says he “ushered her up a staircase”.
q. Prentice asks if the truth is Woman H was at the dinner with the celebrity? “No it is not”. And Alex Salmond behaved the way she has described? “No I did not.” He attempted to rape her? “I did not.”
r. Did Alex Salmond grab Woman K’s backside because he could? “No,” he says; “I didn’t grab her backside but I should have been more sensitive to the fact she apparently didn’t want her photo taken….I didn’t want to exert any power.”
s. Brief evidence from Alex Salmond’s former constituency worker: she says he could be “very demanding” in their busy office, but “never nasty”. Court finishes for the day.
DAY 8 – Wednesday 18 March 2020
a. Cross examination from Alex Prentice; he suggests to Samantha Barber that Woman H was at the dinner. She says “I absolutely genuinely have no recollection of seeing [Woman H] that night.” Reminded Woman H says she was sexually assaulted by Alex Salmond. Samantha Barber says her recollection is that Woman H wasn’t able to go to that dinner. She says it’s her recollection that it was just the three of them. Asked if the police had contacted Samatha Barbara. “Yes, but I wanted legal advice before I talked to them. I wanted to know the process.” Prentice queries why she sought legal counsel. Lady Dorrian asks Prentice “Is a citizen not entitled to take advice, Mr Prentice?”.
b. Next defence witness is Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh. [She produces Alex Salmond’s political television show.] Ms Ahmed-Sheikh says Woman H texted her in 2015 to discuss a personal political project, saying “it would be great to work with Alex again”. Court looking at screenshots of texts. Ms Ahmed-Sheikh says Woman H had also been very angry Salmond did not support her in a career move. Ms Ahmed-Sheikh says she was at the event where Woman K had her photo taken with Alex Salmond; she says she was next in line and didn’t see anything untoward happen. Shelagh McCall asks if she noted any apparent discomfort on the part of Woman K; “no I did not”.
c. Next defence witness is Fergus Mutch, who worked for Alex Salmond. He says he was with Woman J in his company in the days after the alleged incident at Bute House; he says she was “in good form” and “professional at all times”, and says she was “relaxed” in Alex Salmond’s company.
d. Defence calls Kirk Torrance. He was working for SNP and also says he saw Woman J in days after the alleged incident at Bute House; did she seem upset? “Quite the opposite”. He says Woman J was “enthusiastically” gossiping with other staff.
e. Another witness, a civil servant says working for Alex Salmond was “a privilege & a penance”; it was “very exciting & fast paced, but it was tough & you have to be resilient”. FM “could be very demanding” and “quite fierce” if people weren’t on their game, but could also be “fun”. Asked about Alex Salmond as a boss, civil servant says he was driven, committed and set high standards for himself and for everybody else. He was old-fashioned. He had always opened the door for her and other women and ushered them in, he would insist even junior civil servants be seated properly at table when working over meals. Gordon Jackson asked if Salmond was tactile? Yes, he was always hugging and kissing and posing for selfies with people.
f. Next defence witness is Geoff Aberdein, who worked for Alex Salmond. He says the FM was “firm but fair”; the job was “all hours, hectic, very demanding” – but it was “one of the best experiences of my life”. Jackson asks: “Tell me if I’m wrong. There was a meeting between you, [a complainant] and Nicola Sturgeon?” Geoff Aberdein says he had two meetings with a complainant in early March. He said that at the second meeting, she told him there had been two retrospective complaints about Salmond. Jackson asks “Was there ever at any time from her the slightest hint that she was making a complaint about Alex Salmond’s behaviour?” Geoff Aberdein replies “Never”.
g. Court back in session, defence questioning a civil servant who says she never felt uncomfortable around Alex Salmond; she says she was not aware of any system prohibiting women from working alone with him at night.
h. Defence questioning Ms Ann Harvey, a civil servant who says she never felt uncomfortable around Alex Salmond; she says she was not aware of any system prohibiting women from working alone with him at night.
i. Court also hears from Alexander Anderson, who worked for Alex Salmond; he says the former FM “has always been tactile” and approachable and would shake hands with and hug people in the street. But witness says his behaviour was “absolutely not inappropriate”.
j. Court told that one witness hasn’t turned up to testify, another, a police officer, has been called away on urgent business – so case out of witnesses for today. Gordon Jackson says he has a few to go through tomorrow, but “nothing major”.
DAY 9 – Thursday 19 March 2020
a. Alex Salmond in court with his wife on what may well be final day of defence case. Next witness is DCS Lesley Boal, who led police investigation into Alex Salmond; she confirms she did not accept a copy of the conclusions of the govt’s internal investigation in case her inquiry was “unconsciously tainted” by it. She says her team took 386 statements.
b. Next witness is Alex Bell, who worked for Alex Salmond. Asked about the Jack Vettriano Christmas card incident with Woman B, he says he doesn’t recall seeing anything that concerned him; “there may have been some joking” around the card, but he doesn’t remember Woman B being unhappy about it.
c. In cross examination, Alex Prentice asks if Alex Bell went upstairs to join Woman B and Alex Salmond because he was concerned about her being alone with him; he says he returned to the room “to ensure the welfare” of Woman B.
d. Next witness is Alex Salmond’s former driver, Roger Cherry. He says he can’t remember who sat where on the night Woman C says Alex Salmond touched her leg, but he confirms that the back seat armrest could not be retracted and the atmosphere was “very jovial and happy”.
e. After agreement of a joint minute of various defence productions, that’s the end of the defence case. Speeches next, although Judge Lady Dorrian wants to discuss matters with the two legal teams first. Expecting Alex Prentice to sum up this afternoon for the Crown, but if he takes too long, then Gordon Jackson tomorrow morning. That could mean the jury charged by Lady Dorrian to begin deliberations immediately thereafter.
f. Crown’s summation: Alex Prentice QC says he wants the jury to convict Alex Salmond of all that’s on the indictment. He says they are the masters of the facts; they decide what evidence they accept, what they reject, and what conclusions to draw. “I suggest that Alex Salmond’s conduct was intimidating, humiliating, degrading and created an offensive environment”. He adds, “This is a powerful man who used his power to satisfy his sexual desires with impunity.” He says jury are entitled to dismiss the evidence of the nine complainers as being fabricated or exaggerated, but equally they can regard them as “truthful and honest witnesses”. He says that if you do, then “you see a pattern emerges”. He says much has been made of Alex Salmond being a “tactile person” – he tells the jury that he’s not sure what this means, but it’s “not a licence to grope women”. He says there’s a “course of conduct of seeking sexual gratification”. He runs through the charges one by one urging jury to look at the context around the circumstances; of young women alone late at night at Bute House. He asks if claims of each complainant chime with the others, suggesting there is an “emerging pattern”. Adds, there is an “ongoing course of conduct” through the indictment, “a common theme of a sexual predator with escalating gravity”. He says there is a further common theme running through this case, that “these ladies effectively had nobody to turn to”. They felt they could not speak out to expose what was going on.
g. He concludes his speech by telling the jury: “they felt they had nobody to turn to for an effective remedy – well they do now. I invite you to convict Alex Salmond of the charges against him.”
DAY 10 – Friday 20 March 2020
a. Bright spring sunshine over Edinburgh. A big day for Alex Salmond and indeed his accusers. A reminder to readers Gordon Jackson QC is defending him, this his moment to state the case for the defence. (The judge, Lady Dorian will then address the jury and charge them to find a verdict.)
b. Defence summation. Gordon Jackson QC opines that the prosecution is right. He paraphrases the prosecution’s remarks: “that there’s a pattern here” – but adds “not the one they want the jury to draw”. It’s of things that had nothing thought of them at the time, that were not a big deal at the time, later rethought, re-imagined, now criminal charges in the High Court. He says the jury must be convinced beyond reasonable doubt – [my italics] and that is a very high standard of proof. ”There is only guilt in these matters not because someone could have been a better man, but because of that standard of proof.” He warns against making moral judgements and asks jury to concentrate on proof. On the attempted rape charge, Gordon Jackson says defence have shown Woman H was not at the dinner that night. He repeats the prosecution’s phrase “The pattern does not fit”. He says there’s something in the “murky” world of politics in that phrase, a catch all phrase: “I can’t prove it, but I can smell it, there’s something not right”. He says the charge of sexual assault with intent to rape is “a hell of an allegation”. “There may have been inappropriate behaviour, but when they are both fully clothed and they sit up and say goodnight afterward, how does this become intent to rape?” He adds “Don’t ask me.” He enumerates the other charges – he says none are “trivial”, but “these were incidents nobody thought twice about” at the time. He finds problems in “Every one I look at”. He continues on the same theme, “this is frightening, scary, this stinks, this absolutely stinks”. Gordon Jackson says “inconsistencies and contradictions crop up repeatedly” in the testimonies and evidence. He alleges there are signs some of the charges were orchestrated. He tells jury that if they had any hesitation about the truth or accuracy of the charges, they had to acquit. “You cannot take a risk with his life or anybody else’s life … If you accept any of these things is a criminal matter, you need to be satisfied to that high, high standard.” He says Woman A was “fiercely involved” in talking to other complainers, and then he touches upon the issue of conspiracy by repeats the line. Again to the jury he says “A fifth complainer, a senior politician, has refused to take part in those conversations because she felt it was inappropriate. There’s something that doesn’t smell right about the whole thing.” He adds, “Alex Salmond is entitled not to be convicted of anything unless there’s clear evidence.” He pauses and then says “this all comes out of the political bubble with no real independent support of any kind”.
c. He concludes his summing up speech telling the jury that he doesn’t care if they like Alex Salmond or not – “he’s not above the law, but he’s not below it either.” He finishes with “This has gone far enough!”
d. Judge Lady Dorrian thanks the Defence counsel and turns to the jury to her instructions – explaining points of law, where not to draw conclusions, how not to be subjective, how to be a responsible person on a matter involving reputations and livelihoods, and they must decide on the basis of having no doubt in the minds one way or the other. She tells them that “it’s your judgement that matters, it’s for you alone to decide what is or isn’t important”.
e. We now await the decision of the jury. I am never sure if a swift verdict is a good or a bad thing, but I take a long deliberation to mean a split jury.