Alex Salmond trial witness denies making up allegations

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Mr Salmond says he is innocent and has pled not guilty to all 14 of the charges against him

A woman who has accused Alex Salmond of sexually assaulting her on two separate occasions has denied suggestions that the incidents did not happen.

Mr Salmond is alleged to have sexually assaulted the woman at his Bute House residence in May 2014 before attempting to rape her there a month later.

Defence lawyer Shelagh McCall QC suggested that the woman was not at Bute House on either date.

But the witness, known as Woman H, insisted she was telling the truth.

Mr Salmond has pled not guilty to charges that he carried out a total 14 sexual assaults on 10 women.

He says he is innocent of all of the charges against him, which are alleged to have happened while he was serving as Scotland's first minister and the leader of the SNP.

The woman previously told the court that she had felt "hunted" by Mr Salmond, who she claimed had "pounced on her" after a dinner at Bute House in June 2014, pulled her clothes off, pushed her onto a bed and then lay naked on top of her despite her protests.

While cross-examining the witness on Tuesday afternoon, Ms McCall put it to her that: "You weren't there at that dinner and there was no incident."

Woman H replied: "I wish on my life that was true, but that is not true. I wish I wasn't there. I wish the first minister had been a nicer and better man and I wasn't here."

Ms McCall had earlier read out Mr Salmond's official diary for the months in question, which did not mention the Bute House dinner.

But Woman H said dinners at Bute House could be "off piste", with diary events regularly cancelled or rearranged, and that her work meant she was regularly at the first minister's residence.

'Embarrassed and humiliated'

When asked why she had not called for a Bute House security guard to help that night, she said: "I really wish that I had. I was scared, I was embarrassed and humiliated.

"Looking back I wish I had screamed, I wish I had physically reacted but I just turned to stone."

She said she wished she had walked out when Mr Salmond started kissing her but had not been able to because she was "freaking out" and "absolutely froze". "I was screaming on the inside not on the outside," she said.

Woman H said Mr Salmond had been naked apart from his socks, adding: "I have this image in my memory which will probably last for life."

She also claimed that Mr Salmond was a man who was "often aggressive and bullying" who had been "forcefully trying it on with me".

And she insisted that she was telling the truth about a separate allegation that Mr Salmond had sexually assaulted her at Bute House the previous month by putting his hand down her top, kissing her face and neck and touching her legs.

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Shelagh McCall QC is one of the defence lawyers representing Mr Salmond during the trial

Woman H had earlier told the court that she had emailed a colleague the day after the alleged attempted rape to say she would not be attending a sporting event with the first minister.

The woman said she used an arm injury she had previously suffered as an excuse and did not mention the alleged attack because she was "still in shock" and had "just tried to pretend it didn't happen".

Woman H went on to say she had told her husband while they were on holiday together some time later that she was considering speaking to SNP headquarters about some "bad things" involving Mr Salmond that had happened to her during the independence referendum campaign, but had not gone into any detail.

She said: "I was trying to work out if there was a process in the party because I was confused and scared and wanted to be secure about talking to anyone before I did so.

"The first minister was a very powerful man and I didn't want to get on the wrong side of him."

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Woman H was being questioned for a second day by Crown prosecutor Alex Prentice QC

Woman H said she started having "flashbacks" around the time of the #MeToo movement and the Harvey Weinstein case, and that she believed the SNP was starting to look out for cases of sexual harassment so the party could take action.

She said: "These issues started to be discussed and I started to have what I could describe as flashbacks. I started to come to the realisation at the October/November 2017 period".

"I thought I would call a staff member at SNP HQ who had been dealing with these issues, Ian McCann. I might have texted him first."

The court was shown texts sent to Mr McCann, where he arranged a meeting and gave assurances that the processes would be confidential.

She said the first time she told the full story was when she spoke to Police Scotland.

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Image caption,
Several of the 14 charges are alleged to have happened at the first minister's official Bute House residence in Edinburgh

Under cross-examination, Woman H also described a personal political project in which she had been involved.

The court was shown texts between Woman H and Tasmina Ahmed-Sheik, a former SNP MP, where Woman H appeared to ask if "Alex will be OK" with it and saying it would be "great to be working with him again".

The court was also shown an email from Woman H to Mr Salmond in which she invited him to attend a fundraising event in 2017, but the witness said it was not her idea and she had only sent the email "out of courtesy".

The court had earlier heard that, after Woman H contacted the SNP about making an anonymous complaint about Mr Salmond, she got a reply saying: "We'll sit on that and hope we never need to deploy it."

Woman H said: "I wanted it to be known in the party so it could become a vetting issue and they could deal with it at whatever stage they saw fit. For vetting, for future staff, for party conduct."

Text messages

When asked by Ms McCall whether anyone had encouraged her to speak to the police, Woman H insisted: "Nobody had cheerled me to do this.

"I've done this off my own bat. This isn't fun, I'd rather not be here."

She said she had spoken to another complainer about the "process", but insisted: "I made this decision on my own."

Woman H went on to say she had been in regular contact with another complainer in the case, known as Woman J. The court was shown text messages in which they apparently discussed the "AS stuff".

A text from Woman H to Woman J appeared to say: "I have a plan and means we can be anonymous but see strong repercussions."

Woman H told the court she was "bricking it" about Mr Salmond's response, but "felt I was becoming more secure that the process could be confidential and anonymous".

She said the "repercussions" mentioned in the text were the police and party taking action over "misconduct".

Woman H also said she had been in contact with a complainer known as Woman A, but denied that Woman A had encouraged her to speak to the police.

Mr Salmond says he is innocent of all of the allegations against him, and has entered not guilty pleas to all 14 charges.