Alex Salmond has closed a crowdfunding appeal to fund a judicial review of the Scottish government’s handling of sexual harassment allegations against him after it reached more than double its initial target in less than three days.
By Saturday lunchtime, more than 4,100 people had donated a total of £100,000 to Salmond after he launched the appeal on Wednesday evening. The former Scottish National party leader faces a police investigation into the complaints by two female civil servants. One official is reported to have alleged he touched her bottom and breasts at his official residence in Edinburgh while he was first minister. Salmond has repeatedly denied any misconduct.
Closing the appeal, Salmond posted a message thanking those who had contributed and stating: “Every penny of surplus funds, which will be substantial in the event of a successful judicial review, will be distributed to good causes in Scotland and beyond.”
While a number of senior party figures have questioned why someone with Salmond’s evident resources would require fundraising, and suggested that such a public rallying for a man accused of harassment may deter other women from coming forward with complaints, a handful of SNP MPs and MSPs have donated themselves.
Meanwhile the SNP is attempting to refocus on its primary goal of independence after a turbulent week and a warning from its leader, Nicola Sturgeon, that the way the allegations made against Salmond are dealt with “will say a lot about who we are as a party”.
Hundred of activists are gathering in Aviemore on Saturday to debate the economic case for independence.
At a meeting of SNP parliamentarians on Friday, arranged before the Salmond allegations were made public, Sturgeon said: “How we deal with this and how we are seen to respond to this will say a lot about who we are as a party and also about the country we are today and want to build for the future.“Let’s not forget that at the heart of this, amidst all the focus on process, politics and personalities, there are two people who have brought forward complaints, which cannot have been easy to do. I want to be not just the first minister but also a citizen of a country where people feel that they can come forward and know that their complaints will be taken seriously.
“Therefore in everything we do and say, we need to make sure that we are not making it harder for people to come forward in the future. Otherwise we risk setting back so much of the progress that has been made in recent times.”
The event in Aviemore is the second of a series of national assemblies set up to discuss the report by the party’s sustainable growth commission, published in May. Party sources downplayed talk of a rift on Saturday morning, insisting that rank-and-file members attending last weekend’s assembly in Ayr had been more interested in talking about currency options than Alex Salmond.
The SNP’s deputy leader, Keith Brown, who is facilitating the open-format assemblies, which allow individual members to offer feedback on all aspects of the report’s economic prospectus for independence as well as how the party conveys its message to voters, said that providing an alternative to Brexit was essential, as voters began to notice mortgages and food prices increasing while job opportunities diminished.
“A fresh case for independence is more vital than ever – and that is what we are working on at the national assemblies, and with wider engagement enabling members of our party [to give] direct input and [giving] people from across the yes movement and civic Scotland a say too.”
The long-awaited growth commission report was intended to offer a more convincing and realistic economic case for independence than the one thought to have scuppered the 2014 campaign. But it attracted a wave of criticism from members of the broader yes movement following its publication earlier this year, in particular for recommendations that an independent Scotland would have to cut spending and delay launching its own currency, leave a newly independent Scotland beholden to the UK’s financial markets.
Sturgeon’s cautionary words were echoed by the prominent civil society group Women for Independence, which released a statement on Friday evening urging all media outlets and social media users to be mindful of their responsibilities towards survivors of sexual crimes, saying: “It’s vital that everyone remembers that there are survivors of sexual crimes who are reading and hearing everything that is being played out in the media. Their voices are lost this week.”