Salmond crowdfunder closed after passing £100,000 mark

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Alex Salmond launched the appeal for £50,000 to pay for legal action against the Scottish government

Alex Salmond's crowdfunding appeal to pay for his legal action against the Scottish government has closed after raising double its £50,000 target.

The former first minister is seeking a judicial review of the government's handling of sexual misconduct complaints against him.

Mr Salmond strongly denies the allegations, describing them as "patently ridiculous".

His fundraiser has been heavily criticised by opposition parties.

They have raised concerns that the high-profile crowdfunding campaign could make women less likely to come forward with sexual harassment complaints against other powerful men in the future.

The appeal, which was closed on Saturday, raised £100,007 in total.

Mr Salmond thanked all of those who had contributed and said: "The petition for judicial review has now been served and all of you helped make that possible.

"We have now closed the fund with double the amount aimed for raised in double quick time.

"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."

'Internal division'

The complaints against Mr Salmond relate to allegations about his conduct towards two staff members in 2013, while he was first minister.

Mr Salmond, who led the Scottish government between 2007 and 2014, launched his crowdfunder on Wednesday evening as he announced he was quitting the SNP to focus on clearing his name.

He said he was doing so because he feared there would be "substantial internal division" within the party if his successor Nicola Sturgeon was forced to suspend him, and has stressed that he intends to rejoin the party after clearing his name.

The crowdfunder reached its £50,000 target within a few hours of its launch, and passed the £100,000 mark on Saturday - with more than 4,000 people contributing to it.

Many of those who left messages on the crowdfunding page said they donated as they believed Mr Salmond was innocent, with some saying they believed he had been targeted because of his support for independence.

However, a Scottish Conservative party spokesman described the appeal as "crass".

'Good causes'

He added: "Alex Salmond should never have been squeezing cash out of SNP supporters in the first place.

"His legal action has nothing to do with independence, yet he used the cause to convince the party faithful to cough up.

"It was crass and certainly not becoming of a former first minister of Scotland."

Mr Salmond has said that "all sums received will contribute exclusively to progressing the judicial review and any money left over will be used to support good causes in Scotland and beyond."

He claims that new Scottish government procedures for investigating harassment complaints against current and former ministers were unfair and unlawful, and has asked the Court of Session to examine them.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Alex Salmond is seeking a judicial review at the Court of Session in Edinburgh

Ms Sturgeon, the current first minister, has staunchly defended the Scottish government's investigation into the two complaints that were made against Mr Salmond, telling BBC Scotland on Wednesday that the rules also had to be fair to the women making the allegations.

She also said she wants a culture where people were able to come forward with complaints regardless of "how senior, how powerful, how well-known or what the political allegiance is" of the person involved.

Analysis by Brian Taylor, BBC Scotland political editor

Spent much of today chatting to sundry folk within the SNP and the wider independence movement.

I was struck by the plaintive, woebegone nature of the exchanges - or most of them. Struck but not remotely surprised. In the short term, it is hard to see the events of the past week as anything other than deeply damaging for the SNP.

None was prepared to deploy the term "civil war" about the party's current travails. I think I can understand why.

Strictly, a political civil war would involve two or more distinct factions, with evident leaders and an ideological distinction.

This is different. This is turmoil, confusion, disquiet. One source described an ordinary SNP branch meeting this week. Folk were unsure, uncertain what to say or do.

I suspect that is more typical than the zealous certainty one occasionally encounters on social media, which prompted the "civil war" description in the first place.

Still, it matters little. Turmoil can be just as undermining, just as sapping of confidence as outright political conflict. Indeed, it can be worse. Uncertainty breeds disquiet and can demoralise, if unchecked.

Mr Salmond lodged his petition seeking a judicial review at the Court of Session earlier this week, with legal papers formally being served on the Scottish government on Friday.

A statement from his solicitors, Levy & McRae, said: "We can also confirm that first respondent is the Permanent Secretary, Ms Leslie Evans, who established the procedure which is the subject of challenge.

"The second respondent is the Scottish government."

Ms Evans, who is the Scottish government's most senior civil servant, was asked by Ms Sturgeon last year to carry out a review of the government's existing harassment procedures in the wake of concerns about the potential scale of the problem at Holyrood, Westminster and beyond.

The new procedures were subsequently introduced with Ms Sturgeon's blessing in December - with the complaints against Mr Salmond being made the following month.

The FDA trade union, which represents civil servants, has previously attacked Mr Salmond for singling out Ms Evans, who it said had been acting on the instructions of Ms Sturgeon in setting up the complaints procedure.