ALEX Salmond appeared in court yesterday charged with attempted rape and sexual assault.

The former First Minister faced a total of 14 charges when he appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court just after 2pm yesterday.

He is accused of two counts of attempted rape, nine counts of sexual assault, two of indecent assault and one of breach of the peace. The hearing was held in private, no plea was entered and he was released on bail.

A statement from the Crown Office said the case was continued for further examination and a date for the next court appearance was to be confirmed.

After the hearing, Salmond, flanked by his lawyer and media adviser read a short statement to reporters who had gathered outside. He denied any criminality and said he had “great faith in the court system of Scotland”.

He said: “Yesterday, with my solicitor Callum Anderson, I attended a police station in central Scotland. I was released on condition that I came to the court today to face the charges against me. That I have now done. So, let me say at the outset I am innocent of any criminality whatsoever.”

Pointing out legal proceedings were “live”, he added: “The only thing I can say is I refute absolutely the allegation of criminality and I will defend myself to the utmost in court. I have got great faith in the court system of Scotland.”

Salmond added: “Now, I’m informed that your questions and my answers might well breach court rules. You know me well enough to know that I’d love to say a great deal more but I have to observe the rules of the court and in court is where I will state my case. Therefore, if you forgive me, I will go back in to consult my legal team. Thank you very much indeed.”

It is understood Salmond’s successor Nicola Sturgeon learned of the arrest from media reports yesterday morning. She gave her response to journalists at Holyrood, saying:

“Obviously this news this morning will be a shock to many people.

“But as Police Scotland have made clear, these are now live criminal proceedings, and 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.

“I hope you, as members of the media and indeed the wider public, will understand the reasons for the fact that I cannot and will not comment any further at this stage.

“I think this will be a shock for many people, but for the reasons I’ve just outlined I’m not going to comment further.”

Holyrood’s Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh gave a short statement to MSPs before First Minister’s Questions at midday. He said: “Members will be aware of reports in the media this morning that the former first minister Alex Salmond has been arrested. As I hope members will also be aware, and as applies with all such matters, that means that parliamentary rules on sub-judice apply as this case is now active.”

Salmond was an MP and MSP for three decades, serving as First Minister from 2007 to 2014. He stood down from the position after the independence referendum which resulted in 45% for independence and 55% for remaining in the UK.He went on to serve as the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman at Westminster before losing his seat in 2017 at the snap General Election.

Earlier this month, Salmond won a legal victory against the Scottish Government after the civil service admitted an internal investigation into complaints had been mishandled.

It emerged the personnel expert who led the formal investigation, Judith MacKinnon, deputy head of human resources with the Scottish Government, had spoken to the complainants before they filed their official complaints. The Scottish Government acknowledged this was in breach of its rules, was unlawful and had the appearance of bias.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “We can confirm a 64-year-old man has been arrested and charged and a report will be sent to the procurator fiscal. Proceedings are now live under the Contempt of Court Act.”