ALEX Salmond has said he was made aware that Humza Yousaf had organised a ministerial appointment which clashed with the final vote on equal marriage legislation in 2014.

Speaking to Sky News, Salmond said he was contacted 10 days before the historic vote on the legislation which legalised same-sex marriage in Scotland and told that Yousaf was organising a meeting which would conflict with the final vote.

He said: “My memory is that I was contacted 10 days or so before the vote and told that Humza was arranging a ministerial appointment.

“I’ve discussed it with people who were with me at the time so I know it’s … well, their memory is the same as mine.”

When pressed by Sky News journalist Beth Rigby on the reason given for why Yousaf would skip the vote, Salmond said the assumption was that he was facing pressure from religious groups.

“I didn’t discuss the thing at great length. The assumption was it was pressure … well, a lot of religions were canvassing. There was no secret there was that.

“But it was a free vote, people could do what they liked. I had ministers who were against equal marriage and who voted against equal marriage and they continued as ministers.

“You asked me what my memory was. Was I contacted to say that Humza had arranged a governmental meeting on the day of the vote – and that was some time before the vote – the answer is yes. I remember that.

“And I remember saying that Alex Neil had to be informed. But there was no question of having to ask permission.

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“We just saw an interview where Humza accepted that there was pressure from various communities. But his memory may be different from mine, let’s put it that way.”

It comes after former SNP MSP Alex Neil – who has backed Kate Forbes to become the next leader of the SNP – claimed that Yousaf purposefully arranged the meeting to clash with the stage 3 vote on equal marriage.

Yousaf said he had an “unavoidable meeting” with the Pakistan Consul General at the time of the vote to discuss the case of a Scot with a history of mental illness being held on death row in the country.

He has also cited his vote in favour of the legislation at stage 1 as proof of his commitment to equal marriage.

When asked whether Salmond's recollection was "wrong" by a Sky News reporter, Yousaf said: "Yes. I mean it is the most predictable political intervention I have to say." 

He later issued a statement in which he claimed his support for equal marriage was "unequivocal". 

"As I have said throughout this campaign, I was proud to vote in favour of the Equal Marriage Bill in Scotland's Parliament," he said. 

"I have never denied there was pressure on me regarding this vote, but I was vocal about my support for marriage equality at the time and I remain totally unequivocal on that position.

"As your SNP First Minister, and as someone from a minority background myself, I will champion, defend and celebrate equal rights for all to the hilt.”

SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick, who was the SNP Government's Minister for Parliamentary
Business during the passing of the bill, added:

"I was the Government's Minister for Parliamentary Business at the time.

"All arrangements for Ministers being handed permission to conduct vital government business during votes in parliament were handled and approved by myself.

"While other Ministers did raise concerns about the Bill at the time, Humza was not one of them.

"Humza gave his full backing to the Bill in its first vote through parliament and he continues to be a staunch ally of the LGBTQ+ community to this day and beyond."