A controversial crowdfunding campaign launched by Alex Salmond to help fund his legal challenge against the Scottish Government’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations against him has been halted after it raised just over £100,000.
The former Scottish first minister announced he was asking for money to help with his court battle at the same time as he dramatically quit the SNP.
But after his heavily criticised funding campaign raised double its £50,000 target, Mr Salmond announced he was closing it.
He said: “Many thanks to the thousands of people who have come forward with support. We will now press on with the challenge to the lawfulness of the procedure. All funds will be used exclusively to support the judicial review.
“If we are successful in the Court of Session then there are likely to be substantial surplus funds and, as I have pledged, every penny will then go to good causes in Scotland and beyond.”
But his decision to ask the public for financial support has been branded “unprecedented” and “unbelievable” by opposition politicians – with some urging people to donate cash to women’s organisations instead of give money to the former SNP leader, who served at both Holyrood and Westminster during his lengthy political career.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon encouraged her Twitter followers to donate to a campaign to fund a legal challenge to the UK Government’s so-called “rape clause”.
It comes after Mr Salmond was informed in March of an investigation by the Scottish Government, after two complaints about his behaviour were made in January.
The allegations date back to 2013, when he was still first minister, with Police Scotland having already confirmed details have been passed to the force.
On Friday lawyers at the firm Levy & McRae confirmed a petition for judicial review in the Court of Session has now been served on legal representatives of the Scottish Government.
The Scottish Government has pledged to “vigorously defend” its position in court, saying there are “a number of inaccuracies in Mr Salmond’s public statements”.
When the crowdfunder was closed it had raised £100,007 from 4,146 supporters in three days – with people giving an average donation of just over £24.
Mr Salmond told those who had donated: “A special thank you to everyone who contributed and left such kind messages.
“The petition for Judicial Review has now been served and all of you helped make that possible.”
But a Scottish Conservative spokesman said: “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.”
Meanwhile Ms Sturgeon told SNP MPs and MSPs on Friday that she wanted to see a “Scotland where there is equality before the law, where there’s not one rule for the powerful and another rule for everyone else”.
She also stressed the importance of properly investigating the complaints, saying: “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 at all easy to do.”
Ms Sturgeon, who succeeded Mr Salmond as SNP leader and first minister in 2014, spoke to parliamentarians at a party event in Edinburgh on Friday.
Mr Salmond, who has been both an MP and an MSP, had been a member of the party for 45 years when he resigned.
He was party leader for 20 years over that period, with two decade-long spells in the job. He also became Scotland’s longest serving First Minister
Speaking about his complaint he said: “There is a general interest in ensuring that such procedures are fair and lawful, just as complainers, and those complained about, have a right to confidentiality. That has been breached in this case.
“My entire focus is now on the judicial review and seeking fairness. I am content to let the court action take its course.”