The women who made sexual assault allegations against Alex Salmond have told how they have been left “devastated” after he was cleared in court of all charges.
But the nine women insisted they will not let the former first minister being acquitted define them – saying they hope their experience can lead to improved understanding of sexual harassment and assault.
They also said that while the experience of taking the case to court had been “traumatic”, it had been the “right thing to do”.
In a joint statement, the nine women said: “While we are devastated by the verdict, we will not let it define us.
“We hope through shining a light on our experiences, it will serve to protect and empower women in the future.”
Their statement, issued by the charity Rape Crisis Scotland, said: “Today we want to send a strong and indisputable message that such behaviours should not be tolerated – by any person, in any position, under any circumstances.”
The women spoke out almost a week after the former SNP leader was cleared of the 13 charges he had been facing – including an allegation of attempted rape – by a jury at the High Court in Edinburgh.
The complainers, who were identified in the trial only as Woman A, Woman B, Woman C, Woman D, Woman F, Woman G, Woman H, Woman J, and Woman K, said: “The jury has delivered a majority verdict on the charges brought against the former first minister.
“We are devastated by the verdict. However it is our fervent hope that as a society we can move forward in our understanding of sexual harassment and sexual assault.”
They recalled that Mr Salmond’s lawyer, Gordon Jackson QC, had quoted Woman H and said “his client should have been a ‘better man’.”
In her evidence to the court, Woman H had said: “I wish for my life the first minister was a better man and I was not here.”
And Mr Jackson told the jury: “If in some ways the former first minister had been a better man, I wouldn’t be here, you wouldn’t be here, none of us would be here.”
In his closing speech, the lawyer claimed the case against the former first minister “stinks” saying it comes from “this political bubble with no real independent support”.
The women said in their statement: “Today we want to send a strong and indisputable message that such behaviours should not be tolerated – by any person, in any position, under any circumstances.”
They said the process of taking the case to court had been “traumatic”, but thanked both Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service for “taking our experiences seriously and for allowing our voices to be heard”.
They continued: “Many of us did speak up at the time of our incidents but were faced with procedures that could not deal with complaints against such a powerful figure. Others were silenced by fear of repercussions.
“It was our hope, as individuals, that through coming forward at this time we could achieve justice and enact change.
“We remain firm in our belief that coming forward to report our experiences and concerns was the right thing to do.
“But it is clear we alone cannot achieve the change we seek.”
They added: “The outcome of this trial will pose many questions and be cause for much debate.
“But as politicians, commentators and society reflect on this case, we would ask you to consider whether behaviour which is so often merely described as ‘inappropriate’ or is tolerated by society, is acceptable towards your daughters, granddaughters, sisters, wives, friends, and colleagues.
“Many of them will already have suffered such conduct. Often in silence.”
They stressed: “All people should feel safe, valued and equal in society and their workplace and it is imperative to ensure robust complaint structures are in place.
“We should all take strength in calling out bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault wherever it takes place.
“And we should all seek to create an environment in which people can challenge and report these behaviours without hesitation or fear of retribution.”