EDINBURGH (AFP) - Alex Salmond, the former nationalist leader who took Scotland to the brink of independence in 2014, has denied two accusations of sexual misconduct from when he was Scotland's first minister.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) veteran said in a statement that the claims, which were confirmed by the Scottish government, were "patently ridiculous".
"I am not guilty of the complaints that have been made against me, and I have never engaged in criminality," he told AFP.
Police have been asked to investigate allegations he sexually assaulted two staff members at the first minister's official residence at Bute House in Edinburgh, in 2013, according to the Daily Record newspaper.
The matter was passed on to the police by Scottish government officials following an internal probe, the paper said.
Police would not say whether there was an ongoing criminal inquiry, but Salmond confirmed he has launched civil proceedings against the Scottish government over the internal investigation.
Salmond claims the Scottish government's most senior official, Leslie Evans, has acted "unlawfully" in raising the complaint over three years after he left office.
"I have not been allowed to see and therefore to properly challenge the case against me. I have not been allowed to see the evidence," he said.
"I have tried everything, including offers of conciliation, mediation and legal arbitration to resolve these matters both properly and amicably.
"This would have been in everybody's interests, particularly those of the two complainants. All of these efforts have been rejected.
"The Permanent Secretary chose to deny me contact with any current civil servant, many of whom wished to give evidence on my behalf and access to documentation to allow me to properly challenge the complaints, all of which I refute and some of which were patently ridiculous."
In response, the Scottish government said it would "defend its position vigorously".
"It is vital that any allegations of harassment are treated seriously and investigated thoroughly, regardless of the identity of the party involved," a spokesman said.
Current SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, a protege of Salmond, said the allegations were "extremely difficult" for her.
"My relationship with Alex Salmond obviously makes this an extremely difficult situation for me to come to terms with," she told parliament.
"I am also acutely aware how upsetting this will be for my party. However, the overriding priority must be to ensure fair and due process."