Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon had a meeting in late March 2018 with her predecessor Alex Salmond’s former chief of staff and one of the women the former leader is accused of sexually assaulting, a court heard on Wednesday.
Geoff Aberdein, who was Mr Salmond’s chief of staff from 2011 to 2014, was giving evidence at the High Court in Edinburgh in the trial of the former first minister on 13 charges, including attempted rape and sexual and indecent assault, involving a total of nine women.
The former first minister and Scottish National party leader has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Defence lawyer Gordon Jackson QC was concluding his questioning of Mr Aberdein when he was called over by Mr Salmond for a brief consultation. Mr Jackson then asked if there had been a meeting on March 29, 2018 between the former chief of staff, who by then was working in the private sector, Ms Sturgeon and one of the complainants in the trial.
Mr Aberdein replied that there had been such a meeting on March 29 “at the Scottish parliament in the first minister’s office”.
The former chief of staff had earlier told the court of another meeting in early April between Ms Sturgeon and Mr Salmond at the current first minister’s house in Glasgow.
Separately on Wednesday, the eighth day of Mr Salmond’s trial, a witness said a former government official whom Mr Salmond is accused of attempting to rape did not attend the dinner after which the alleged incident occurred.
The High Court in Edinburgh heard from company director Samantha Barber that she had attended a June 2014 dinner with Mr Salmond and another person, but that the alleged victim was not present. “I absolutely have no recollection of seeing [her] on that night,” Ms Barber said.
Earlier in the trial, the former government official said Mr Salmond had forcibly stripped off her clothes and laid on her naked after the dinner at Bute House, his official residence in Edinburgh.
Mr Salmond told the court on Monday that only three people had been at the dinner and the former official was not one of them.
Last week, the jury heard evidence from an interview between police and another participant at the dinner in which that participant said there had been four people at the dinner. That participant identified a person with the former official’s marital circumstances as having been present.
In his earlier evidence, Mr Salmond suggested that the other participant might have seen other female staff members who had come in and out of the room during the dinner. Ms Barber said she had no memory of anyone interrupting the event.
Separately, two witnesses told the court they had attended an event at which a civil servant said in previous evidence that Mr Salmond grabbed her by the buttock while they were having a photograph taken together. The witnesses said they saw the photographs taken, but had not noticed anything untoward.
Other witnesses called by the defence described working for the former first minister as demanding but rewarding. Lorraine Kay, a former deputy private secretary to the then-first minister, said working in the private office was the “highlight” of her two-decade civil service career.
Mr Salmond could be “touchy-feely”, but when asked by Mr Jackson if he had ever gone “over the line” or touched people in a sexual way, she said: “Not that I witnessed, no.”
The trial continues.