A celebrity supporter of Scottish independence has confirmed that a woman who accuses Alex Salmond of attempted rape was present on the night she alleges the attack took place.
The public figure, who is not being named for legal reasons, told the high court in Edinburgh that the woman took part in a small private dinner with him, Salmond and a third person at Bute House in Edinburgh, the first minister’s official residence, in June 2014.
In a pre-recorded interview, the celebrity said the atmosphere at the dinner, which had been arranged to discuss his support for the yes campaign, was “jovial”, adding: “It was optimistic, hopeful, friendly.”
The alleged victim, known as H, has accused Salmond of sexually assaulting her, stripping off her clothes and then, visibly aroused, laying naked on top of her on a bed at Bute House after the celebrity and the other guest had left that night.
Salmond denies H’s allegations and has also pleaded not guilty to 13 other alleged sexual offences including a sexual assault against H in May 2014 and one of intent to rape involving another complainer, the Scottish legal term for a complainant.
His lawyer, Shelagh McCall QC, earlier accused H of lying about both attacks during her third day of evidence on Wednesday morning, alleging that H had instead initiated sexual contact with Salmond at Bute House in August 2013.
On Tuesday, McCall had challenged H about her account of the dinner with the celebrity. She questioned H about whether she had actually been present at the dinner and whether she had chosen that date because another public source had named the celebrity as having been at Bute House that night – a claim H repeatedly denied.
In his pre-recorded police interview, the celebrity said H, a former Scottish government official, had been at the dinner that night and was known to him as someone involved in the independence campaign.
“There was a group of us, we were three,” he told two detective chief inspectors involved in the Police Scotland investigation into allegations of sexual assault by Salmond, called Operation Diem.
“I have been racking my brains to think of the names because I knew you would ask. There were two others: a lady [H] who was a campaign organiser to some extent and the lady [who is not being named for legal reasons].”
He said one bottle of red wine was drunk and that he thought H was wearing jeans, but could not be certain. He said H and Salmond “spoke to each other as friends and allies” and that he had seen nothing happen that caused him concern.
He could not remember if any of the guests were carrying any injuries, and could not say whether any guest was drunk. He was “quite sober, I have to say. We’d only drunk one bottle between four.”
He said Salmond took him and H to the Bute House cabinet room where the then first minister gave him a signed copy of Scotland’s Future, the Scottish government’s blueprint for independence. When he left Bute House at about 11pm, H had remained in the building with Salmond.
H previously told the court she had been wearing a skirt and that Salmond had been drunk that night, but did not mention there was a fourth person at the dinner apart from Salmond and the celebrity. She also told the court on Monday she was carrying an injury from a previous incident.
In her final evidence session on Wednesday morning, H denied she had made up a story about Salmond’s attempted rape. “Absolutely not because I have this horrific image of him being fully aroused and lying over me,” she told the court.
Pressed by McCall to admit she had willingly kissed and caressed Salmond in 2013, H said: “That’s not true. I have never been a willing participant in Alex Salmond’s advances towards me, and never will be.”
The trial, which is expected to last for three to four weeks, also heard that the crown and defence teams had agreed that Salmond rarely stayed overnight at Bute House in May 2014.
The trial continues.