He has never been a man to take defeat lying down.
No sooner had former SNP leader Alex Salmond lost his seat in the 2017 snap general election than he decided to rebrand himself as a one-man act at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
It didn’t take long for the politician to develop a taste for the spotlight. Later that year, he launched The Alex Salmond Show on the Kremlin-funded channel RT for an undisclosed fee.
Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond is pictured leaving Edinburgh Sheriff Court yesterday after he was arrested and charged with, among others, multiple counts of sexual assault and two of attempted rape
Deaf to the protestations of former colleagues who pointed out he was working for Vladimir Putin’s propaganda channel – and unbothered by Ofcom’s ruling that the very first instalment breached its regulations – the show still goes on air every week.
If any of Salmond’s friendly image still remained, it finally collapsed last year when details were leaked of a Scottish government investigation into allegations of sexual harassment made against him by two women civil servants when he was First Minister.
While Scottish politicians distanced themselves from him, Salmond was robust in fighting to clear his name.
During his legal battle he twice refused to answer questions about whether he had been drinking at the time of the alleged incidents.
But when he set up a crowd-funding appeal to cover his legal costs, supporters rallied to him and donated more than £100,000 in a few days.
It didn’t take long for the politician to develop a taste for the spotlight. Later that year, he launched The Alex Salmond Show on the Kremlin-funded channel RT for an undisclosed fee [File photo]
A street fighter, he won his judicial review on technical grounds when the courts ruled the government’s inquiry had been ‘procedurally unfair’ and ‘tainted with apparent bias’.
With this victory, no doubt Salmond had hoped he could go back to his budding television career.
But yesterday, an ashen-faced Salmond returned to court, where he now faces charges of, among others, multiple counts of sexual assault and two of attempted rape.
He looked a different person from the man who, on losing his Commons defeat in the SNP’s worst electoral defeat in years, declared: ‘You’ve not seen the last of my bonnet and me.’
Not even Salmond, one of the most dominant figures in British politics for more than two decades, could have predicted how those few words would return to haunt him in such spectacular fashion.
Salmond displayed a gambler’s instinct when it came to politics, which came as no surprise to those who knew him as a child. He made his first wager on the horses aged nine and for several years was racing tipster for a Scottish newspaper
Few politicians, with the exception of Ukip’s Nigel Farage, have done so much to mould the image of the party they led.
In his two terms as leader of Scottish Nationalists, Salmond was instrumental in orchestrating the party’s dominance in the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, where it became the country’s premier political force for the first time in 50 years.
But not all his colleagues talk fondly of his time in charge. Many in the SNP recall his ferocious temper, his arrogance and his intolerance of mistakes. There are also mutterings that he relies on a tiny cabal of advisers – as well as having admitted to liking gambling and drinking.
It’s unsurprising, therefore, that his time as First Minister wasn’t without controversy.
An avid fan of Indian food, he liked to be driven in his ministerial limousine to visit his favourite Edinburgh curry house up to three times a week. His chauffeur would wait outside while the First Minister ate, before dropping him off at Bute House, his official residence.
Salmond was fond of his chauffeur-driven car, even using it in 2009 to travel the 150 yards between the Scottish Parliament and Holyrood Palace to meet the Queen. The next day the Queen, then aged 83, made the same journey on foot.
Salmond led a crusade against Scotland’s drinking culture, lowering the drink-drive limit and introducing minimum pricing and a ban on multi-buy promotions.
‘There is something deep about Scotland’s relationship with alcohol that is about self-image – lack of confidence, maybe, as a nation – and we do have to do something about it,’ he said in 2014.
Yet when he was asked if he used to drink too much as First Minister, he replied: ‘I try to pursue my life as best as I am able. I’m not a paragon of virtue by any means whatsoever and I’ve never claimed to be.’
Patrons of Westminster’s bars would probably agree. Salmond was a regular on the Commons terrace, often ordering pink champagne during lunchtime interviews. He was even once spotted drinking champagne with his breakfast in the first class lounge at Heathrow.
The Scottish independence referendum in 2014 should have been the high point of his career. But it ended in defeat and he resigned the next day. He was replaced by his protege, Nicola Sturgeon, who made it clear from the outset that she had no use for Salmond as a back seat driver.
Indeed, their relationship became increasingly fraught, often clashing on when the SNP should call for another Scottish independence vote.
But it was the 2017 snap general election that marked the start of his downfall. After he mocked the Tories for suggesting they could unseat him after 30 years as an MP, he lost by almost 3,000 votes.
Overnight, he was cast out into the political wilderness. And he didn’t go quietly.
For Salmond, it had all started so auspiciously. Salmond was born on Hogmanay, Scotland’s special night, and in the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, Linlithgow.
After St Andrews University, where he studied economics and medieval history, he became an economist at the Government’s Scottish Office in London where he met his wife Moira, who was his boss.
The Scottish independence referendum in 2014 should have been the high point of his career. But it ended in defeat and he resigned the next day. He was replaced by his protege, Nicola Sturgeon, who made it clear from the outset that she had no use for Salmond as a back seat driver [File photo]
Having joined the SNP as a teenager, he became an MP in 1987 and was propelled to party leader within three years.
Salmond displayed a gambler’s instinct when it came to politics, which came as no surprise to those who knew him as a child. He made his first wager on the horses aged nine and for several years was racing tipster for a Scottish newspaper.
As leader of the SNP, he was a key figure in the successful 1997 referendum which supported the establishment of a Scottish government with devolved powers.
He resigned as leader in 2000 for unexplained reasons, but returned in 2004.
Three years later he became the first SNP First Minister in a close fought election – after which he led the SNP to a landslide victory in the 2011 Holyrood elections and campaigned tooth and nail for a referendum.
Even when he left public office, Salmond continued to fight his corner so publicly and belligerently that he effectively declared war on the SNP government and Nicola Sturgeon.
And now Sturgeon herself might yet pay a price for her past relationship with Salmond, whom she saw five times during the government investigation.
The SNP has now irrevocably split over the issue, and faces serious political damage when it next faces an election.
And that was before Scotland’s former First Minister appeared in a criminal court yesterday, charged with a litany of sexually related offences.