Alex Salmond charged with multiple accounts of sexual assault and rape
Alex Salmond, the former first minister of Scotland, has been charged with two counts of attempted rape and nine counts of sexual assault.
Salmond, who is also facing two indecent assault charges and one count of breach of the peace, appeared at Edinburgh sheriff court for a private hearing on Thursday afternoon, before being charged with a total of 14 offences.
In a statement to the media on Thursday, Salmond said: “Let me say from the outset, I am innocent of any criminality whatsoever.
“Now that these proceedings, criminal proceedings, are live, it is even more important to respect the court. And therefore, the only thing that I can say is I refute absolutely these allegations of criminality and I will defend myself to the utmost in court.
“I’ve got great faith in the court system in Scotland.”
Last year the former SNP leader faced an internal investigation by the Scottish government, after multiple complaints were made against him. Salmond continues to deny any misconduct.
Queen calls for people to see “the bigger picture” in speech alluding to Brexit
The Queen has delivered a speech urging people not to lose sight of the bigger picture, in a speech which strongly alludes to the tensions seen as a result of Brexit.
In a speech to members of the Sandringham Women’s Institute in Norfolk, the monarch spoke of “common ground” and “never losing sight of the bigger picture” which many have interpreted as a veiled reference to Brexit.
Speaking in Norfolk on Thursday, the Queen said: “The continued emphasis on patience, friendship, a strong community-focus and considering the needs of others are as important today as they were when the group was founded all those years ago.
She added: “Of course, every generation faces fresh challenges and opportunities. As we look for new answers in the modern age, I for one prefer the tried and tested recipes, like speaking well of each other and respecting different points of view; coming together to seek out the common ground; and never losing sight of the bigger picture. To me, these approaches are timeless, and I commend them to everyone.”
The speech echoed the Queen’s Christmas address, where she also spoke of the importance of showing respect even when people had “the most deeply held differences”.
Chancellor tells businesses to accept Brexit result
The chancellor Philip Hammond has told UK businesses to accept the result of the EU referendum, and that refuting the vote to leave the European Union would result in ‘political instability’ in Britain.
Speaking in Davos, Hammond told an audience of business leaders that the government was working towards a deal that safeguarded the economy, and although he understood their frustrations on Brexit, businesses had to accept that changes were coming.
The chancellor added that companies would have to accept Brexit would bring the end of freedom of movement, and urged them to rethink businesses models based on cheap, low-skilled labour.
Speaking on Thursday, Hammond said: “Even from the narrowest interpretation of business interests, it would be a pyrrhic victory to meet the needs of the economy, but by shattering the broad economic consensus behind our country’s political and economic system.”
He added: “Not leaving would be a betrayal, but leaving without a deal would also be a betrayal.”
Varadkar: no-deal Brexit would make trade deals “very difficult”
Irish PM Leo Varadkar has said a no-deal Brexit would ruin any chances Britain had of negotiating free trade deals after Brexit.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum, the Taoiseach suggested that the ongoing issue of the Irish border would make it “very difficult” for the UK to reach new trade deals outside of the EU.
“The United Kingdom in a no-deal scenario will face enormous difficulties,” Varadkar said on Thursday, addressing the crowd in Davos.
He later added: “In a no-deal scenario, the UK won’t have any trade deals with anyone, and I think it will be very difficult for them to conclude any trade deals with the question of the Irish border unresolved. Given we have a solution on the table already, let’s ratify that.”
Get the essential stories delivered to your inbox, before most people have their morning coffee. Leave your email below and get the free Politics Update every weekday.