SNP Westminster leader refuses to condemn Alex Salmond

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SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has refused to condemn Alex Salmond’s crowdfunding appeal to pay for legal costs over allegations of groping.

SNP MPs including Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil donated to the crowdfunder, which raised more than double its target of £50,000 in a matter of hours.

Former Scottish first minister Mr Salmond is challenging the way sexual misconduct allegations against him have been handled by the Scottish Government.

Two complaints, fiercely denied by Mr Salmond, were raised in January against him and he was informed of an investigation in March.

The Scottish Government has pledged to “vigorously defend” its position in court, saying there are “a number of inaccuracies in Mr Salmond’s public statements”.

When asked if opening a crowdfunder was, as women’s rights charities have said, intimidating to his accusers, Mr Blackford praised the legacy of the former Gordon MP.

He added: “I think people should think very carefully if they are going to support such a thing, but I am not going to go beyond that.”

Pushed on whether Mr Salmond should donate the funds to sexual violence charities, Mr Blackford would not give a view, although he said he himself supported such charities in his constituency.

“What Alex does with that money is up to him,” he said.

Discussing whether Mr Salmond was an asset or a liability in light of his continuing employment on Russia Today (RT), despite the Salisbury attacks, Mr Blackford again stopped short of condemnation.

The SNP leader called on Mr Salmond and his RT producer, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, SNP women and equalities officer, to “reflect and make their own judgment” on whether they wanted to continue working with the Kremlin-funded broadcaster.

“I personally would not encourage people to go on RT,” he said. “I think it is a vehicle of the Russian state.

“It’s clear the Russian state is demonstrably implicated in the attack on the Skripals in Salisbury.

“People need to know exactly what the Russian state is doing and by extension RT is part of that.”

Mr Blackford also said Vladimir Putin should be held to account for the Salisbury attacks.

“Ultimately authority in Russia rests with the president, Mr Putin,” he said.

“He has to take responsibility for what has happened in the name of the Russian state.

“If you’re head of state and there are actions carried out by military intelligence then ultimately you have to have some sort of responsibility for that because it has been done in your name.”

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