Ex-Scottish leader Alex Salmond denies sex assault charges

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Former Scottish leader Alex Salmond speaks to the media after leaving the High Court in Edinburgh, Thursday Nov. 21, 2019. Salmond, one of the country's best-known politicians, appeared in court faces a total of 14 charges of attempted rape, sexual assault and indecent assault against 10 women. (Andrew Milligan/PA via AP)

LONDON – Former Scottish leader Alex Salmond, one of the country's best-known politicians, appeared in court on Thursday accused of sex crimes including attempting to rape a woman at the leader’s official residence.

Salmond faces a total of 14 charges — one of attempted rape, 11 alleged sexual assaults and two alleged indecent assaults — against 10 women.

The attempted rape allegedly took place in June 2014 at Bute House, the Scottish first minister’s house in Edinburgh.

He denies the allegations. Salmond’s lawyer entered a plea of not guilty to all the charges at a court hearing Thursday. The trial is scheduled to start March 9.

"I am innocent and I will defend my position vigorously,” the 64-year-old Salmond said outside Edinburgh’s High Court.

Salmond led the pro-independence Scottish National Party for 20 years and headed Scotland's semi-autonomous government as its first minister from 2007 to 2014.

A major figure on the Scottish political stage for decades, he took Scotland to the verge of independence from the U.K. by holding a 2014 referendum. He stepped down as leader after the "remain" side won the vote 55% to 45%.