Bute House became the focus of Westminster-style long hours for Salmond

The Georgian house in Edinburgh's New Town became central to some of the claims lodged against Alex Salmond

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Alex Salmond introduced a Westminster-style work routine at Bute House, his official residence
Alex Salmond introduced a Westminster-style work routine at Bute House, his official residence Credit: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images Europe 

When Alex Salmond took up residence in Bute House as First Minister he introduced a Westminster-style routine with late night policy sessions fueled by takeaway pizzas with glasses of wine and occasionally spirits.

Having served 20-years as a London-based MP, such unsocial hours, borne out of late night Commons’ votes and having no family nearby to return to, became ingrained for the Scottish politician.

The trial revealed the extent to which the stunning Georgian building that dominates Charlotte Square in Edinburgh’s New Town became the focal point for his sometimes informal style of working.

Bute House, owned by the National Trust for Scotland, was also the lavish backdrop for official dinners, and champagne receptions. Visiting diplomats, politicians and captains of industry filed their way in through the imposing panelled doorway for such engagements.

And, at the height of the independence campaign famous sports personalities, musicians, business people, actors and artists attended private dinners with the Scottish political heavyweight to plan how to get the ‘Yes’ campaign maximum publicity.

The High Court heard how, almost without fail, the female “complainers” make claims alcohol played some part in the run up to his sexually inappropriate behaviour.

Many claimed they were handed a drink, sometimes to the point where their glass was simply too full. Some accused Salmond of drinking hard.

At one such late night work session, it was claimed a bottle of Maotai, the national liquor of China, was produced where a female Scottish Government official said her shot glass was repeatedly filled “to the point of overspilling”.

Salmond, who later explained the bottle was an official gift he received during a trip to China, even issued the traditional Chinese toast of “Ganbei!”.

The complainer, named as Woman F, said: "I had a little, the First Minister had rather more." 

The woman, whose allegations led to a charge of sexual assault with intent to rape, claimed  the “new bottle” was “empty or nearly empty” by the end of the evening. 

However, it emerged that a note she later wrote revealed she was suffering from the effects of the liquor and thought Salmond surprisingly composed when she saw him at a press conference.

She also claimed when he apologised to her for what his legal team admitted was “the most obvious example where his behaviour was not good”, he was said to have blamed drinking too much due to stress. 

When the civil service learned how she felt uncomfortable with Salmond that evening, he was made to apologise to her. She said he told her he had been drinking too much “in general” due to the stress of the job.

She claimed, however, “the First Minister liked to encourage staff to drink with him” and the culture he created meant there was “no shame” in having had a drink while working late, something she said she personally did not want to do.

But the jury did not accept her evidence or that he had sexually assaulted or had any intent to rape her.

Woman H, who accused Salmond of attempting to rape her in 2014 at Bute House, said she was working late before the “half cut” politician who had been pouring them shots “pounced”.  She said she fled to the Connery Room - where Sir Sean Connery once stayed - before the politician arrived holding a bottle of red wine. 

She told him “you’re drunk” before moving into the bathroom where she said she heard him “pass out” snoring.

Giving evidence, Salmond insisted the shots he had poured people were a novelty even for him, adding that he had then only recently heard what a “oner” - down in one - actually meant.

But, the jury rejected her account of events and found him not guilty of sexual assault with attempted rape. 

It was perhaps telling that when Salmond held a press conference to refute claims surrounding allegations he was being investigated over sexual misconduct, he faltered momentarily when asked by journalists whether he drank too much while he was  in office.

He replied: “I try to pursue my life as best I can. I’m not a paragon of virtue. I have never claimed to be.”