• Ex-Scottish leader Alex Salmond denies sex assault charges

    LONDON (AP) - 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%.

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