BEFORE I start, I will say that I consider Alex Salmond to be a friend of long standing. If only his enemies would also make their position clear.

There is one thing above all that must be said at the end of Alex Salmond’s trial.

He has been acquitted on all charges, and is therefore innocent under law. Any suggestion otherwise will render the person making a contrary claim liable to a defamation charge – and believe me, he is in the mood to defend himself to the utmost.

There will be those who point to the Not Proven verdict on one charge, but in Scots law that is equally an acquittal.

The BBC’s Sarah Smith was one of the first to point out that he had himself confessed to an inappropriate sexual encounter in the case, but that’s really clutching at straws.

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The fact is that the jury believed his version of events and, though I have no insider knowledge, I am sure that if the two jurors who had to drop out yesterday had stayed to the end, the result would have been the same – acquittal on all charges.

I was involved at the start of this whole farrago. On the evening of August 23, 2018 – this has been hanging over him for an inhuman 19 months – Alex called me to say that the Daily Record was going to publish the explosive story of sexual allegations against him, and I agreed to help him the following day when the press gathered at the Champany Inn west of Edinburgh.

As a freelance I reverted to my old PR days and did my duty – it should be noted that this is the first piece

I have written for The National, for which I now work full time, on the criminal case that followed.

I saw him looking tense and frankly upset behind the scenes, his anger mainly directed at whoever had leaked the story to David Clegg of the Record who, it should be said, did his job professionally. Would that others of my press colleagues had done the same and asked questions of the Scottish Government and their “sources”.

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Yet within an hour or two Alex had recovered his composure and then some – this consummate politician gave an almost bravura performance in front of the media, and his line then was the same line that drove his successful defence in court. “I am no saint,” he said, “but I have certainly not engaged in criminality”.

The crowdfunder set up to help his defence proved that many people supported him from the outset – he is not a rich man, it should be said.

From the start the Scottish Government process was tainted and, in January 2019, Alex won his civil case after the Scottish Government admitted it had messed up the internal inquiry. It was stated by the press that he had “won” £500k off the Government – nonsense, that was just to pay for his lawyers and the court case. Trust me, the REAL case for compensation for the ruination of his reputation by the leak to the Record will now follow …

It will be for the police and the Crown Office to defend their actions in the criminal case. They interviewed dozens of people going back years and years. And how many of those who were interviewed gave evidence in Alex Salmond’s favour?

We will never know, but it was plenty.

There are things I know but cannot write because no fewer than six Contempt of Court orders were made during the duration of the case. They banned reporting of certain matters and, without giving too much away, there will be further repercussions from them.

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There is also the possible matter of further police activity. Did a witness commit perjury?

Was there a conspiracy to attempt to pervert the course of justice?

What I can tell you is that at the age of 65 and as an asthmatic with two bouts of viral pneumonia behind him, Alex Salmond is going into isolation for the next three months.

When he emerges, and possibly even before, expect huge ramifications for the Scottish Government, the civil service and the SNP. This bonnie fechter has won his battles, and he will win the war. And eventually he will get what he really wants most of all – independence for Scotland.