Alex Salmond fundraising bid smashes target within hours despite backlash
A bid by Alex Salmond to raise funds to pay for a legal case in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment by him when he was Scotland's first minister hit its target within hours of being launched.
The former SNP leader stunned the political world on Wednesday evening by announcing he was quitting the party in order to focus on the upcoming case at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.
He appealed for supporters to donate money to a crowdfunder he had set up to cover the "huge" costs of a judicial review into how the Scottish government handled accusations by two women that he harassed them in 2013.
By Thursday morning, the campaign had already read smashed through its £50,000 target, and was approaching £60,000 with 27 days still left to run.
Mr Salmond - who denies the allegations against him - has said he will donate any extra cash raised to good causes.
In a video message posted online, the Nationalist big beast said: "I truly love the SNP and the wider independence movement in Scotland. They have been the defining commitment of my life. But today I have written to the National Secretary of the party resigning my membership."
On previosus calls by Labour and the Conservatives for him to be suspended from the party, he said: "I did not come into politics to facilitate opposition attacks on the SNP and with Parliament returning next week, I have tendered resignation to remove this line of opposition attack.
"Most of all I am conscious that if the party felt forced to suspend me, it would cause substantial internal division."
Nicola Sturgeon - Mr Salmond's successor as SNP leader and a close political ally for decades - said she felt "a huge sadness about this whole situation".
But she added: "The hard fact remains that two complaints were received by the Scottish government that could not be ignored or swept under the carpet. Complaints must be investigated without fear or favour, regardless of the seniority of the person involved."
The first minister went on: "In the meantime, I agree with Alex that the cause of independence, to which both he and I have dedicated our entire lives, is bigger than any one individual.
"And the work we must do to achieve independence is more important now than ever."
Political opponents led a backlash against Mr Salmond's fundraising attempts.
Rhoda Grant, women's spokesperson for Scottish Labour, accused Mr Salmond of "dragging Scotland into the gutter".
She said: "That an independently wealthy man with his celebrity and political power is to raise legal fees through a crowdfunder for a case ultimately linked to sexual harassment is unbelievable.
"It suggests that he is sending a signal to those who have made allegations that he has the upper hand.
"Decent people will rightly be furious that he is to raise money to take the Scottish government to court. Alex Salmond is abusing his power, and dragging Scotland into the gutter."
Labour MSP Jenny Marra tweeted: ""Anyone who ever gave Alex Salmond the benefit of the doubt as he whipped up nationalism can get the measure of the man tonight -crowdfunding his defence of sexual allegations. Twighlight zone."
Her party colleague Jackie Baillie added: "Alex Salmond crowdfunding his court challenge of the SNP Government is a disgrace. Saying it’s about independence is rubbish. This is simply about distracting attention from the allegations of sexual harassment. It is an abuse of power and our politics should be better than this."