Nicola Sturgeon: We must do nothing to stop women coming forward with complaints
Nothing should be done to make it harder for women to come forward with allegations of sexual harassment, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
Scotland's first minister spoke out amid criticism of Alex Salmond after he launched a crowdfunding campaign to cover the costs of legal action he is taking over the Scottish government's handling of complaints against him.
Within hours, he had raised more than his £50,000 target and by Thursday afternoon was well on the way to hitting £100,000.
It emerged last week that the former SNP leader had been reported to police after two female civil servants claimed he had behaved inappropriately towards them in 2013.
Mr Salmond, who denies the claims, announced on Wednesday evening that he was resigning his party membership in the face of opposition calls for him to be suspended.
In a video posted online, 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."
Speaking to the BBC, Ms Sturgeon said the priority was ensuring that "truth and justice prevail" in the case.
But she added: "Whatever any of us do and say in the context of this very high profile case, we must absolutely make sure we don't make it harder for or discourage women from coming forward in the future. I think that is an obligation on all of us right now."
Ms Sturgeon also said there would be "no bar" to her close political ally rejoining the SNP if he clears his name.
Opposition politicians have been highly critical of Mr Salmond's fundraising campaign.
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."