Alex Salmond has pleaded not guilty to attempting to rape a woman at Bute House, the official residence of the first minister of Scotland, during the independence referendum campaign.
The 64-year-old appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh on Thursday to face allegations of offences against 10 women.
They include a charge of attempted rape, 11 of sexual assault – including one with intent to rape – and two of indecent assault.
The charges span a period between June 29 2008 and November 11 2014, with one sexual assault said to have taken place in the month of the historic referendum.
Salmond attempted to rape a woman at Bute House in Edinburgh in June 2014, the indictment alleges.
It is said he placed her legs over his, repeatedly kissed her face and neck, groped her, then blocked her path.
Salmond is then said to have pinned her against a wall, pulled at her clothes and stripped himself naked before trying to rape her on a bed.
The former MP is also accused of sexually assaulting a woman with intent to rape in December 2013.
He is alleged to have forced a woman to lie on his bed at the first minister’s official residence then pulled up her dress with intent to rape her.
Both incidents were said to have taken place between the date of the Edinburgh Agreement in 2012 and the day of the independence vote in September 2014.
Meanwhile, the first of the charges involved incidents where Salmond allegedly indecently assaulted a woman by kissing her mouth and groping her on various occasions around Glasgow between June 29 2008 and July 24 2008.
It is also alleged he sexually assaulted a woman on various occasions between May 2011 and June 2013 at the Scottish Parliament, Bute House and elsewhere by touching her bottom and stroking other parts of her body.
Salmond is also accused of taking off a woman’s shoe and trying to kiss her foot in October 2013.
The indictment states that in September 2014, Salmond grabbed a woman by her shoulders at Bute House, repeatedly kissed her face, tried to kiss her lips and touched her leg and face.
Several charges involved the accused allegedly groping women, including one incident at the Ubiquitous Chip restaurant in Glasgow in March 2012.
Gordon Jackson QC, representing Salmond, said his client denied the allegations.
Judge Lady Dorrian continued the preliminary hearing until January 22 and set a trial date for March 9, which is expected to last four weeks.
Speaking to journalists outside the court in Edinburgh, Salmond said: “I’m not permitted to say too much today save that we’ve launched our defence statement with the court.
“It pleads not guilty to all charges and explains some of the circumstances in which they’ve come about.
“I’m also conscious we’re in the middle of a General Election campaign; I’m not going to say anything which would influence that democratic process.
“We’re now into a second year of court actions, first civil and now criminal – it’s over 10 months since we won the civil action.
“I am innocent and I will defend my position vigorously, but the only place, the only proper place, to answer criminal charges is in this court and that’s exactly what we intend to do next spring.
“I’d love to take your questions but you’ll understand that that’ll have to wait for another day, so if you forgive me I’m going to go with my legal team over to Parliament Hall for a consultation.”
The former Aberdeenshire East MSP and Gordon MP was Scotland’s First Minister between 2007 and 2014.