Alex Salmond has claimed that sexual assault allegations against him are “deliberate fabrications for a political purpose” or “exaggerations”.
The former SNP leader also told his trial that he had “never attempted to have non-consensual sexual relations with anyone in my entire life”.
And he denied claims that female civil servants were not allowed to work alone with him while he was first minister.
He said he now wished he had “been more careful with people’s personal space”.
Mr Salmond denies 13 charges of sexual assault against nine women.
The alleged offences are all said to have happened during his time in office.
Mr Salmond was cleared of a further charge of sexual assault against a 10th woman after it was dropped by the Crown when the prosecution case ended at the High Court in Edinburgh on Monday afternoon.
Giving evidence in his own defence on Tuesday morning, Mr Salmond was asked by his lawyer Gordon Jackson QC about some of the specific charges against him.
They included an allegation that he had grabbed the wrists of a civil servant known as Woman B, asked her to recreate an “inappropriate” image from a Christmas card and tried to kiss her.
Mr Salmond insisted that the alleged incident had merely been “high jinks” and a “bit of fun”.
He strongly denied a further allegation that he put his hand on the leg of an SNP politician known as Woman C while they were in the back seat of a car, saying it would have been “impossible” to have done so without anyone seeing because he would have had to reach over an armrest.
Mr Salmond admitted that he had occasionally “tugged” the hair of a civil servant known as Woman D, but insisted it had been “affectionate” and nothing sexual.
He also said he had once stroked her face after she fell asleep in his car during a foreign trip, but said he had just wanted to gently wake her up.
Mr Salmond said: “From where I stand now I wish I’d been more careful with people’s personal space, but there was no intention to offend.
“I’m of the opinion that events are being reinterpreted and exaggerated out of any possible proportion.”
When asked why, Mr Salmond replied: “Some are fabrications, deliberate fabrications for a political purpose. Some are exaggerations, taken out of proportion.”
He went on to deny sexually assaulting a Scottish government official known as Woman G by touching her bottom, saying that it “didn’t happen”.
He denied a further charge of sexually assaulting Woman G by placing his arm around her, making sexual remarks to her and attempting to kiss her.
Mr Salmond said he had been trying to comfort her and there had been nothing sexual whatsoever.
What has the trial heard so far?
He went on to deny sexually assaulting a civil servant known as Woman D and said “nothing improper” had happened with an SNP party worker known as Woman J, who he was alleged have assaulted after doing a zombie impression.
And he insisted that he “didn’t grab the bottom” of a former civil servant known as Woman K while he was having his photograph taken with her at Stirling Castle.
Later in Mr Salmond’s evidence, he said it would have been “insane” for him to have kissed a senior Scottish government official known as Woman A in public, as she alleged, and to have touched her on the bottom and breasts.
He described her claims as a “fabrication from start to finish”, and went on to also deny sexually assaulting a civil servant, Woman F, with intent to rape.
Mr Salmond claimed he and Woman F lay side by side on a bed having what he described as a “sleepy cuddle” that had lasted a few seconds. He said he had given her a kiss on the cheek before they agreed it was a “bad idea” and she left.
The former first minister also denied attempting to rape Woman H, a former Scottish government official – but said there had been an “earlier consenting sexual encounter” between them which did not result in full sex.
Mr Jackson asked Mr Salmond whether his position was that the attempted rape allegation was a lie.
Mr Salmond replied: “Yes, that is correct.”
When he was asked whether he could think of any reason why Woman H would make up the allegation, Mr Salmond said he believed it was because he had refused to endorse a personal political project she had been involved in.
Mr Salmond said the first indication he had been given that Woman H was making serious allegations against him was in January 2018.
He said: “It was suggested to me that if I was to put my name forward to be a candidate (in the election) again then there would be a complaint against me.”
Not guilty pleas
When asked if he had any intention of making a political comeback at that time, Mr Salmond replied: “No, and I didn’t pay the friendly warning any regard as I didn’t have any reason to fear a complaint, and I had no intention of becoming a parliamentary candidate again.”
The court was told on Monday by civil servants Chis Birt and Michael McIlhenny that steps were taken to prevent women having to work alone with the first minister after two female colleagues complained about alleged incidents involving Mr Salmond.
But Mr Birt said he did not believe the policy was ever formally written down.
When asked by Mr Jackson whether he had been aware of such a policy, Mr Salmond replied: “No I was not. There was no policy like the one described.”
Mr Salmond says he is innocent of all the allegations against him.
He has entered not guilty pleas to all 13 of the charges which he still faces, which include one charge of attempted rape, one of sexual assault with intent to rape, nine sexual assaults and two indecent assaults.