(CNN)Supporters of Alex Salmond, the former first minister of Scotland, have donated large sums to a crowdfunding campaign to pay for his legal defense after sexual misconduct allegations were made against him.
He has strenuously denied two claims of sexual harassment, and is taking the country’s government to court over its handling of the accusations against him.
Salmond set up a crowdfunding page online with a target of £50,000 ($65,000) to meet his legal fees in the case. Supporters had pledged more than £67,000 ($87,000) by 9:30 a.m. on Thursday.
However, Salmond faced criticism from some quarters for asking ordinary people to contribute from their own pockets.
Scottish Labour lawmaker Rhoda Grant tweeted: “That an independently wealthy man with his celebrity and political power is raising legal fees through crowdfunding for a case ultimately linked to sexual harassment is unbelievable.”
Scottish Conservative lawmaker Annie Wells said Salmond had “some brass neck” to publicly crowdfund for his legal fees.
“There is something deeply unsettling about an independently wealthy man asking ordinary people for money so he can take the government of Scotland to court for investigating allegations of sexual assault against staff,” she said, in a statement tweeted by her party.
The controversy has split the ruling SNP between Salmond loyalists and those who back the government’s handling of the allegations, which emerged weeks after the government introduced new procedures for filing sexual harassment complaints.
Salmond said his resignation was an effort to remove a potential line of attack against the SNP, and said he planned to reapply for membership after he cleared his name.
The Scottish First Minister, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, said in a statement posted to Twitter on Wednesday that she felt “huge sadness” about the situation that had engulfed her friend and mentor of almost 30 years.
However, she said while the party hadn’t received any complaints, the fact remained that two allegations had been made against Salmond to the 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,” she added.
The complaints relate to Salmond’s alleged behavior at the first minister’s official Bute House residence, according to the Daily Record, but Salmond says that even he hasn’t been informed of the details.
Last week he announced he was taking the government to court, claiming it had denied him the opportunity to defend himself against the claims, by failing to share the evidence against him.
Salmond pointed out that the Scottish government had confirmed that it hadn’t received any complaints before January, more than three years after he left office as first minister, and after a political career spanning decades.
“That is the record of 30 years of public service. So, let me be clear again. I refute these two complaints of harassment and I absolutely reject any suggestion of criminality,” he said.
He said he believes opposition parties had been pressuring Sturgeon to suspend him from the SNP, as part of efforts to undermine party unity.
“I did not come into politics to facilitate opposition attacks on the SNP,” he said. “Most of all I am conscious that if the party felt forced into suspending me it would cause substantial internal division.”
Salmond resigned as first minister and SNP leader after a defeat in the November 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, which he had championed.
Sturgeon, who replaced him, has maintained the party’s dominance in Scotland but not to the degree seen before the referendum. One of the highest-profile casualties of a swing away from the SNP was Salmond himself, who lost his parliamentary seat in the 2017 election.
Salmond has remained a major figure in both Scottish and British politics despite leaving Parliament. He works as a commentator and hosts the Alex Salmond Show on Russian state broadcaster RT.