Alex Salmond is preparing for a fightback after being cleared of multiple charges of sexual assault against nine women, including an alleged attempted rape, following a two-week trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.

The former first minister insisted evidence of a plot to discredit him will “see the light of day” as he thanked his friends and family for standing by him over the last two years.

Senior SNP allies immediately called for “resignations” and an independent inquiry into how the party has dealt with the allegations following yesterday’s verdict.

Joanna Cherry, the SNP’s justice spokeswoman in Westminster, insisted Mr Salmond had been “vindicated” and said the evidence heard during the trial raised “serious questions” over how the Scottish Government and the party had handled the claims.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Tories turned the spotlight on Nicola Sturgeon, insisting she has “profound questions of integrity” to answer.

The First Minister faces both a Holyrood inquiry and an external inquiry into whether she broke the ministerial code.

These had been on pause because of legal proceedings but will now be reactivated following the outcome of the trial.

Ms Sturgeon said the court “has reached a verdict and that must be respected”.

She said: “I am a strong believer in a vigorous, robust, independent judicial process where complaints of this nature, if they come forward, are properly and thoroughly investigated, due process takes its course and a court reaches a decision, and that’s what has happened today.”

A hush descended on Edinburgh’s High Court as the jury came back at around 2.50pm yesterday, following six hours of deliberations and a break for the weekend.

The jury returned 12 not guilty verdicts and a not proven verdict on a charge of sexual assault with intent to rape. A further charge that had originally been on the indictment was dropped earlier in the proceedings.

Earlier in the day, the judge, Lady Dorrian, told the jury two of its members had been discharged for “various reasons”, bringing the total number of jurors down from 15 to 13.

Speaking outside court, Mr Salmond said his faith in the Scottish justice system “has been much reinforced today”.

He thanked the jury for its decision, adding: “I’d also like to thank the court service, who have been courteous beyond limit over the last two weeks and to the police officers who’ve manned this trial under these extraordinary circumstances.”

Turning to his former officer manager Isobel Zambonini, who regularly accompanied him to court during the trial, Mr Salmond said: “Obviously above all I’d like to thank my friends and family for standing by me over the last two years.

“I would like to thank my brilliant legal team, who are absolutely exceptional.

“And I’d like to thank all of the people who’ve sent so many messages over the last 18 months or so, but particularly in recent weeks and days.

“As many of you will know, there is certain evidence that I would have liked to have seen led in this trial, but for a variety of reasons we were not able to do so.

“At some point that information, that facts and that evidence will see the light of day.

“But it won’t be this day, and it won’t be this day for a very good reason, and that is whatever nightmare I’ve been in over these last two years it is as of nothing compared to the nightmare that everyone that every single one of us is currently living through.

“People are dying. Many more are going to die.”

Mr Salmond addressed his next comments to the gathered media throng outside the High Court.

He said: “What we’re doing just now, and I know you [the media] have got a job to do, is not safe.

“I know it’s your job, but it ain’t safe, and my strong advice to you is to go home, those who can and are able to, take care of your families and God help us all.”

The former first minister was later photographed touching elbows with his defence lawyer, Gordon Jackson QC, as a show of thanks instead of shaking hands.

Mr Salmond, 65, was first arrested and charged by Police Scotland in relation to the allegations in January 2019.

Mr Jackson previously told the court the sexual assault charges were rubbish or based on incidents that had been greatly exaggerated.

He said the claims had emerged from a “political bubble”, and hinted at conspiracy.

“There’s something going on,” he said. “I can’t prove it but I can smell it. There’s something not right.”

Alex Prentice QC, for the prosecution, had insisted there was a “common theme here, which is that of a sexual predator of escalating gravity”.

Mr Salmond told the court some of the allegations were “deliberate fabrications for a political purpose”, while others were “exaggerations taken out of proportion”. He said he has never had “non-consensual relations with anyone”.

Mr Salmond was first minister from May 2007 until November 2014, when he resigned following the No result in the independence referendum.

The sexual assault allegations he faced spanned a period between June 2008 and November 2014. Mr Salmond resigned from the SNP in August 2018. It is expected he will now apply to rejoin.