NINE women who accused Alex Salmond of sexual harassment and assault have today urged that the outcome of the trial does not minimise perceptions of abuse or be used to silence women.

The women, speaking collectively for the first time, have written an open letter describing their devastation following a jury’s decision to find the former First Minister not guilty of 12 charges, and not proven on one charge of sexual assault with intent to rape.

Known only by their initials assigned to them in court, Woman A, B, C, D, F, J, H and K, said they hope “that as a society we can move forward in our understanding of sexual harassment and sexual assault.”

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Their letter, issued through Rape Crisis Scotland, reads: “We are devastated by the verdict. However it is our fervent hope that as a society we can move forward in our understanding of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

“In defending Alex Salmond, Gordon Jackson quoted Woman H and said his client should have been a ‘better man’. He said behaviour which others described as demeaning, intimidating and humiliating, was ‘trivial’.

“The behaviours that Alex Salmond and his defence team admitted to in evidence were not and are not trivial.

“Today we want to send a strong and indisputable message that such behaviours should not be tolerated – by any person, in any position, under any circumstances.”

The nine women also thanked the Police and the Crown Office for “taking our experiences seriously and allowing our voices to be heard”, adding that the process had been “traumatic” for them.

In the letter, they explained that while some of them did raise concerns about incidents at the time, they were “faced with procedures that could not deal with complaints against such a powerful figure…Others were silenced by fear of repercussions.”

They continued: “It was our hope, as individuals, that through coming forward at this time we could achieve justice and enact change. We remain firm in our belief that coming forward to report our experiences and concerns was the right thing to do, but it is clear we alone cannot achieve the change we seek. “

The women have also urged that people consider whether behaviour “which is so often merely described as inappropriate…is acceptable towards your daughters, granddaughters, sisters, wives, friends, and colleagues” adding: “Many of them will already have suffered such conduct. Often in silence.”

Along with this, they have also asked that commentators, politicians and others consider the impact of their response to the trial outcome on women who may have experienced harassment, who may be reluctant to come forward and report it.

They wrote: “We would also request that as you debate, you conduct it respectfully and stay mindful of the many women in Scotland who may have had traumatic experiences and are considering whether or not Scotland is a country in which they can come forward to seek help and support.

“All people should feel safe, valued and equal in society and their workplace and it is imperative to ensure robust complaint structures are in place.

“We should all take strength in calling out bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault wherever it takes place.

“And we should all seek to create an environment in which people can challenge and report these behaviours without hesitation or fear of retribution.

“Some say that women’s fight for respect has gone ‘too far’. We argue it has far to go.”

The women said that people in “positions of power have been shielded by their ability to influence and intimidate” and added: “For too long women’s complaints have been dismissed or swept under the carpet.  

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And for too long, women have been let down by organisational structures which should exist to protect them, not put them in situations which endanger their welfare. This must end. “

Ending the letter, they thanked those who have spoken out in support, and added: “While we are devastated by the verdict, we will not let it define us. We hope through shining a light on our experiences, it will serve to protect and empower women in the future.

“Be brave, be loud, be heard.”

Mr Salmond vowed evidence of a plot to discredit him will "see the light of day" after his trial ended on Tuesday.

He had denied all the charges and giving evidence claimed some were "deliberate fabrications for a political purpose".

Shortly after the verdict was announced, Joanna Cherry SNP MP said she was "pleased" with the outcome and that press reporting should be done "carefully".

She also called for an independent inquiry into how her party handled the complaints.

Others including Dr Phillipa Whitford MP, Kenny MacAskill MP and MSP Alex Neil have also spoken out in support of the former First Minister, with some calling for members of their own party to resign.