ALEX Salmond has dramatically intervened in the SNP leadership contest and challenged Humza Yousaf’s account of why he missed a key vote on gay marriage.

The former First Minister said his recollection was that Mr Yousaf skipped the vote because he wanted to avoid it as he was under pressure from religious groups.

"His memory may be different from mine, let's put it that way,” he told Sky News, adding that his recollection chimed with that of former health secretary Alex Neil.

The comments once again put Mr Yousaf’s credibility under the spotlight, especially as he has taken a swipe at leadership rival Kate Forbes for not supporting gay marriage.

Mr Neil, who led the same-sex marriage legislation through Holyrood, claimed last week that Mr Yousaf missed the final vote because of “pressure from the mosque”.

He said Mr Yousaf, then minister for external affairs, had deliberately arranged a ministerial meeting as “cover” for his absence.

READ MORE: Former SNP minister challenges Yousaf's gay marriage vote excuse

At the time, many muslim leaders in Scotland were deeply opposed to the law.

Although Mr Yousaf backed the legislation in principle at Stage 1 in November 2013, he was the only minister to miss the crucial Stage 3 vote in February 2014.

This was because he had himself created a diary clash 19 days in advance of the vote by arranging to meet the Pakistan Consul General at the same time.

He later said he had to discuss the case of Mohammad Asghar, a Scot with a history of mental illness, who was on death row in Pakistan for blasphemy.

However Ms Asghar was sentenced to death after Mr Yousaf arranged the meeting with the Consul, meaning he could not have known he was on death row at the time.

Mr Yousaf vehemently denied Mr Neil’s claims, and suggested they were motivated by his predecessor’s support for his rival in the SNP leadership, Kate Forbes.

Interviewed by Beth Rigby on Sky News, Mr Salmond said he learned around 10 days before the Stage 3 vote that Mr Yousaf would miss it.

The Alba party leader said: “"I've been very reluctant to get involved in this because it is an internal SNP leadership battle.

"I really don't have a dog in this race, and anything I say, you know, people will say 'he's only saying that because he's leader of Alba'.”

Pressed on whether Mr Yousaf skipped the vote due to "religious pressure", Mr Salmond said: "That's my recollection."

Asked what reason was given, Mr Salmond responded: "I didn't discuss the thing at great length. The assumption was there was pressure."

Speaking about Mr Yousaf's denial, Mr Salmond said: "His memory may be different from mine, let's put it that way.

"He seems to have a different recollection from what I do or what Alex Neil has, so be it."


Ms Rigby said: “Just to be clear, your recollection was that it was a conscience vote, but that vote was missed because of religious pressure?. That it was a vote that Mr Yousaf perhaps wanted to avoid? That's your recollection?”

Mr Salmond replied: “That’s my recollection.”

Responding to Mr Salmond's claim today, Mr Yousaf told Sky News: "Well I have to say, my recollection is very different to Alex Salmond's recollection. Alex Salmond is also, I think by any objective measure, he has of course backed other candidates in this race."

Told Mr Salmond has not backed any of the other candidates, Mr Yousaf said the former first minister had "made it pretty clear" that he does not want to see him as leader of the SNP.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf vehemently denies Alex Neil gay marriage claim

Asked if Mr Salmond was "not telling the truth", Mr Yousaf stated: "My recollection is different to Alex's. I'm not going to sling mud."

He added: "Alex Salmond will say what Alex Salmond has said. Alex Neil will say what they say. I will continue to give you my recollection of what happened, the account of what happened.”