Alex Salmond has claimed SNP leadership contender Humza Yousaf missed the final vote to pass equal marriage in Scotland due to “religious pressure”.
The former first minister said the Scottish health secretary’s “memory may be different from mine” but there was an assumption Yousaf was under pressure to avoid the vote.
Yousaf has denied allegations he missed the historic 2014 vote on purpose.
The SNP politician had voted in favour of same-sex marriage at an earlier stage but was not present for the final part of the bill.
Yousaf said he missed it because he was in a series of meetings with the Pakistani government over the case of a Scottish citizen on death row.
But the Alba Party leader said he was notified of Yousaf’s meeting “ten days or so before the vote”.
Salmond, who was first minister at the time, told Sky News: “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’.
“My memory is that I was contacted ten days or so before the vote, when the vote was known and told that Humza was arranging a ministerial appointment.”
Asked if Yousaf skipped the vote because of religious pressure, Salmond said: “That’s my recollection.”
The former SNP leader’s comments follow similar claims by former health secretary Alex Neil.
The former SNP MSP claimed Yousaf missed the final stage of the bill over pressure from a Glasgow mosque.
Neil said Yousaf had “deliberately” arranged a meeting “to give him cover for the timing of the vote”.
Salmond said he had discussed the issue at the time, including with Neil, and added that their recollection of events was the same.
Asked why he thought Yousaf missed the vote, the former first minister said: “I didn’t discuss the thing at great length. The assumption was there was pressure.”
He continued: “His [Yousaf’s] 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.”
Yousaf strongly denied the claims.
He said: “As I have said throughout this campaign, I was proud to vote in favour of the Equal Marriage Bill in Scotland’s Parliament.
“I have never denied there was pressure on me regarding this vote, but I was vocal about my support for marriage equality at the time and I remain totally unequivocal on that position.
“As your SNP First Minister, and as someone from a minority background myself, I will champion, defend and celebrate equal rights for all to the hilt.”
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