LONDON — Scotland's governing Scottish National Party was reeling Thursday after the resignation of Alex Salmond, the former leader who built the separatist party into a major political force and took the country to the brink of independence from the United Kingdom.

Salmond quit the party he led for two decades late Wednesday amid an investigation into sexual harassment allegations. Salmond denies the harassment claims from two staffers, and said "I absolutely reject any suggestion of criminality."

He said he was quitting to prevent divisions in the party from worsening — but is also suing Scotland's SNP government over the way it has handled the complaints process against him.

On Wednesday, Salmond launched a crowdfunding campaign for his legal action. By Thursday morning he had exceeded his 50,000 pound ($65,000) target.

Details were made public last week about the allegations, which relate to alleged behavior in 2013, when Salmond led the Scottish government. Police Scotland confirmed Friday that the force had received the complaints.

Salmond led the pro-independence SNP for 20 years and was Scotland's first minister, from 2007 to 2014. A big figure on the Scottish political stage for decades, he led the 2014 referendum campaign for Scottish independence — a vote won by the "remain" side.

The party is now led by Nicola Sturgeon, Salmond's friend, protege and former deputy.

Sturgeon said she felt "huge sadness about this whole situation," which was "incredibly difficult for the party," for the complainants and for Salmond.

But she said the allegations of wrongdoing "could not be ignored or swept under the carpet."

"Complaints must be investigated without fear or favor, regardless of the seniority of the person involved," Sturgeon said in a statement.