The SNP has launched an external review of staff support after a female MP accused her party of “not manifestly failing” to support sexual harassment complainants.
This follows the suspension of former Westminster Party Chief Whip, Patrick Grady, from the SNP’s Westminster Group for a week, as well as his suspension from parliament for two days, for a sexual advance towards a teenage member staff in 2016.
Westminster party leader Ian Blackford said he regretted the complainant did not feel fully supported. He faced calls to resign this week after an audio recording leaked in which he could be heard apparently encouraging colleagues to “give as much support as possible” to Grady.
However, he has now said Grady’s behavior was ‘completely unacceptable’ and ‘should never have happened’. “The manner in which this situation has unfolded publicly over the past few days, including the caucus tapes, has caused distress to the Complainant, among others, and I’m sorry that’s the case,” he said. declared.
“We will take into account all the lessons that need to be learned to ensure that staff are fully confident that they will receive the support they need. As such, I am launching an external review of staff support, to sit alongside the independent advice service and independent complaints process.
The announcement came as East Dunbartonshire MP Amy Callaghan offered a ‘sincere apology’ after being heard on the tape also appearing to support Grady, while not expressing sympathy for the teenage victim. “Zero tolerance can’t be a slogan, it has to be real,” she said on Tuesday.
Grady, the MP for Glasgow North, told the Commons last week he was ‘deeply sorry’ after the Independent Panel, which recommends penalties for MPs for bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct, discovered that he had touched and fondled the neck, hair and back. of a colleague at a social event.
Callaghan ousted then-Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson in the 2019 general election and is considered a protege of Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon. His apology came as Scottish Labor and the Tories both called for Blackford to step down, after the Daily Mail obtained a recording of the SNP leader in Westminster urging fellow MPs to give ‘as much support as possible’ to Grady.
The victim of Grady, who is still employed by the party but was made redundant, said after the recording was released that it would be extremely difficult to return to work and is now considering legal action.
The victim, now 25, described previously facing exclusion and ‘harassment’ after filing her initial complaint, saying: ‘I thought the SNP was an egalitarian party, but after I worked at Westminster for six or seven years, I can see now that they are no different.
Callaghan’s intervention adds momentum to accusations of hypocrisy over the party’s handling of such complaints. Critics have compared Grady’s treatment with that of MSP Mark McDonald, who resigned as children’s minister and was suspended by the party after being found guilty of sending inappropriate messages to women, and Derek Mackay, who resigned as finance secretary and was also suspended from the SNP after sending hundreds of messages to a 16-year-old boy.
Last year the party was rocked by a lengthy investigation by Holyrood into the Scottish government‘s botched handling of sexual harassment allegations after former First Minister Alex Salmond was cleared of sexual assault charges.
A woman who brought sexual assault allegations against Salmond later described the Holyrood inquest as “in many ways more traumatic” than the trial itself.
In a statement posted to Twitter on Monday, Callaghan said she takes “full responsibility for the hurt and disappointment I have caused, especially to those directly affected by the sexual misconduct in this matter.”
On the recording, Callaghan allegedly told fellow SNP MPs at last week’s group meeting ‘we should rally around him in support of him at this time’.
She explained in the statement, “I believed I was in a situation where my support for survivors was implied. I was wrong. It’s not good enough.
Callaghan added that she had written to the Westminster Party Chief Whip asking for a “thorough examination, commissioned by an independent external organisation, of our internal misconduct and harassment structures”.
Earlier in the week, MP Joanna Cherry, who has been openly critical of Blackford’s leadership style, posted on Twitter: “Wasn’t at the SNP Westminster group meeting last week. I do not tolerate secret recording or leaking. However, for some time the SNP has had significant problems in the way it handles complaints.
“My party needs to reflect on the contrast between the treatment of different ‘offenders’ and review our arrangements for the pastoral care of complainants.”
A spokesperson for the SNP Westminster parliamentary group said it accepted the actions recommended by the independent panel: “We welcome Mr Grady’s apology and note that he has already apologized for this incident when the matter was dealt with informally in 2018.”