Holyrood Party Leaders Call Urgent Meeting Over Sexual Misconduct Claims
31 October 2017, 06:41
Scotland's party leaders are to meet amid ''disturbing and deeply concerning'' allegations of sexual misconduct at Holyrood.
The SNP has confirmed it is investigating complaints of sexual harassment made by two people, which emerged after human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar said women ranging from MSPs to interns had raised concerns about behaviour across the Scottish Parliament.
A confidential phone-line was set up by the parliament on Monday, with an urgent meeting of party leaders scheduled for Tuesday.
The SNP said two people had raised separate complaints which will be fully investigated.
A party spokesman said: ''The SNP has had concerns of this nature raised by two different individuals.
''The individuals and their concerns are unconnected to each other.
''These will be fully investigated but inquiries remain at an early stage.
''We will do nothing to deter people from coming forward and, as such, we will not comment further while investigations are ongoing.''
A Scottish Parliament spokesman said the number of cases of inappropriate behaviour or harassment brought to the attention of officials over the last five years was ''in single figures''.
It is understood not all of these related to the conduct of MSPs.
On Monday, First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said any allegations should be confronted ''head-on''.
''I fully expect that we will have concerns coming forward, like every political party will, and we will investigate them, if they come forward, in an appropriate way," Ms Sturgeon said.
''I don't think any party can assume it's immune from behaviour like this, we want to think we are, but what I'm determined about is that if there are any issues raised associated with the SNP, they will be properly and rigorously investigated.
''I have confidence in the procedures we have got in place but I've also decided we are going to look critically at those procedures to see if there are further steps that we need to take to give women the confidence that if they have concerns or complaints they can bring those forward.
''This is a line-in-the-sand moment where all of us can say, firstly and foremostly, to men that indulge in this kind of behaviour, that it's not acceptable, but as organisations - whether that's parliament, parties or workplaces - that we will act and have a zero-tolerance approach to any kind of behaviour like this.''
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has said her party is reviewing its procedures to provide reassurance for staff.
Former Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said it was ''high time'' there was an investigation.
In a joint statement, Holyrood presiding officer Ken Macintosh and chief executive Sir Paul Grice said the reports were ''disturbing and deeply concerning''.
They said: ''The Parliament takes a zero-tolerance approach to sexual or any other form of harassment and we would strongly urge anyone who has witnessed or experienced harassment to report it to the Parliamentary authorities.
''We fully appreciate that, regardless of who you are, coming forward with allegations of this nature can be an extremely daunting, indeed traumatic, prospect.
''We have therefore instructed the parliamentary authorities to set up a dedicated, confidential phone-line to provide those directly affected or concerned about sexual harassment with a professional source of advice.
''The Presiding Officer will also convene an urgent meeting with party leaders at Holyrood tomorrow.''
While the number of reported cases over the lifetime of the parliament was ''very low'', they said it was ''important that we ask ourselves whether that truly reflects the scale of the problem or simply reflects a culture where people do not feel able to come forward and report it''.