Ian Blackford has apologized and said he deeply regrets that a party official was sexually harassed by an SNP MP.
The leader of the SNP Westminster has been urged to step down after an audio recording revealed he called on nationalist MPs to rally around Patrick Grady, who has been found guilty by the Commons authorities.
Grady, MP for Glasgow North, made an “unsolicited sexual advance” towards a then 19-year-old staff member in 2016.
The audio clip featured Blackford saying Grady “will face a number of challenges in the near term and as such he should have our absolute full support.”
In a statement released today, Blackford said: “Staff must have complete confidence that the group is taking complaints seriously”.
It comes after opposition parties and SNP MP Joanna Cherry spoke at the party about how it is handling allegations of sexual misconduct.
Grady was suspended for two days from the House of Commons last week and issued a public apology after a complaint of sexual harassment by a young SNP worker was upheld.
Blackford said: “As Head of SNP Westminster, I have a duty of care to all of our employees. Therefore, I deeply regret that an employee was subjected to inappropriate behavior.
“It was totally unacceptable and should never have happened. I’m sorry it happened.
“Staff must have full confidence that the group takes complaints seriously. In this case, the independent complaints and complaints system investigated what happened. We respect and accept this independent process.
“In addition, however, employees have the right to feel fully supported when a complaint is made. I regret that the complainant does not consider that to be the case.
“The way in which this situation has played out publicly over the past few days, including the records from the group, has, among other things, caused distress for the complainant, which I regret.
“We will take into account any lessons that need to be learned to ensure staff can have full confidence that they are getting the support they need.
“As such, I am initiating an external review of the support available to employees to sit alongside the independent counseling service and independent grievance mechanism.
“Raising a grievance of this nature is never easy and I have no doubts that staff will get the support they need.”
After the audio was leaked, SNP MPs were threatened with criminal action by their chief whip.
Owen Thompson called every MP present at the group meeting to speak with him personally Tuesday and Wednesday as part of the hunt for the leaker.
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