Ian Blackford: SNP’s Westminster leader faces calls to resign over handling of sexual harassment case

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Ian Blackford has faced growing calls to resign over his handling of sexual harassment claims against an SNP MP  (PA Wire)
Ian Blackford has faced growing calls to resign over his handling of sexual harassment claims against an SNP MP (PA Wire)

The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford is facing calls to resign over his handling of sexual harassment claims made against one of his MPs.

The victim, who was inappropriately touched by SNP MP Patrick Grady at a party in 2016, said that Mr Blackford should step down as his position had become “untenable”.

Mr Grady was found by an independent investigation to have behaved inappropriately towards the male party worker at a function and was suspended from Parliament for two days. But the handling of the complaint has drawn criticism, most notably from the victim, who has said he is now considering legal action.

In a leaked audio tape, Mr Blackford said he was “very much looking forward to welcoming Patrick back into the group” and encouraged fellow MPs to give him “as much support as possible”.

Asked about Mr Blackford’s position, the victim told Sky News: “Ian’s position right now is untenable, and it will continue to be so. It will only get worse.

“Ian always talks about wanting to achieve independence, and that’s his main goal, right now he’s not doing the independence movement any favours by staying in post.

“It’s time for him to go.”

The victim told the broadcaster that Mr Blackford had invited him into his Westminster office when the allegations first emerged.

He went on: “I just got a call from him on my personal mobile asking me to come upstairs to his office. When I got there, Patrick was sitting in the office on the couch, crying. Ian asked me to take a seat and then Patrick then started apologising for this incident a year or so in the past.

“I mean, I was 19 or 20 at the time of this meeting. Walking into the party leader’s office in Westminster is quite intimidating.

“I was made to feel guilty in that situation. I felt bad for him in that situation, looking back that’s irrational but at the time I felt like I had no choice but to accept the apology and to be honest, I was scared at the time they would affect my career.”

He added: “Honestly, since with what has come out since then, I was right to fear that because that’s exactly what’s happened.”

Patrick Grady MP received a two day suspension from the Commons (PA Archive)
Patrick Grady MP received a two day suspension from the Commons (PA Archive)

Shadow Scotland secretary Ian Murray accused Mr Blackford of giving a “non-apology”, adding: “He’s only done it because one of his own team have recorded the meeting where everyone was giving Patrick Grady their support.

“If we want to try and find a way of changing the culture within politics, within Westminster, and in wider society, then those in leadership positions have to take responsibility - and I think he really should consider his position.”

Scottish Conservative Party chairman Craig Hoy said of Mr Blackford: “His credibility is in tatters and he must go, so that no victim is ever let down this atrociously again.”

A report into Mr Grady’s conduct said he “made an unwanted sexual advance to the complainant that included the touching and stroking of the complainant’s neck, hair, and back”.

In a statement given to the broadcaster, Mr Blackford said: “As SNP Westminster leader, I have a duty of care to all of our staff. That is why I deeply regret that a member of staff was subject to inappropriate behaviour. It was completely unacceptable and should never have happened. I am sorry that it did.

“Staff must have full confidence that the group takes complaints seriously. In this case, the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme investigated what happened. We respect and accept that independent process.”

Mr Grady has already said he was “profoundly sorry” for his behaviour after being found to have breached Parliament’s sexual misconduct policy.

The Standard has contacted Mr Blackford for further comment.

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