Diane King: Holyrood must '˜lead the way' in harassment fight

Holyrood needs to lead the way in tackling sexual harassment, the Scottish Parliament's Presiding Officer has said.
Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh is keen to set an example. Picture: Ian GeorgesonPresiding Officer Ken Macintosh is keen to set an example. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh is keen to set an example. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Despite numerous allegations of abuse being made by women working at Westminster, Ken Macintosh said he was not aware of any female having come forward at Holyrood to complain about inappropriate behaviour.

The first job for Scottish Parliament chiefs is therefore to discover the extent of any “hidden or suppressed problem”, he said.

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It comes as a former election candidate for the Scottish Conservatives has been suspended from the party over an allegation of sexual assault.

Stuart Cullen, who ran unsuccessfully for the Glasgow North constituency in this year’s general election, is alleged to have assaulted a woman during his time at Oxford University.

The allegation was made by the journalist Lou Stoppard in a post on Instagram, in which she said she was assaulted when she was an 18-year-old student.

A survey of all staff will be carried out anonymously as part of a series of measures announced by the Scottish Parliament, Government and parties after claims of misconduct emerged.

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While there are no cases being investigated at Holyrood, a spokesman said the number of allegations of inappropriate behaviour or harassment brought to the attention of officials over the last five years was “in single figures’’, with one historic case referred to police.

Mr Macintosh told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland that a confidential telephone line had been set up to encourage people to speak out if they have been the victim of such behaviour.

He said: “We’re aware this may be a hidden or suppressed problem, so really our first task is to bottom this out and find out is it an issue, and perhaps more than that, to take advantage of this opportunity to create a positive culture.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on having a welcoming, safe, secure environment at Holyrood but we want to make sure we are actually delivering on that.

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“The sort of behaviours that women had to tolerate 30 or 
40 years ago are far less common now, but I don’t think they’ve been eradicated, so we need to take action, we need to do more, we need to ensure we are driving this agenda forward.

“If you live in an unequal, sexist society where harassment take place then it is likely... it will be there somewhere.

“I actually think the duty of the Scottish Parliament is to actually set an example, we should be driving this forward.

“If we live in a society where harassment takes place then the Parliament should be leading the way in stamping it out and saying ‘we do not tolerate this any more’.

“It’s clear that unless you drive these things forward, unless you actually take action, proactively take action, things can regress.”