Ian Blackford expresses 'deep regret' over Patrick Grady sexual misconduct
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has said he "deeply regrets" that a member of party staff was subjected to "inappropriate behaviour".
Blackford had been under pressure to comment after a recording emerged where the SNP group at Westminster pledged its support to shamed MP Patrick Grady.
Grady was last week given a two-day suspension from the House of Commons for breaching the parliament’s sexual misconduct policy.
The recommendation was made by an Independent Expert Panel convened after the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards found Grady had made an unwanted sexual advance to a teenage member of staff during a 2016 work event.
In a statement released this evening, Blackford said: "As SNP Westminster leader, I have a duty of care to all 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."
He added: "We will consider all lessons that must be learned to make sure staff have full confidence they will receive the support they need. As such, I am initating an external review of support available to staff to sit alongside the independent advice service and independent complaints process."
Blackford has faced calls for his resignation from Labour and the Tories after a leaked recording emerged showing MPs had pledged to "rally around" Grady.
Responding to the SNP Westminster leader's statement, Labour's Neil Bibby said: "This is not a real apology, it is the apology of someone who got caught.
“All victims deserve a fair system - but the reality is that the SNP have shown no interest in that, refusing to take meaningful action and cheerleading the return of a man who tried to take sexual advantage of his staff.
"From the start, the SNP have behaved in a way that is disgraceful - closing ranks and intimidating people who tried to bring this story to light."
Yesterday, SNP MP Joanna Cherry urged the party to review arrangements for dealing with harassment complaints made against MPs.
Cherry said her party has had “significant problems” with complaint handling “for some time”.