Joanna Cherry: ‘Significant problems’ in SNP harassment complaints process
An SNP backbencher has urged the party to review arrangements for dealing with harassment complaints made against MPs.
Joanna Cherry said her party has had “significant problems” with complaint handling “for some time”.
She also confirmed she was not at the Westminster group meeting last week in which Ian Blackford instructed party colleagues to rally around shamed MP Patrick Grady.
Blackford is facing continued calls to resign.
Grady made an apology in the Commons earlier this week after breaching the parliament’s sexual misconduct policy.
An expert panel found Grady had made an unwanted sexual advance to a teenage member of staff during a 2016 work event.
The commissioner had found that Grady, who represents Glasgow North, had touched and stroked the complainant's neck, hair, and back at the event, which was held in a pub. Grady did not appeal that finding.
Grady, 42, was handed a two-day suspension from the Commons.
According to reports, the party's MPs have been directed to give their "absolute full support" to Grady.
In a recording leaked to the Daily Mail, Blackford reportedly told MPs to rally around Grady.
Speaking out on Twitter, Cherry said: “I wasn’t at the SNP Westminster group meeting last week. I don’t condone the covert recording or leak. However, for some time the SNP has had significant problems in how it handles complaints.
“My party needs to reflect on the contrast between the treatment of different “offenders” and to review our arrangements for the pastoral care of complainers.”
Speaking to STV, Angus Robertson – who was leader of the SNP Westminster group at the time complaints first surfaced against Grady in 2016 – defended the party’s position.
He said: “If you’re going to have independent processes to look at them and to work out what penalties should be paid, then one should respect those.
"That’s exactly what’s happening and Ian Blackford is right to recognise that, but at the same time say when somebody has paid the price that they’ve been told that they have to pay, people have to have a future beyond that.”
Scottish Tory MP John Lamont urged Blackford to “break his silence” over the issue.
He added: “Ian Blackford has not only failed this victim, his disgusting actions have made it less likely that any future victims come forward.
“This horrible situation has been made even more ugly by the fact the SNP Westminster group is more focused on preventing leaks than preventing sexual harassment. Party discipline is more important to them than supporting a victim.
“The cover-up-and-close-ranks culture at the heart of the SNP Westminster group must end.”