New SNP sexual harassment complaints policy ‘in weeks’, say insiders

A new system for dealing with sexual harassment complaints within the Scottish National party could become party policy within weeks, il Guardian ha imparato, after escalating criticism from activists about lack of openness and accountability.

Revelations in the past week about the scale of failings in the handling of a sexual harassment complaint against former Westminster chief whip Patrick Grady have prompted widespread frustration among SNP activists, who have been pushing for a culture change since the #MeToo movement kicked off in 2017.

Internal critics have openly attacked what many consider a systemic failure by party leadership to deal transparently, equally and promptly with harassment and other complaints.

As a result of the Westminster revelations, a group of grassroots activists is planning a motion to put to the next SNP conference calling for zero tolerance of sexual harassment, and more explicit and consistent sanctions in dealing with complaints.

The long-awaited policy change comes as the party leader, Nicola Storione, said her party’s Westminster group had questions to answer over its handling of the Grady complaint. Martedì, the party announced an external review into the support available to staff making complaints.

Di giovedì, Sturgeon condemned the behaviour of her own MPs as “utterly unacceptable” after a leaked audio recording appeared to show some of the SNP’s Westminster group rallying behind Grady with no mention of his victim, who has spoken out about feeling unsupported and ostracised by Commons colleagues.

Speaking to BBC Scozia on Friday morning, Sturgeon said she still had confidence in her party’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, but added that a victim who does not feel supported “is by definition unsupported”.

The new draft policy is expected to go before the party’s national executive committee at their next meeting in July, when supporters hope it will be passed as party policy.

A party source with knowledge of the drafting of the new policy said: “It’s really important that this is a policy that works for everyone, that is constructive and helpful and can sit alongside other frameworks for complaints.”

The Guardian understands that a previous draft was revised to take into account the introduction of new processes at Westminster and Holyrood.

An SNP spokesperson said: “The SNP takes sexual harassment seriously and is seeking to amend party policy to better support colleagues and members.”

One of those involved in the planned conference debate said that the new policy “won’t mean anything” unless “real action” is taken by the leadership. “The grassroots movement should be listened to, given that we are in this mess because of the lack of procedures in the party, and the poor handling of the Westminster group," loro hanno detto.

Another activist involved in the early drafting of the new policy welcomed the progress but cautioned that it had to address the fact that so often in the past, poor handling of complaints had compounded the initial distress of an incident itself.

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