Nicola Sturgeon ‘shocked and saddened’ by Holyrood harassment survey

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Nicola Sturgeon has said she is “shocked and saddened” after an anonymous survey revealed a fifth of Holyrood staff have experienced sexual harassment or sexist behaviour.

Scotland’s First Minister said it was a “disgrace” that 30% of women and 6% of men had experienced such behaviour while working at the Scottish Parliament and called on perpetrators to change their behaviour.

The confidential survey was set up last year after revelations emerged about sexual harassment in Scottish politics, and attracted 1,039 responses.

For women, the most commonly reported issues were comments of a sexist nature (20% compared with 2% of men), looks or leers (16% compared with 3%) and unwanted physical contact (9% versus 1%).

For those who had experienced sexual harassment, 45% said it came from an MSP, 40% said the perpetrator was a member of the Scottish Parliament staff and 20% said a member of MSP staff was responsible.

Nine respondents specifically mentioned that they had experienced unwanted physical contact from an MSP.

The most common response when respondents were asked what they had done about such behaviour was nothing.

MSP staff were also most likely to say that there was a culture that discouraged reporting sexist behaviour (22%) or sexual harassment (20%).

Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh said the findings made for “difficult reading” and apologised to anyone who had experienced inappropriate behaviour, saying he was determined to address the problem.

A joint working group set up earlier this year is taking steps including developing a programme of education and development for staff, introducing special training for managers and improving reporting procedures.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I am shocked, saddened and disappointed by these survey results and I welcome the apology from the presiding officer to all of those who have experienced harassment or sexism while working in our parliament.

“It is clear that women and men – but mainly women – have put up with behaviour that is unacceptable.

“The most significant change that can be made in response to these results is a change in behaviour by the perpetrators.

Scottish Parliament Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh said the survey findings were 'difficult reading' (Scottish Parliament/PA)
Scottish Parliament Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh said the survey findings were ‘difficult reading’ (Scottish Parliament/PA)

“The fact women and men have experienced harassment or sexism in our parliament is a disgrace but we must seize this opportunity to change our society and culture for all and for good.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said the results were “shocking” and emphasised there was a zero tolerance approach to harassment in his party.

He said: “We welcome the fact that the Scottish Parliament is taking action immediately to address the issues they raise.

“Harassment of any kind is unacceptable and it is incredibly worrying that there is so little confidence in the reporting mechanisms.”

Kezia Dugdale MSP, a member of the Scottish Parliament’s corporate body, said the results were concerning but not surprising.

She said: “We have known for many years that sexual harassment and sexist behaviour is present throughout our society.

“This survey confirms that Holyrood is not immune to the problem.

“While it’s incredibly important we support those who have experienced this behaviour and ensure perpetrators are held accountable, our overarching aim must be to create a culture which prevents sexual harassment and sexist behaviour from happening in the first place.”

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