Second SNP MP accused of sexual harassment set to be cleared

23 June 2022, 07:59

Ian Blackford is under pressure due to his handling of complaints.
Ian Blackford is under pressure due to his handling of complaints. Picture: Alamy

By Gina Davidson

An SNP MP will today find out officially that she has been cleared by Commons authorities of sexual misconduct.

Patricia Gibson was accused of targeting the same SNP staffer who her colleague, Patrick Grady MP, was found by Commons authorities to have sexually harassed.

Westminster's Independent Expert Panel is understood to have cleared Mrs Gibson, MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, of making inappropriate comments to the young man in a Commons bar.

She has called the allegation against her "malicious" and appealed the original decision of the Standards Commissioner who had upheld the complaint.

The young man at the centre of the allegations cannot discuss the case before the report is published at 11am as he has had to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement.

However he has told LBC that SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford should resign because of the way he handled his complaint against Grady who was suspended from the Commons for two days as a sanction.

He also rejected a statement Mr Blackford made apologising for a leaked recording of an SNP group meeting where he was heard urging MPs to support the MP rather than the victim. Other MPs were heard agreeing.

The complainer, who is considering legal action, said despite the release of that statement he had still heard nothing from Mr Blackford or the SNP, and that he did not believe the group leader was sorry.

"I don't think it is an apology," he said. "It doesn't address any of the underlying issues. He hasn't addressed the fact that I haven't really been supported through the process appropriately. He hasn't addressed the fact that the chief whip wants to spend more time trying to find the person that leaked the tape rather than taking effective action on the perpetrator.

"I haven't received a private apology. They say this "apology" is for me but they gave it to journalists to post on Twitter and for me to find it that way. So it feels like a publicity stunt in that regard.

"I've had some contact with my employer but I'm currently signed off sick and have had no correspondence with the party whatsoever."

Mr Blackford has launched a review of the SNP's internal complaints processes, but the young man says people won't have confidence in a system while he is still leader.

"People won't seriously believe that they want to improve the processes while Ian Blackford who caused the situation is still leading the group and they can't seriously believe things will improve as long as Patrick Grady is still in the party."

LBC asked him what he would say to Ian Blackford if he met him in the street.

"I'd just ask him why? Why are you putting MPs before staff? Why do you want to protect these people instead of helping the victims? It's mind boggling to me the way he's handled it. You know I think it shows a lot about his style of leadership and is it really the kind of leadership that members of the party want?"

Ian Blackford has said the SNP group in Westminster will "consider all lessons that must be learned to make sure staff have full confidence they will receive the support they need."

In his statement he said: "As SNP Westminster leader, I have a duty of care to all of 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.

"Staff must have full confidence that the group takes complaints seriously. In this case, the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme investigated what happened. We respect and accept that independent process.

"More than that, however, staff have a right to feel fully supported when a complaint is made. I regret that the complainant does not feel that this is the case. The way that this situation has played out publicly over the last few days, including recordings from the parliamentary group, has caused distress to the complainant amongst others and I am sorry that is the case.

"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 initiating an external review of support available to staff, to sit alongside the independent advice service and independent complaints process.

"Raising complaints of this nature is never easy, and I am determined that staff have the support they need."