Nicola Sturgeon calls for sexual harassment talks

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Nicola Sturgeon has proposed a cross-party meeting to examine how best to tackle any sexual harassment at the Scottish Parliament.

The first minister said it was important that everything possible was done to ensure there was “zero tolerance” of unacceptable behaviour.

It comes after lawyer Aamer Anwar said he had been told of a “catalogue of abuse” against women at Holyrood.

And he criticised the “silence” from male MSPs over the issue.

Some MPs at Westminster have also been accused of intimidating or propositioning young women inappropriately, with Commons leader Andrea Leadsom responding to an urgent question on the issue by admitting there was a “vital need to provide greater support and protection”.

Speaker John Bercow had earlier told MPs that there must be “zero tolerance of sexual harassment or bullying” and any allegations of assaults should be reported to the police.

In a letter to Scottish Parliament presiding officer Ken Macintosh, Ms Sturgeon said any such behaviour was “absolutely reprehensible and must be addressed”.

She added: “We cannot and must not be complacent about the position at Holyrood. We need to do everything in our power to make sure that the Scottish Parliament is a workplace where there is zero tolerance of such unacceptable behaviours.

“In light of these recent developments I would be grateful to learn what additional steps the parliament might consider taking to strengthen the level of reassurance for staff and all others who come into contact with parliament.

“It may be that convening a cross-party meeting would be one way to review the current arrangements and to offer recommendations on how these might be strengthened.”

‘Creepy’ male MSPs

Mr Anwar told the Sunday Herald at the weekend that he had spoken to several individuals at Holyrood, from interns and researchers to MSPs, who had been subjected to sexual harassment.

And the Daily Record newspaper said it had been told of three “creepy” male MSPs who have been accused of intimidating behaviour and making unwanted advances towards women.

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Aamer Anwar says there has been “rank hypocrisy” at Holyrood over the issue

Speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Monday, Mr Anwar claimed there was “rank hypocrisy” over the issue at Holyrood, where he said people had “spoken out about Harvey Weinstein and Westminster”, but were failing to tackle sexual harassment in their own backyard.

He added: “What stands out for me is, if one notes the newspaper reports and the social media from the last two days, there is abject silence from pretty much all the male politicians on this issue at Holyrood.

“We should ask the question why is that? I think they know that this has been going on… and they haven’t done anything about it.”

‘Deeply troubling’

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said her party was reviewing its procedures in the wake of the “deeply troubling” allegations.

She said: “Sexual harassment in the workplace is wrong and must not be tolerated.

“Those in positions of power, like MPs and MSPs, have an even greater responsibility to lead by example and show respect for all members of staff.”

The Scottish Parliament has insisted that there are already “robust procedures” in place to investigate and deal with any reports of sexual harassment.

A spokesman said: “If any individuals were to witness or experience such behaviour, we would encourage them to report it.”

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