Holy­rood rocked by sex­ual ha­rass­ment scan­dal

Top hu­man rights lawyer Aamer An­war re­veals women sub­jected to cat­a­logue of ap­palling abuse at Par­lia­ment


THE Scot­tish Par­lia­ment has been hit with al­le­ga­tions that women have been sub­jected to a cat­a­logue of sex­ual ha­rass­ment at Holy­rood, the Sun­day Her­ald can re­veal. The claims come from Scot­land’s lead­ing hu­man rights lawyer, Aamer An­war, who says women at all lev­els in the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment have been sex­u­ally ha­rassed and the per­pe­tra­tors should be run­ning scared.

An­war says he has spo­ken to a num­ber of women over the last two years and, since the un­fold­ing of the Har­vey We­in­stein scan­dal, about their de­grad­ing treat­ment by men at Holy­rood.

He said: “It’s a cat­a­logue of sex­ual ha­rass­ment, stalk­ing, so­cial me­dia abuse, sex­ual in­nu­en­dos, verbal sex­ual abuse, touch­ing, sex­ual as­saults, re­quests for sex, cover up, iso­la­tion and bul­ly­ing.”

His claims come amid al­le­ga­tions which sur­faced last week that West­min­ster may have a deep-rooted prob­lem over the sex­ual ha­rass­ment of women.

Sev­eral MPs were ac­cused of in­tim­i­dat­ing or propo­si­tion­ing young women in­ap­pro­pri­ately, al­le­ga­tions de­scribed by Down­ing Street as “deeply con­cern­ing”.

An­war, one of the coun­try’s most prom­i­nent lawyers, said women who work or have worked at Holy­rood have come for­ward to him about the same prob­lem. He said: “I have spo­ken to sev­eral in­di­vid­u­als who have been sub­ject to sex­ual ha­rass­ment ... This is not just a prob­lem for one party. It is a prob­lem for all par­ties.”

He said of the women: “What re­ally up­sets them and de­mor­alises them is there have been big noises about We­in­stein, big noises about West­min­ster, but, as far as they are con­cerned, the is­sue ex­ists in the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment.”

An­war added: “Noth­ing at all has been done about it. Ev­ery­body runs for cover. No­body wants to rock the boat. They feel that their con­cerns are be­ing ig­nored.”

He con­tin­ued: “How can it not be a prob­lem in the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment? There’s a prob­lem at West­min­ster, there’s a prob­lem in the film in­dus­try, there’s a prob­lem in other in­sti­tu­tions. Yet for some rea­son the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment is im­mune from it? Cer­tainly not.”

An­war de­clined to elab­o­rate on the type of cases he was aware of, but he is be­lieved to be re­fer­ring to the sex­ual ha­rass­ment of both fe­male politi­cians and staff.

“Peo­ple at all lev­els of the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment have ex­pe­ri­enced ha­rass­ment and abuse, and it is un­ac­cept­able. Some peo­ple should be run­ning scared.”

He said: “It’s all very well for peo­ple to say, ‘why didn’t they speak up?’ Peo­ple I have spo­ken to have spo­ken up. They have com­plained. Other in­di­vid­u­als who should know bet­ter haven’t done any­thing about it.”

Asked if he be­lieved sex­ual ha­rass­ment is a “tick­ing time bomb” for the par­lia­ment, An­war, who is also Glas­gow Uni­ver­sity Rec­tor, said: “I think it is.”

A Scot­tish Par­lia­ment spokesper­son re­sponded: “Sex­ual ha­rass­ment is un­ac­cept­able and we take any al­le­ga­tion of sex­ual ha­rass­ment in the work­place very se­ri­ously.

“The Par­lia­ment has ro­bust pro­ce­dures in place to in­ves­ti­gate and deal with any re­ports of sex­ual ha­rass­ment in the work­place. If any in­di­vid­u­als were to wit­ness or ex­pe­ri­ence such be­hav­iour we would en­cour­age them to report it.”

Scot­tish Labour jus­tice spokesper­son Claire Baker said: “The al­le­ga­tions against Har­vey We­in­stein have ex­posed the dis­gust­ing ac­tions of pow­er­ful men and it is clear that it is a prob­lem not just in Hol­ly­wood but in all as­pects of so­ci­ety, in­clud­ing here in Scot­land.

“Vic­tims of sex­ual ha­rass­ment are un­der­stand­ably cau­tious about com­ing out pub­licly with their ex­pe­ri­ences. How­ever, I urge any­body who has been a vic­tim of sex­ual ha­rass­ment to report it to the po­lice in or­der that we find and pros­e­cute any­body who has com­mit­ted this vile crime.”

Tory MSP An­nie Wells said: “Any al­le­ga­tion of sex­ual as­sault or ha­rass­ment must be taken very se­ri­ously and I would en­cour­age staff mem­bers at Holy­rood, past or present, who have ex­pe­ri­enced this to come for­ward and con­tact the po­lice.

“Like any in­dus­try or work­place, pol­i­tics is not im­mune to is­sues of sex­ual as­sault and ha­rass­ment and it is im­por­tant that we use mo­men­tum now to root it out from all ar­eas of life.

“If staff mem­bers at Holy­rood have re­ported im­proper be­hav­iour in the past only to be ig­nored then there should be an ex­am­i­na­tion of how this is han­dled.”

Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn has said MPs who en­gage in the abuse and sex­ual ha­rass­ment of women must be held ac­count­able for their ac­tions.

He said a “warped and de­grad­ing cul­ture” – where the abuse of women is ac­cepted and nor­malised – is thriv­ing in the cor­ri­dors of power.

In an ad­dress to the Unite union’s Scot­tish pol­icy con­fer­ence in Aviemore Cor­byn said: “Sex­ual ha­rass­ment is not of course con­fined to Hol­ly­wood. Misog­yny and sex­ism are wide­spread prob­lems across so­ci­ety.

An SNP spokesper­son said: “The SNP con­demns all forms of sex­ual ha­rass­ment or abuse in any work­place. It is not ac­cept­able and we have a zero tol­er­ance ap­proach to this. If any­one has any com­plaints to make they should con­tact the po­lice, par­lia­men­tary au­thor­i­ties or their party. For the SNP, any­one that wants to speak to Party HQ can be as­sured that their re­ports will be taken se­ri­ously and dealt with con­fi­den­tially and sen­si­tively.”

Aamer An­war be­lieves the ha­rass­ment claims should have some peo­ple at the par­lia­ment ‘run­ning scared’ Pho­to­graph: Martin Shields

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.