Calls for Ian Blackford to resign over 'backing' of suspended MP

Patrick Grady was found to have made an 'unwanted sexual advance' towards a party worker.

Calls for Ian Blackford to resign over ‘backing’ of suspended MP Patrick Grady Parliament TVParliament UK
Ian Blackford is the SNP's leader in Westminster where Patrick Grady has been suspended for two days.

Opposition parties are calling for the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford to resign over a leaked recording in which he reportedly directed fellow MPs to give their “absolute full support” to a colleague found to have inappropriately touched a teenage staffer.

Patrick Grady was found to have made an “unwanted sexual advance” towards the party worker at a social gathering in 2016.

On Tuesday, the Independent Expert Panel For Sexual Misconduct said the Glasgow North MP should apologise and be suspended from the House of Commons for two days for his behaviour.

Speaking to STV News, the junior SNP worker, who was 19 years old at the time of the incident, hit out at the leniency of the sanction against the party’s former chief whip and called on him to resign.

Ian Blackford, the SNP's leader in the House of Commons.Getty Images
Ian Blackford, the SNP’s leader in the House of Commons.

He said the SNP’s complaint process was not fit for purpose and Nicola Sturgeon said lessons would be learned from the complainant’s criticism.

On Saturday, he told STV News: “I’m not surprised this is how the SNP are deciding to handling things, as I’ve had to endure it since I made my complaints last year.

“I am glad however that there was an MP in attendance that knew what was going on was wrong and decided to record the meeting, it shows how the SNP really are behind the scenes.

“There seems to be no mention of myself, the victim, in any of it, instead they are focusing on supporting the harasser.”

The First Minister insisted “zero tolerance” of sexual misconduct was important.

Scottish Labour’s Jackie Baillie and Neil Bibby called for Blackford to resign his post for “celebrating” Grady’s expected return following his short suspension from the SNP group at Westminster.

“That Ian Blackford and SNP MPs would stand and applaud after one of their colleagues admitted abusing his position to take sexual advantage of a staff member is disgusting,” he said.

“There is no place in politics for men who turn a blind eye to abuse because it has been perpetrated by a friend.

“Victims must know that if they speak out against the powerful in politics they will see justice done – that has not happened in this case.”

Bibby said there were questions for the SNP over how the complaints against Grady were handled as he called for the Glasgow MP to resign his seat.

The complainant said he felt “intimidated” into accepting an apology by the MP when he met with him and Blackford in the group leader’s office.

It follows reports in The Mail of a leaked “secret recording” of a SNP Westminster group meeting in which Blackford is said to have told members they should give Grady their “absolute full support”.

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Meghan Gallacher also called on Blackford to leave his post as the leader of the SNP at Westminster or for the First Minister to sack him.

“Ever since this complaint was first raised the SNP have been evasive and sought to sweep it under the carpet,” she said.

“Then, Blackford and his colleagues were shamefully mealy-mouthed in condemning Patrick Grady when the brave victim was vindicated this week.

“Now we know why. There was an orchestrated campaign from the very top of the SNP to back Patrick Grady – rather than support the young victim.”

While attending a national remembrance parade and service in the centre of Edinburgh for the Falklands war, SNP deputy leader Keith Brown and cabinet secretary for justice said he was unaware of reports of the leaked recording.

A spokesperson for the SNP Westminster parliamentary group said: “Staff and MPs have been offered pastoral support throughout this process. The group has a duty to ensure the personal welfare of all involved, including the impact on mental health and well-being.”