Scotland 'can't afford' to remain in UK says Ian Blackford
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In the recording from the Westminster group meeting on Tuesday, SNP MPs were heard applauding and saying “here, here” amid calls to give Mr Grady their support. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards concluded he had breached the Commons’ sexual misconduct policy and had “made an unwanted sexual advance to the complainant that included the touching and stroking of the complainant’s neck, hair, and back”. The meeting came hours after independent Commons watchdogs found the Glasgow North MP had engaged in sexual misconduct for harassing the then 19-year-old party staffer, including by “touching and stroking” his neck, hair, and back.
Mr Grady was accused of inappropriately touching the man – now aged 25 – on an SNP night out in a London pub in 2016.
The claim was upheld by the watchdog. He was handed a two-day ban from the House of Commons and made a full apology.
But in the audio recording, obtained by the Scottish Sun newspaper, Mr Blackford is heard urging fellow MPs to give Mr Grady their “full support”.
The SNP Westminster leader is heard saying: “I think most of you know how I feel about Patrick and I would encourage the group to deliver as much support as possible.
“And let’s look forward to next week, he is going to face a number of challenges over the short term and he has our absolute full support.
“And I for one, very much looking forward to welcoming Patrick back into the group next week.”
East Dunbartonshire MP Amy Callaghan told the group at the start of the recording: “I think we should be rallying together for this campaign, but also regardless of our position on Patrick’s situation, we should be rallying together around him to support him at this time as well.
“I don’t think we are very good as a party at supporting each other and I think we should be making sure that he feels supported at this point, so if we can all reach out to him, or do so if you feel able to, we should probably be doing that.”
During her speech, some people are heard to say “hear hear” while some also start clapping.
Later in the recording, Motherwell and Wishaw MP Marion Fellows is heard saying: “Patrick is not out of our thoughts and Patrick is getting supported.
“Just because people don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. I want to make that very clear.”
Ms Callaghan adds: “Just to be clear I wasn’t saying he wasn’t supported, I was just hoping that other people would be supportive as well.”
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The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards report told how the victim “emphasises that he has suffered and continues to suffer from significant effects” of the harassment, including “significant psychological consequences, leading to medical engagement”, and “significant consequential physical impacts on the complainant’s health”.
It added: “His work life and social life have been profoundly affected, markedly reducing the quality of both.
“He has been medically signed off work, and is likely to remain off work for a significant further period.
“He has doubts as to whether he will be able to return to work in the political sphere, which was his longstanding ambition.”
But in a furious outburst, Scottish Conservative deputy leader Meghan Gallacher said: “Ian Blackford cannot remain as leader of the SNP at Westminster.
“Patrick Grady’s unacceptable misconduct involving a teenage SNP staffer amounted to a huge breach of trust.
“Ever since this complaint was first raised the SNP have been evasive and sought to sweep it under the carpet.
“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.
“Grady should have been properly censured by the SNP. Ian Blackford should resign for his appalling lack of judgement; and, if not, Nicola Sturgeon should sack him.”
Scottish Labour’s Holyrood business manager Neil Bibby said: “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.
“There is no place in politics for men who turn a blind eye to abuse because it has been perpetrated by a friend.
“Mr Blackford is leader of the UK’s third party and close ally of the First Minister, he must stand aside.
“There are serious questions for the SNP about whether Patrick Grady is being treated so lamely compared to others because of his closeness to the SNP establishment.”
“Patrick Grady should do the only honourable thing and resign his seat immediately.”
The SNP is reportedly Mr Grady from its Westminster group, but only until his two-day suspension in the House of Commons – on Monday and Tuesday – ends.
The House of Commons Independent Expert Panel report said Mr Grady was allowed to remain as the SNP’s Westminster chief whip – even though party leadership had been aware of the incident, and trying to resolve it informally in February 2018.
He only stood down last year when the allegations were eventually made public, and the male staffer officially complained to the SNP and the Commons authorities under its Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme.
Express.co.uk has contacted the SNP for comment.
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