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Scottish parliament’s harassment report out


Scottish Parliament, sexual harassment, report, MSPs, Parliamentary staff, Joint Working Group, recommendationsParliament ‘should set a positive example as a place of work with the highest standards of behaviour’.

The Scottish Parliament has published the results of a confidential survey which assessed the extent to which sexual harassment and sexist behaviour is present in Holyrood and in MSPs’ local offices.

Its key findings indicate that:

A fifth of respondents – 20 per cent – have experienced sexual harassment and sexist behaviour while working at the Scottish Parliament.

When that figure is broken down by sex, 30 per cent of women and 6 per cent of men reported experiencing this behaviour in some form.

Knowledge of reporting procedures is high, however the percentage of those actually reporting incidents is low – which may suggest a lack of confidence in the processes.

A lack of confidence in the reporting systems came through more strongly in the responses of those who had experienced this behaviour.

There is no significant reported difference in experiencing sexual harassment and sexist behaviour from MSPs, their staff or the Scottish Parliament staff.

Perpetrators of inappropriate behaviour are predominantly male and tend to be in a position of authority over those experiencing it: 45 per cent identified the perpetrator as an MSP.

The survey was commissioned by the Scottish Parliament in late 2017 following media reports of sexual harassment at Holyrood which the Presiding Officer described at the time as “disturbing and deeply concerning”.

It was conducted by the independent market research company Progressive, and was completed by over 1000 people including MSPs, their staff and Scottish Parliament staff.

A Joint Working Group set up earlier this year has been considering the findings and has already started to identity the key strands of work it will take forward to address the issues raised by the report; it is committed to tackling the problem and achieving real and lasting change.

And it has highlighted the following as the key strands of work it plans to take forward:

A comprehensive programme of education and development for those working within Parliament and within regional and constituency offices;

Prevention of the behaviours highlighted in the survey is paramount and they will ensure that the education and development programme gives everyone an understanding of a zero tolerance approach and will seek to address both unacceptable behaviour and the lack of confidence in reporting it;

Specific training for those who manage people. This will include early intervention and prevention techniques and ensure managers are equipped to respond appropriately to those who experience sexual harassment;

Improved reporting procedures and policies that are accessible, transparent, fair and confidential and take into account the ongoing review of the Code of Conduct for MSPs by the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee;

A review of the additional measures required to support those who have experienced these behaviours; and

New mechanisms which enable the monitoring and reviewing of progress and ensure that a change in culture is happening as a result of the work being done.

Details of the membership and remit of the Working Group can be found here.

Kezia Dugdale MSP, one of only two female members of the six-strong Scottish parliamentary corporate body, the group of MSPs overseeing the running of Holyrood, said: “While it’s incredibly important we support those who have experienced this behaviour and ensure perpetrators are held accountable, our overarching aim must be to create a culture which prevents sexual harassment and sexist behaviour from happening in the first place.

“That is our challenge and it will require the combined efforts of the Parliament, the political parties and all those who work here to achieve it.”

And Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, said she was shocked, saddened and disappointed by the survey results. “It is clear that women and men – but mainly women – have put up with behaviour that is unacceptable.

“No one should be subject[ed] to harassment or sexist behaviour of any kind in their work or personal life, and our national parliament should set a positive example as a place of work with the highest standards of behaviour.”

A copy of the report can be found here.

If you have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment at the Scottish Parliament and need any support and advice you can contact this confidential helpline: 0800 756 9969. The line is open 9.00am to 5.00pm, Monday to Friday.

Out of hours the service can be contacted at

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