The Scottish National party has launched two separate inquiries into alleged sexual misconduct, thought to involve male parliamentarians.
Hours after Nicola Sturgeon denied any knowledge of allegations involving her party, the SNP issued a statement disclosing it “has had concerns of this nature raised by two different individuals. The individuals and their concerns are unconnected to each other. These will be fully investigated but inquiries remain at an early stage.”
Earlier on Monday the SNP had refused to answer questions from the Guardian about whether it was investigating complaints against any of its parliamentarians or staff, after the human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar said women at Holyrood had passed on allegations of sexual misconduct to him.
All four other parties at Holyrood had said that no allegations had been raised with them about their MSPs, MPs or staff. While concerns in Scotland about the developing scandal have focused on Holyrood, the SNP inquiries may also involve a Westminster MP.
The Holyrood authorities announced on Monday they were to convene an urgent meeting of party leaders on Tuesday to address mounting concerns about the issue, and were setting up a confidential hotline for staff members or other MSPs to report concerns or incidents.
Anwar told BBC Radio Scotland on Monday there had been “abject silence” from male MSPs about sexual harassment, misconduct or abuse of power at Holyrood, even though it was prevalent. “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,” he said.
Four hours before the SNP statement, Sturgeon had said she fully expected sexual harassment allegations would be levelled against members of her party. She denied any knowledge of live cases but released a letter to Ken Macintosh, Holyrood’s presiding officer, pressing for an urgent review of the parliament’s procedures.
“It is vital to ensure that robust procedures are in place so that individuals who raise concerns have confidence that they will be fully investigated in an appropriate manner,” she wrote. “Indeed, we should expect a similar standard of protection to exist in every place of work across Scotland.”