We have sympathy for those now calling for the SNP to suspend Alex Salmond over allegations that he sexually harassed two members of civil service staff while he was first minister.
Ideally – for the reassurance of those who have complained, if nothing else – his membership of the party would now be on hold while police examine information passed to them after a civil service investigation into allegations about his behaviour. But while this might be preferred, it is not necessarily a straightforward matter.
Yesterday afternoon, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addressed those calls for Mr Salmond’s suspension, making the point that – unlike in previous cases – the allegations against her predecessor have not been investigated by her party but by the civil service. This being so, no complaints have been received by the party. Ms Sturgeon added that what limited information the Scottish Government held about the investigation could not be shared with the SNP.
Critics might dismiss this as buck-passing but it seems that the situation as described by the First Minister constitutes evidence that the systems put in place to handle cases of alleged inappropriate sexual behaviour are fit for purpose.
Alleged victims who speak up about the behaviour of elected politicians must be reassured that civil service investigators will be free from any kind of political pressure. It is quite right that the SNP has been excluded from the investigation into Mr Salmond.
Ms Sturgeon went on to say that, in recent days, there has been a considerable focus on process and that this should not be allowed to obscure the central facts of this case which are that two individuals have made complaints.
We could not agree more and there is, here, a test for all political parties. It may be tempting to try to score political points about who knew what and when or about the SNP’s failure to suspend Mr Salmond but more important than any of that is that those who have been sexually harassed or assaulted by an elected member feel that they can come forward and that their complaint will be treated confidentially, seriously, and with sensitivity.
Mr Salmond responded to the First Minister’s remarks with his own statement in which he insisted it is now for the Court of Session to decide whether the process under which he was investigated was fair.
Anybody who detects from that exchange a suggestion Nicola Sturgeon is not treating the complaints made appropriately and with the utmost seriousness is not paying close enough attention.