SNP MP admits doubt over political future after harassment

An SNP MP has spoken out about her experience of being the victim of harassment that left her contemplating whether to give up her political career.

Kirsty Blackman said one constituent threatened her with physical violence, while another came into her office “screaming and swearing”. Both men, she said, were subsequently given non-harassment orders.

The MP for Aberdeen North said she felt compelled to speak out following the death of Sir David Amess. The veteran Conservative MP died following an attack while holding a constituency surgery earlier this month.

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Home secretary Priti Patel has since announced the threat level against politicians in the UK was now classed as “substantial” and said she was in talks with the police and parliamentary authorities.

In an interview with the Herald on Sunday, Ms Blackman said she believed “every single MP” would have thought about whether to stay in their jobs in the wake of the tragedy, which came just five years after the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox.

The 35-year-old, the SNP’s former deputy leader at Westminster, said she had no experience of being on the receiving end of threats and abuse until being elected in 2015.

The following year marked the first time she had to contact Police Scotland after she and her staff were working with a constituent who was “angry”.

“He said if I didn’t [do what he wanted] then he was going to take action against me personally, and I probably don’t want to add any more than that, but it was a threat of physical violence because I hadn’t dealt with this case in the way he wanted me to, or I hadn’t got the results he wanted,” Ms Blackman explained.

Kirsty Blackman, the SNP MP for Aberdeen North. Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA WireKirsty Blackman, the SNP MP for Aberdeen North. Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire
Kirsty Blackman, the SNP MP for Aberdeen North. Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire
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The MP contacted the police and the man was given a non-harassment order by a judge stopping him from contacting her or her office again.

The police were called again in 2017 when a constituent came to her office, and Ms Blackman realised he was “far past the point of de-escalation”.

“He came into the office screaming and swearing, and again the police had to be contacted,” she said. “He was prosecuted and given a non-harassment order.”

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In 2019, she received repeated emails from a man in England. The initial enquiry was about how to apply for housing in Aberdeen, but Ms Blackman said his messages became “very strange”.

She recalled: ”“He said he was going to drive up to Aberdeen, but his car broke down and he had to travel by other means.

“It never crossed my mind though that it was something somebody would actually do, to come to Aberdeen from the south of England.

“Then he said things like he wanted to take me to a hairdresser and cut my hair. It was very strange, and quite personal, and uncomfortable.”

Ms Blackman said she had notified Police Scotland about the emails, and received a call from the force during the SNP conference that year, informing her they had apprehended the man in Aberdeen.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

"I was really scared. I was at conference, the kids were at conference with me. I was supposed to be speaking to someone and I couldn’t, I had to just go and hide in a corner basically.”

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