Why the SNP is in a mess over Patrick Grady sexual harassment row

The iron discipline of the modern SNP has been much remarked upon.

Unlike the Conservatives and Labour, it has – for the most part – managed to keep a lid on damaging internal rows.

Of course, the fallout from the Alex Salmond trial and disagreements over independence have tarnished this record somewhat in recent years.

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Ian Blackford urged to break silence over SNP handling of sexual harassment alle...
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford in the House of Commons. Picture: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

But it's a background that makes the internal unhappiness over the SNP’s handling of the Patrick Grady sexual harassment case all the more notable.

Mr Grady, the MP for Glasgow North, was found to have made an “unwanted sexual advance” on a then 19-year-old staff member in 2016.

He was recently handed a two-day suspension from the Commons and publicly apologised.

The situation is difficult enough, but the SNP’s leadership seem intent on making it worse.

Last week, they threatened their own MPs with criminal action after a recording was leaked of a meeting in which the party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford backed Mr Grady.

He encouraged his fellow MPs to give "as much support as possible" to the Glasgow North MP.

When this appeared in the media, SNP chief whip Owen Thompson sent an email to MPs insisting there were "serious questions to be answered on the legality of sharing a recording without consent under terms of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000".

The victim, who already felt unsupported and abandoned, says it is now difficult to “envision any route back” to working for the party. He is reportedly considering legal action.

A member of the SNP’s national executive committee has anonymously called for the resignation of Mr Grady, Mr Blackford and Mr Thompson.

Meanwhile, Joanna Cherry, the high-profile SNP MP, has openly criticised the party’s complaints system.

"I don’t condone the covert recording or leak,” she tweeted. “However, for some time the SNP has had significant problems in how it handles complaints.

"My party needs to reflect on the contrast between the treatment of different ‘offenders’ and to review our arrangements for the pastoral care of complainers.”

It is hard to disagree.

These are undoubtedly very tough situations to navigate. None of this is easy, and the party has a duty to both the complainer and Mr Grady.

But the SNP's current mess is a lesson in how not to do it.

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