Widespread reform looming over Holyrood harassment

Brian Taylor
Political editor, Scotland
@tannadiceladon Twitter

image copyrightScottish Parliament
image captionHolyrood's current management group of MSPs is all-male

Questions. Is there a widespread welcome for the move to set up a hotline to report sexual harassment at Holyrood? Yes there is.

Is there a feeling that the move, while welcome in itself, may not be enough? There is, most certainly. There is a mood for widespread reform in the air.

Is there a feeling that sexual harassment is endemic at Holyrood? No, there is not. But nobody - nobody - says that Holyrood is immune.

Perhaps there is a feeling that the problem is less acute than at Westminster. But, once again, nobody - nobody - thinks that complacency is remotely justified.

Among the ideas kicking around today are concerns about the operation of the hotline itself. How will it work? Will those who phone it be given helpful pointers to where they might seek further advice or detailed assistance? What will happen to the complaints?

Then there are those who want an independent element in dealing with complaints, in parliament or within parties.

All-male management

And then there is the idea advanced by Kezia Dugdale, the former Labour leader. She wants substantial change within the Holyrood corporate body, the group which determines parliament's rules, including on sexual harassment.

Right now, they are all male. The Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh plus five representatives nominated by the political parties.

Ms Dugdale stresses she has absolutely nothing against the members as individuals. But she argues that it is simply unacceptable, particularly in the light of the latest controversy, for there to be no females in membership.

She suggests that the party nominees might all usefully quit. There would then be a ballot to decide which three parties would be obliged to nominate a woman.

Without endorsing that particular idea in detail, Joe Fitzpatrick, the minister for parliamentary business, has tonight backed the notion of reform.

He has also suggested that parliament should allocate more time on Thursday to the debate prompted by a series of questions about Holyrood's structural handling of the issue.

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