To coincide with the publication of the Scottish Parliament’s new sexual harassment policy, activists from the Women’s Equality Party have today placed ‘Holylewd’ stickers on public signs around the Parliament building, highlighting the institution’s ongoing problems with sexual harassment.
Last year a survey found that a fifth of parliamentary staff - including 1 in 3 women - had experienced harassment at work, with 45% of these staff members identifying the perpetrator as an MSP. The new policy, which is the result of an inquiry launched in 2017, is the Parliament’s first central policy for addressing sexual harassment in the workplace.
Kirstein Rummery, Scotland Spokesperson for the Women's Equality Party, said: “Publishing a new policy is not sufficient to address what is clearly a cultural problem within politics and political institutions. Broader changes are needed.
“In this parliamentary session alone we have seen allegations of harassment brought against three male MSPs. Only one of these MSPs was subject to a full investigation; this is not good enough.
“The root cause of workplace harassment, which disproportionately affects women, is gender inequality. We are calling for all MSPs and parliamentary staff to receive mandatory sexual violence prevention training and bystander training, so that they are educated on the gendered nature of this kind of behaviour."
The Scottish Parliament Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee launched their inquiry into sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct in 2017, following revelations of widespread harassment in both Westminster and Holyrood.
Since the last Scottish Parliament election, three MSPs have been accused of harassment. However, only one of these MSPs has been sanctioned. In June last year, Mark McDonald was suspended from Parliament for one month with no pay after MSPs voted on the issue.
The other two - Alex Rowley and Miles Briggs - were subject to investigations by their political parties but both investigations fell through, as the women involved felt unable to participate due to the onerous nature of the proceedings.
The Women's Equality Party has said that it wants to highlight the ongoing problem with workplace harassment in the Parliament, which it says should be setting the precedent on sexual harassment prevention.