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Mandy Rhodes: Holyrood won’t be exempt from men behaving badly but I work there and don’t believe there’s a widespread culture of sleaze

Former SNP minister Mark McDonald resigned yesterday (Kris Miller / The Courier)
Former SNP minister Mark McDonald resigned yesterday (Kris Miller / The Courier)

IN the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations, the painful outpourings of women across the globe have exposed the catastrophic levels of everyday harassment and abuse inflicted by men who, puffed up by a misguided sense of their own power, see women as theirs for the taking.

And in any conversation about an abuse of power, the next natural step is for a light to be shone on where power ultimately lies. In politics.

Over the last week, the number of women at Westminster who claim to have been raped, assaulted, humiliated or abused by those we entrust with the running of our country, has been shocking. And worse, apparently routine.

Politics is a seductive mix of power, tribalism and ambition and when washed down with late nights, alcohol and relationships forged on a mutual passion, it can quickly spiral into something altogether more dangerous.

Revealed: Parliamentary sexual harassment scandal moves north to Holyrood as Mark McDonald resigns and Willie Coffey accused

The ensuing revelations quickly claimed the scalp of one cabinet secretary and, with the expectation of more to come, attention has inevitably turned to the Scottish Parliament.

Serious claims from respected lawyer Aamer Anwar that women at Holyrood have also been subjected to a catalogue of abuse have rocked the institution.

But, even after the sudden resignation of a minister, Mark McDonald, yesterday, facts remain difficult to establish.

Obviously, this may only reflect the hidden nature of the insidious practice of sexual abuse, but this is my place of work and I am now left wondering about who, what, and when?

Walking around the Scottish Parliament this last week, has been a subdued affair.

Invitations to meet for drinks in the bar have all but dried up and there’s a great big question mark hanging over the head of every man you meet. It seems unlikely to me that the Scottish Parliament would be immune to behaviour that exists right across society, but Westminster is clearly a funnel for old-school misogyny and I don’t believe the Scottish Parliament is the same.

It certainly will not be exempt from men behaving badly but I do not believe there is a widespread culture of sleaze.

It’s hard to prove a negative but on the basis of allegations, including stalking, sexting and sexual assault, the Scottish Parliament has been thrown into turmoil and self-examination.

With little tangible to go on but in the face of a growing clamour for “something to be done”, regardless of whether something needs to be done, the parliament has acted swiftly. A confidential phone line has been launched and a survey will be distributed to all those working within the parliament. That can be only for the good.

It has been said that the Scottish Parliament is at its best when it speaks with one voice and, on this, that must prove the rule. The workplace should be no one’s sexual playground and anyone that suffers harassment at work, sexual or otherwise, deserves the full protection of law and our understanding.

But, for what it’s worth, my own observation would be that Holyrood’s corridors of power are less awash with sleaze and more dripping in terror for fear of being found to be complacent.