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Ian Blackford defends himself as he urges Patrick Grady to ‘reflect on his behaviour’

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IAN Blackford has defended himself over the handling of complaints against SNP MP Patrick Grady.

The party’s Westminster leader was grilled by STV News at Six over the incident after opposing parties called on him to resign.

Grady was suspended from the Commons for two days and from the SNP until his suspension was served after the independent investigation was concluded.

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The Glasgow North MP was found to have acted inappropriately towards a young member of party staff, making unwanted advances.

A leaked audio recording heard Blackford urging SNP MPs to give Grady their full support.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: I will apologise to Patrick Grady victim in person

Blackford has suggested he did nothing wrong during the complaint process but said he will “see what learnings” will come out of the ordeal.

Defending himself, Blackford said Grady must consider “his behaviour and where he goes from that”.

The Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP said there “has to be due process”, following Grady’s two-day suspension after he was found to have made a sexual advance to a teenage SNP staffer.

Blackford said: “The simple fact of the matter is that under the process, Patrick Grady was found guilty of inappropriate behaviour and he was suspended from Parliament for two days.”

Blackford was asked by STV why he has not kicked Grady out of the party.

He responded: “The decision that was taken on a proportionate basis given a two-day suspension by Parliament [was] that Patrick Grady would be suspended for a week.

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“Now it’s up for Patrick Grady to reflect on his behaviour and where he goes from that.”

Blackford was then asked what he did wrong in the handling of the complaints process. He responded: “I am not suggesting that I did anything wrong in that process.

“I am the leader of the SNP and I have responsibility to staff. Of course I don’t take any part in the disciplinary process – in the independent process that takes place.

“But I have a duty to make sure that any complainer – in this case, in all cases – is fully supported. I believe that I’ve done that, but I will of course, as SNP Westminster Leader, see what learnings have to come out of this.”

Blackford’s comments come as Nicola Sturgeon said that the leaked recording of SNP MPs supporting Grady after he was found to have acted inappropriately towards a member of party staff was “utterly unacceptable”.

In the recording, Blackford was joined by fellow SNP MPs Amy Callaghan and Marion Fellows whourged colleagues to support Grady.

Callaghan has since issued a fulsome apology for her remarks.

In her first comment on the recording, the First Minister said it “reveals part of what was wrong on that case”.

The complainer has repeatedly hit out at the SNP, for whom he still works, over its handling of the issue, saying his life has been made a “living hell” and raising the possibility of legal action.

Questioned on the issue by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Sturgeon said: “What I have heard suggests that more concern was shown for the perpetrator of this behaviour than the victim of it.

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“I think that is utterly unacceptable and that is something I will be very clear about.”

Sturgeon also said she had been subjected to two years of “pretty gruelling investigation” because she “refused to brush certain things under the carpet” – eluding to the inquiry over the botched handling of an investigation into allegations of inappropriate behaviour against her predecessor Alex Salmond.

The First Minister also said: “All parties have faced this – there are two (Westminster) by-elections happening today because of behaviour on the part of Conservative MPs.

“All parties have faced this, all parties have been criticised, including in these cases for their handling of these matters, and I think it is important for all of us – and I will simply speak for myself – that somebody in my position should not sit in a glass house throwing stones about these things.

“We should sort these things out when they arise in our own parties, that’s what I intend to do for the SNP and I think it’s what all leaders should do when it arises in their parties as well.”

In response, Ross – who also serves as an MP for Moray – said the by-elections were caused by the resignations of the MPs concerned. Imran Ahmed Khan quit after being convicted of sexual assaulting a teenage boy, and Neil Parish resigned after he watched pornography in the House of Commons.

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Ross added: “I know the First Minister wants to make this about other parties and other parts of the country, but the fact that we have two by-elections today is because Conservative MPs have been suspended and resigned from Parliament.

“Patrick Grady has been suspended for 48 hours.”

Sturgeon responded: “I think people listening will hear me take these issues extremely seriously, I don’t think they will have heard me try to make it all about other parties, but what they will have heard me say is something all of us must reflect on.

READ MORE: FMQs Sketch: Sexual harassment point scoring reduces politicians to vultures

“If I was standing here saying ‘the SNP has got no issues here, it’s all about the Conservatives or Labour’, I would be showing that I do not understand the systemic nature of these issues.”

The First Minister added that if Ross claims such issues are a problem “uniquely for the SNP”, then “he doesn’t understand the systemic society-wide nature of these issues”.

Blackford told STV: “It is up to Patrick Grady to reflect on his behaviour and where he goes from that.

“But the SNP rightly took the decision on the basis of the suspension from Parliament that the SNP would suspend Patrick Grady.”

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