Nicola Sturgeon said she was “shocked, saddened and disappointed” after a survey revealed a fifth of staff working at the Scottish Parliament have experienced sexual harassment or sexism.
The confidential survey of more than 1,000 employees, commissioned by the Scottish Parliament but carried out by an independent market research company, found that 30% of women and 6% of men employed at Holyrood encountered the behaviour while working.
For women, the most commonly reported issues were comments of a sexist nature (20% compared to 2% of men), looks or leers (16% compared to 3%) and unwanted physical contact (9% versus 1%).
For those who had experienced sexual harassment 45% said it came from an MSP, 40% said the perpetrator was a member of the Scottish Parliament staff and 20% said a member of MSP staff was responsible.
The perpetrators were reported to be predominantly male and in a position of power.
The most common response when victims were asked what they had done about such behaviour was nothing.
Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer, Labour MSP Ken Macintosh said a joint working group set up to tackle sexual harassment would consider the findings.
“For an institution which prides itself on openness, inclusivity and on having progressive working practices, a number of the findings make for difficult reading,” he said. “I am sorry that people have experienced this type of behaviour while working here. I am determined to address this.”
He added: “Sadly, these issues are not unique to the Scottish Parliament. As an institution that reflects Scotland, Holyrood will inevitably reflect the inequality that exists in Scottish society. However, as the nation’s legislature, it is our duty to take a moral and political lead in tackling sexist behaviour and harassment.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said noone who experienced sexual harassment should be made to feel it was their fault.
She said: “I am shocked, saddened and disappointed by these survey results and I welcome the apology from the Presiding Officer to all of those who have experienced harassment or sexism while working in our Parliament.
“It is clear that women and men - but mainly women - have put up with behaviour that is unacceptable. Noone should be subject to harassment or sexist behaviour of any kind in their work or personal life and our national parliament should set a positive example as a place of work with the highest standards of behaviour.
“I have discussed the results of this survey with the Presiding Officer and the need for the Parliament’s working group to set out a clear course of action. Most importantly, women or men experiencing harassment or sexism must never be made to feel that it is their fault.
“The most significant change that can be made in response to these results is a change in behaviour by the perpetrators. People across the parliament from MSPs, to staff, to members of the media should be considering how they use the power they hold and whether their behaviour lives up to the high standards that we should all expect.
″I know the Parliament is also considering what education it will put in place for all who work in, and are regular visitors to, the parliamentary estate to address behaviours that can lead to sexism and harassment.
“In government we are also looking at what more we can do to support women and men who are subject to harassment in the workplace and to deep seated cultures of everyday sexism that still exist. The fact women and men have experienced harrassment or sexism in our parliament is a disgrace but we must seize this opportunity to change our society and culture for all and for good.”
Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, a member of the Parliament’s Corporate Body, added: “While these results are concerning, they are by no means surprising. We have known for many years that sexual harassment and sexist behaviour is present throughout our society. This survey confirms that Holyrood is not immune to the problem.
“I welcome the leadership shown by the Parliament in commissioning an independent survey and publishing the results in full. The key question now is how we tackle the issues it has uncovered. The Joint Working Group has already begun this task and, as a member of the Parliament’s Corporate Body, I’m committed to supporting their work and ensuring that the necessary steps are taken.
“While it’s incredibly important we support those who have experienced this behaviour and ensure perpetrators are held accountable, our overarching aim must be to create a culture which prevents sexual harassment and sexist behaviour from happening in the first place. That is our challenge and it will require the combined efforts of the Parliament, the political parties and all those who work here to achieve it.”