Harassment Complaints (Scottish Government Handling)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 24 March 2021.

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Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

The First Minister has acknowledged the catastrophic failure of the Scottish Government in the handling of harassment complaints, and I welcome her comments.

The development of the policy was flawed, the appointment of the investigating officer was wrong and documents were even withheld from the Court of Session. I do not believe that the First Minister is happy with any of that, so why, three years on, has no one assumed responsibility? Why does she still have confidence in the permanent secretary who presided over all that terrible mess?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

I take responsibility for what happens in the Scottish Government, and I take responsibility for acknowledging when things go wrong and for putting right things that go wrong.

Many things matter to me. If I am re-elected as First Minister, there are—as we have reflected on during this First Minister’s question time—many priorities and many things in my in-tray and on my desk. However, few things matter more to me than making sure that we have a culture in the Scottish Government in which anybody who believes that they have been subjected to harassment can come forward and have confidence and trust that their complaints will be listened to and addressed properly.

The Government did make a mistake on that—I have certainly never shied away from that. However, I will also never shy away from saying this: it made a mistake in the course of trying to do the right thing. The Government was determined that—unlike what would undoubtedly have happened in years gone by—such complaints would not simply be swept under the carpet. That is the right starting point. What we must do now is put right the things that went wrong, so that mistakes are not made in the future. I deeply regret what happened, and I have apologised—and will continue to do so—to the women who were let down.

My final point is this. I do not say this in an adversarial sense, but I hope that Jackie Baillie will reflect on the fact that, in doing its important work, the committee also let women down by leaking misrepresentations of their evidence. Therefore, we all have things to learn. I hope that we will learn the important lessons that are there for all of us.