The guidance on handling such complaints is produced by the independent Ethical Standards Commissioner for Scotland. Allegations of sexual misconduct against a councillor while they are performing their duties should be dealt with by the Ethical Standards Commissioner as a breach of the councillors’ code of conduct. Moreover, if a criminal offence may have taken place, that should be dealt with by Police Scotland.
Sexual misconduct is an issue that all parties should, and do, take very seriously. That is why the Scottish Government is currently taking forward measures to prevent individuals who are on the sex offenders register from being councillors.
Last week, a Scottish National Party councillor who claims to have been sexually assaulted by a former North Lanarkshire Council leader demanded reform of how the SNP handles sex complaints. It is the third claim of sexually inappropriate behaviour that has been made against that individual. Instead of supporting victims, however, North Lanarkshire SNP closed ranks. One councillor even claimed that Mr Linden had done nothing wrong and that “the only thing” that he was “guilty of” was “being ... young”.
Does the minister agree that victims should be protected by political parties, and does he think that councils should have in place additional measures for councillors should political parties fail to support them?
Thank you, Presiding Officer. As you allude to, I cannot comment on political parties. I refer the member to my first answer.
In considering how we move forward, it is unacceptable that people who are potential predators could be councillors. That is why we are undertaking measures to improve matters, including taking forward a review of section 31 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 in order to bar individuals who are on the sex offenders register from being councillors, and we are continuing to consider matters relating to the councillors’ code of conduct.