A FORMER Scottish Labour MP has been accused of sexually assaulting a female councillor at a social event while his wife sat across the table.

Carol Hughes, who stood down as a councillor in 2007, said the senior party figure put his hand up her dress and caressed her thigh for five minutes at a dinner.

The Sunday Herald knows the identity of the ex-MP but cannot identify him for legal reasons.

In an interview with the Sunday Herald, she said she felt “degraded” but did not want to “cause a scene” by challenging him.

Hughes, 60, says she is “seriously considering” making a formal complaint about the “violation” following the international revelations about sexual harassment in the worlds of politics and entertainment.

Political parties across the UK have been forced to rethink their internal procedures after a number of women came forward to allege sexual misconduct by elected representatives.

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In Labour, senior women in the party have gone on the record about harassment they have faced and their feelings of powerlessness.

Hughes was a three-term Labour councillor between 1995 and 2007 in South Lanarkshire, which back then was a majority Labour local authority.

She was a senior figure on the local authority community resources committee and was vocal in her opposition to school closures.

She also came from a Labour family as her father served as a councillor in the late 1960s.

However, Hughes did not restrict her activism to her local patch. She campaigned for the party across Scotland and attended UK and Scottish Labour conferences.

Now living in Derbyshire, Hughes has decided to open up about a disturbing incident she said occurred when she was a councillor.

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At a Labour event in an Indian restaurant, she said she found herself sitting beside a senior figure in the party.

“I happened to be sitting next to him," she said, "and then the next thing, his hand was right inside my dress and up my thigh. He was caressing my thigh.”

She said the assault lasted for around five minutes and the man’s wife was sitting across the table from them.

The senior party figure she accuses of sexual assault is a Scot and has been a Labour MP. Hughes said she told one close friend about the assault soon after it happened, but said of his reaction: “He was appalled at me for sitting and letting somebody do that.”

Asked if she believed that the alleged assault by the former MP would have been a one-off, she said: “No. If that’s indicative of someone’s behaviour, then it’s not going to be an isolated incident.”

She said: “People might say ‘why did you sit there and let that happen? Why didn’t you do anything in that situation?’ I was shocked, I suppose.

“The things that go through your mind. You don’t want to cause a fuss. You don’t want to cause a scene.”

Hughes added: “If you are already sort of half-way in the frame of mind that you are getting manipulated and you are only in the place because of the men, you are half way there to just being acquiescent to things like that. I’ve got problems with confidence and part of that is not being able to stand up for myself.”

Hughes, who is no longer a Labour member, said she had thought about the incident a “couple of times” over years, but never considered coming forward.

However, it was only after the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke that she told her sister on a holiday in Africa that she had also been sexually assaulted.

Her sister told the Sunday Herald: “We’d been talking about the spate of stories and she just told me what happened. I was horrified and quite sad. I encouraged her to come forward.”

Another turning point was seeing a female Labour MSP speak about her experience of being sexually assaulted by a senior party figure.

Monica Lennon told a newspaper earlier this month: “A man, who was a senior figure in the party, touched me in a manner that some would say is 'handsy'. He was sitting next to me when he groped me, in full view of other people.

"I don't want to go into the full details but he touched my body, in an intimate way, without invitation or permission. This shouldn't happen to anyone. It's possible at least half a dozen people saw exactly what happened.”

Hughes said: “I read about Monica Lennon and I thought ‘well, yes, maybe I will do something about it’. Why should you just accept something like that?”

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On considering a complaint to Labour, she said of her former party: “They are going to have to respond in some positive way.”

She said: “All the bullying and manipulation that goes on is being covered up. I don’t think they take people’s concerns seriously.

“I am not doing this to malign [the former MP]. I am doing it because there is this culture within the Labour party that allows people to bully and manipulate people.”

Hughes continued: “With all the allegations about Harvey Weinstein….it seems to me that women, and I include myself in this, have allowed these things to happen and thought ‘that’s just the way it is’.... It took one person to speak out and then you start to look at it in a different way.”

She initially believed some females were “jumping on the bandwagon”, but she said she has had a serious rethink. “Now I see it as something that has been widespread and tolerated. And it shouldn’t have been. I am looking at it from a completely different point of view. Nobody should do that to anybody.”

A Labour Party spokesperson said: “The Party takes all complaints of sexual harassment, abuse and discrimination extremely seriously.

“We ask that anyone with a complaint comes forward so that allegations can be properly investigated. When evidence of misconduct comes to light, all appropriate disciplinary action is taken in line with the Party’s rule book and procedures.

“The Party has been working with its affiliates to develop procedures specifically designed to deal with complaints of sexual harassment and safeguarding issues in order to improve internal processes and make it easier to report complaints.”