THE FORMER SNP equalities chief has issued a damning report about a lack of progress tackling complaints within the party.

Fiona Robertson, who was the Equalities Convener until the SNP’s annual conference last week, has warned that party leaders’ inaction is causing people from minority backgrounds to turn away from politics altogether.

Speaking to the Herald on Sunday, Ms Robertson said there were “years’ worth” of complaints still waiting to be handled by officials, and the current system is not fit for purpose.

She said she knew of people who had withdrawn from standing for council elections or decided not to proceed with selection processes as they felt they would be left alone to handle abuse without party support.

The poor progress in tackling abuse and complaints from within the party, she said, will result in a dilution of diversity within Scottish politics, due to the sheer size of the SNP in comparison to other Scottish parties.

Ms Robertson’s final report, published last week, set out her attempts to create a more inclusive party for people from Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, as well as women, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and those with disabilities.

However, she explained, this was not as successful as she had hoped and urged party leaders to now take action.

The report explains that “despite feeling our party are failing its membership” Ms Robertson was proud of some of the achievements made in the last election.

She wrote: “ Seeing a cohort of disabled MSPs take their seats in Holyrood was a joy, especially as it required systemic changes which we had to fight for.”

“There’s a lot I have not been able to change. I came into office with grand plans, and have instead spent much of it fighting on two fronts – first from the hostile-to-equalities groups who have spun conspiracy theories and lies out of rumours or misrepresentations, and second from the people who have allowed that group to make us the scapegoat for all the frustrations about communication, systems and internal democracy.”

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Ms Robertson warned that a “significant number of people who had been considering candidacy for local government have decided not to proceed, as being a woman, disabled, BAME or LGBTQ+ without the backup of a robust disciplinary procedure to deal with these kinds of harassment and discrimination is too high a risk.”

She said there had been an effort to “nurture and support potential candidates, but many have either experienced or have seen how people have been targeted without recourse.”

Ms Robertson later explained that she feared the lack of support from the SNP leadership would create a less diverse political landscape, due to the size of the SNP and the power it has across all levels of government in Scotland.

Currently the SNP has control of, or shares power over, 14 of Scotland’s 32 councils; has 64 of Holyrood’s 129 MSPs, and 45 of Scotland’s 59 MPs.

Finishing the report, Ms Robertson said the “ineffective complaints procedures, our unwillingness to tackle abusive incidents and infringements at the highest level, only enables further hostility within the grassroots movement” adding: “This must change and leadership must step up to tackle these issues without delay. They will not go away on their own.”

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She later told this newspaper that she was frustrated by the lack of action on handling complaints, and worried about the impact this would have going forward.

Ms Robertson said: “As much as my report isn’t particularly positive, it is out of concern rather than malice.

“I want the SNP to be the natural home for more people but we need to keep people safe while they are with the SNP so they are able to take part in politics and not have it threaten their wellbeing or their health.

“We have this huge capacity to do amazing things, and have people in the party who want that and are working hard for it, but I wish that the people who make the decisions would listen to us a bit more.

“I’ve now left my role, but there are plenty of other people who are still involved, who have a lot to offer, and who want to be used as resources with knowledge and information and insight.

“It doesn’t matter if we have our nice resources and introduce definitions of abuse – none of that matters if it is not enforced.”

She said that concerns of people from the LGBT community in particular have not been addressed, leaving them feeling “isolated”, and some people from BAME backgrounds have also struggled when trying to get help with abuse they have suffered within the SNP.

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As widely reported over the past several years, the SNP has been dealing with accusations of transphobia from within the party, with several high-profile activists announcing they were quitting earlier this year due to its inaction.

This sparked mass resignations of mainly younger SNP members, who were angry at the perceived lack of leadership in tackling the issue.

At the end of January, Nicola Sturgeon posted a video on social media in response to the reports that young people were giving up their membership cards, saying: “It grieves me deeply that you have reached this conclusion because you consider at this stage the SNP not to be a safe, tolerant or welcoming place for trans people. That is not acceptable to me.”

Ms Robertson said the party still has a “long way to go” to become a “safe place”, adding: “For LGTB, people, we’ve gone from being the ones who lead Pride parades to people who are viewed with suspicion in our own community.

“We are the party of government. We should be demonstrating what it looks like when people stand up for minorities and inclusion. That means doing more than just making a nice speech every now and again. It means actually challenging and doing difficult things.

“The issue with the community aspect, as a member of the LGBT community myself, we can’t defend the party, we can’t defend it. We are still giving cover and legitimacy to a party that is doing harm.”

The SNP was contacted for comment but did not respond.