Ian Blackford is today under new pressure over backing Patrick Grady after an SNP MP apologised for speaking up for the disgraced politician.

There were calls over the weekend for the party's Westminster leader to step down after he told his group last week they should give Mr Grady their "full support".

In a leaked recording of Mr Blackford's meeting with the group, SNP MP Amy Callaghan and colleague Marion Fellows threw their weight behind Mr Grady.

At the start of the recording Ms Callaghan told the group: “I think we should be rallying together for this campaign, but also regardless of our position on Patrick’s situation, we should be rallying together around him to support him at this time as well.

“I don’t think we are very good as a party at supporting each other and I think we should be making sure that he feels supported at this point, so if we can all reach out to him, or do so if you feel able to, we should probably be doing that.”

As she was speaking some people could be heard saying “hear hear” while some others started clapping.

Later in the recording, Motherwell and Wishaw MP Ms Fellows is heard saying: "Patrick is not out of our thoughts and Patrick is getting supported. Just because people don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn't happening. I want to make that very clear."

But in a statement posted on Twitter this afternoon Ms Callaghan apologised for her comments and said her support for Mr Grady's victim, who was 19 at the time of the incident in 2016, was "implied".

"This can and should only start with a wholehearted apology to anyone – especially survivors of harassment – who has been hurt or triggered as a result of this week," she wrote.

“I have been searingly reflective and honest with myself. Whilst I can’t forgive myself for how inappropriate it was for me to frame my input in this way, I owe everyone, not least survivors and my constituents, and explanation:

"I am both sorry and ultimately take full responsibility for my words, as insensitive, poorly worded and misplaced as they were.

"I’m taking full accountability for the hurt and disappointment I’ve caused, not least of all to those directly impacted by sexual misconduct in this case.

"Survivors must be supported. I should have prefaced my comments and reiterated this throughout my contribution. I believed I was in a situation where my support of survivors was implied.

"I was wrong. This isn’t good enough. My comments without this context absolutely warrant the upset they have causes. I am truly sorry.

"As a party we are clearly falling short in supporting complainants. There must be structures of support in place, first, forecast and without equivocation – for survivors of harassment. Zero tolerance can’t be a slogan it has to be real." 

The MP confirmed she had written to the group’s chief whip asking for a “full root and branch review” by an independent organisation looking into misconduct and harassment structures.

In her statement today, Ms Callaghan went on to say that she was trying "on a basic human level" to ensure "mental health, counselling or rehabilitative support for a colleague" to prevent "unacceptable incidents" from happening again.

She wrote: "I can see now how hollow and inappropriate a request that was if that same offer of support was not also given to the complainant."

She added: "I cannot condone how this was presented on my part. This was wrong, insensitve and I am deeply sorry."

In the leaked recording Mr Blackford is heard saying: “I think most of you know how I feel about Patrick and I would encourage the group to deliver as much support as possible.

“And let’s look forward to next week, he is going to face a number of challenges over the short term and he has our absolute full support.

“And I for one, very much looking forward to welcoming Patrick back into the group next week.”

In their report, published on Tuesday, parliament’s sleaze watchdog, the Independent Expert Panel, said that Mr Grady "under the influence of alcohol, made a sexual advance to the complainant in the mistaken belief that this advance would be welcomed."

They also detailed the “significant effects” that the harassment has had on the victim, including “significant psychological consequences, leading to medical engagement”, and “significant consequential physical impacts on the complainant’s health”.

Its report said: “His work life and social life have been profoundly affected, markedly reducing the quality of both.

"He has been medically signed off work, and is likely to remain off work for a significant further period. He has doubts as to whether he will be able to return to work in the political sphere, which was his longstanding ambition.”

Both the Tories and Labour have called on Mr Blackford to resign. But he’s also facing criticism from within the SNP. 

Asked if Mr Blackford should go, Angus Robertson, the Scottish Government's constitution secretary, told BBC’s Scotland Sunday Show yesterday: “No, I don't and having spoken to Ian Blackford in the past about this very testing situation, I know that he is very, very mindful of the person in question who was treated inappropriately.

“There must be pastoral care for people in those circumstances." 

When it was pointed out that the man said he has not received this care, Mr Robertson said: “Well, I've said that everybody should be able to receive that and, you know, it would not be appropriate for that not to have been offered but I just make the point that these very difficult situations, when one has an independent process that looks at what has been involved, on the one hand, absolutely, victims must come first, and people who've been treated inappropriately must be supported. 

“But we've had an independent process that made a decision that the MP in question should be suspended for two days. 

“And that is what has happened. He's been suspended by the SNP group at Westminster as well.

“I think there is a wider question as to when decisions are made which do not talk about career-ending situations, if that is what the conclusion is, then there has to be a way back for people while at the same time supporting people who've been treated inappropriately.

“And for that reason, I don't think that Ian Blackford should face the calls that he is, especially from political parties throwing very large rocks while sitting in glass houses.”

The panel’s report raised questions about how Mr Blackford dealt with the complaint. 

Despite the party being aware of the complaint, Mr Grady was allowed to remain in post as the SNP's Chief Whip until March 2021 - when The Herald first revealed the accusations against him.

He was even allowed to speak in a 2019 Commons debate about the harassment of staff.

In an interview with the Daily Record, the man criticised Mr Blackford: “I think Blackford owes all the staff an apology for his role in this. It’s not just me who is impacted by this.

“I think he owes an apology to all the staff and the group of MPs.”

In his Commons apology, Mr Grady said he was “profoundly sorry”.

He admitted that the case was “aggravated by a considerable disparity in age and authority between myself and the complainant and further aggravated by excessive consumption of alcohol on my part”.

Mr Grady said he had “learned significant lessons through this process” and insisted that “such behaviour on my part will never happen again”.