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Daily Record
Daily Record
Lanarkshire Live

MSP calls for Youth parliament reform following allegations

A Central Scotland MSP is calling for reform at the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) following allegations that it mishandled complaints including sexual harassment claims involving its ex-chairman Jordan Linden, the former North Lanarkshire Council leader.

Charity regulator OSCR has contacted the parliament and calls are being made for chief executive Ben McKendrick to stand aside while investigations are ongoing.

The Sunday Mail last month revealed the testimonies of five men who claim to have been groomed, sexually assaulted and harassed by Mr Linden and say that the charity and Mr McKendrick failed to protect them.

It reported how the SYP chose to investigate claims about Linden sexually harassing a child and young people without informing police in 2016, and that up to £30,000 was spent on private lawyers to conduct a probe, before dismissing the claims as “false”.

Councillor Linden was then forced to apologise after sexually harassing a young SNP member at a 2019 house party in Dundee – which led to his resignation as North Lanarkshire leader after only two months and then saw his party lose control of the local authority to Labour.

The Sunday Mail also reports that police have reached out to one young man who disclosed in 2017 that he had been sexually assaulted by Linden at an overnight event.

Shadow children’s minister Meghan Gallacher said of the investigation: “Those who have bravely come forward to detail their complaints need confidence in the investigation as it progresses. That will only be hindered the longer Ben McKendrick remains in his current roles of responsibility.

“Complainers have already been let down and that cannot happen again. The most appropriate thing for the chair of the SYP to do right now would be to remove himself from a position of power while this investigation concludes.”

The deputy Conservative leader has contacted current and former SYP members and has now written to education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville outlining concerns over “a culture of abuse, bullying, harassment and inappropriate sexual behaviour”.

Ms Gallacher said: “Some of the stories are harrowing. Several young people have told me their complaints have not been dealt with properly by those responsible for running the SYP – this has become more apparent with the recently-reported allegations against Jordan Linden.

“The culture must change and an urgent meeting with the Scottish Government is necessary to start to address the concerns of children and young people.”

She wrote to the education minister that the SYP upper age limit should be lowered from 25 to 18, as well as calling for a review of its complaints procedure “to ensure proper safeguards” and removing members from the complaints process “to end peer scrutiny and better deal with bullying and harassment complaints”.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government take allegations of harassment or inappropriate behaviour very seriously. We continue to liaise with SYP and we will keep the situation under review.”

A youth parliament spokesperson told the Daily Express: “A review of SYP processes followed in 2016 is being conducted by independent external advisors and the SYP chair.

“The review will not involve the chief executive in any capacity, other than potentially providing evidence of the processes followed at the time.“

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