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Daily Record
Daily Record
Hannah Rodger

Scottish Youth Parliament probed over alleged mishandling of sexual harassment claims

Charity regulators are probing the Scottish Youth Parliament after allegations it mishandled complaints about grooming and sexual harassment.

Calls are now being made for its chief executive Ben McKendrick to stand aside while investigations are ongoing.

As revealed by the Sunday Mail, the organisation chose to investigate claims about its ex-chairman Jordan Linden sexually harassing a child and young people without informing police i n 2016.

Charity bosses spent up to £30,000 on private lawyers to conduct a probe, before dismissing the claims as “false”.

Linden, who went on to become an SNP councillor in North Lanarkshire following his tenure at the SYP, was then forced to apologise after sexually harassing a young SNP member in 2019 at a drunken house party in Dundee.

He quit as council leader days after our story and the SNP lost control of the local authority to Labour.

Last month, we revealed the testimonies of five men who claim to have been groomed, sexually assaulted and harassed by Linden in the SYP, but said the charity and McKendrick failed to protect them.

OSCR, the charity regulator, has contacted the SYP.

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

Meghan Gallagher, Tory MSP and party deputy leader, has called for McKendrick to step aside from the SYP and as non-executive director at the Scottish Government.

She said: “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 Central Scotland MSP has contacted current and former SYP members and has now written to minister Shirley-Anne Somerville.

Gallagher, the shadow children’s minister, has called for the age range of members of the SYP to be lowered, reducing the upper limit from 26 to 18, and added: “Some of the stories are harrowing.

“I could not believe that young people, especially minors, were subjected to a culture of bullying,
harassment, and inappropriate sexual behaviour.

“To make matters worse, 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 of bullying and harassment must change and an urgent meeting with the Scottish Government is necessary to start to address the concerns of children and young people.”

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 Scottish Youth Parliament spokeswoman chose not to comment.

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