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Daily Record
Lanarkshire Live & Hannah Rodger

SNP was warned former North Lanarkshire Council leader was 'not fit' to represent office

The SNP was warned just months after former North Lanarkshire Council leader Jordan Linden became a councillor that he was “not fit” to represent the party - and five young men have came forward to claim they were groomed, harassed or assaulted by Linden.

A party member concerned about Linden's rise through the ranks contacted SNP bosses to tell them of a litany of sexual harassment and sexual assault claims from multiple alleged victims.

An investigation by Lanarkshire Live's sister paper the Sunday Mail has revealed that those claims included:

● SENDING explicit pictures to a 14-year-old boy.

● ASSAULTING a teenager after the pair had to share a hotel room.

● GROOMING of young men.

● MESSAGING to apologise for sending inappropriate messages and nude images.

The warning was emailed to SNP bosses in November 2017, five months after Linden, who was hoping to become an MP, became an elected official in North Lanarkshire.

It read: “Jordan Linden is not fit to represent the SNP as a political organisation. I hope you do look into these details and question him on his previous conduct.”

Linden, 27, became leader of the council in May this year, but, as Lanarkshire Live reported last week, he was forced to resign .following accusations by a teenager that Linden had groped and sexually assaulted him at a party after Gay Pride in Dundee on September 21, 2019.

And now five men, who were all members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) or had links with the organisation’s projects, claim they were let down in 2016 when allegations emerged about Linden's conduct while chairman.

One of the alleged victims was just 14 when he claims Linden sent him semi-nude images and sexual messages.

Another man, 17 at the time, claims to have been sexually assaulted while at an overnight SYP event after being booked into a room with Linden containing a double bed.

In 2016 the SYP launched an internal investigation when allegations about Linden’s conduct were reported to the chief executive Ben McKendrick.

Despite the claims involving sexual harassment of children, a private law firm was contracted to investigate rather than police.

McKendrick and the SYP later dismissed the allegations as “false” and said Linden had “no case to answer”, while Linden described those who had made the claims as “liars”.

McKendrick remains as the SYP boss, and in 2019 was made a non-executive director of the Scottish Government.

Jack O’Hara, an events worker, joined the SYP in March 2015 and was among those who told lawyers he had been sent unsolicited images by Linden when he was just 14.

He claimed investigators were more focused on accusing him of wrongdoing than dealing with the allegations about Linden.

The 21-year-old history student from Edinburgh said: “There were a lot of people in the youth parliament who came from maybe broken homes, difficult backgrounds, had been bullied or just didn’t have a lot of friends at school.

“I was friends with Jordan for a time, but he was always pushing his luck and flirting.

“It would make me feel uncomfortable because you’d get Snapchats in the bath from him, or photographs of him getting .dressed.

“He was fully an adult and I was 14.”

Jack said the flirtatious messages continued “getting more sexual” and it was clear he had a “sexual interest” which was not reciprocated.”

SYP members, who are non-party political and aged 14 to 25, gather three times a year at different locations, with travelling attendees put up in hotels nearby to attend the sittings.

Jack O’Hara was among those who told lawyers he had been sent unsolicited images by Linden when he was just 14 (Callum Moffat/Sunday Mail)

At a meeting in Renfrewshire in June 2015, Jack claimed Linden came into his room and “started poking me and trying to tickle me.”

He said: “I was saying ‘Get off, stop it’ and he kept saying ‘What you gonna do, what you gonna do?'

“He was this heavy-set guy and was backing me into a corner, sort of daring me to try and get away from him. I can’t say it was an assault but it was unwanted and creepy, and I was a child.”

During the SYP investigation, Jack was accused of breaking the youth parliament’s guidelines.

Jack said: “I told them I had been sent images by Jordan and about the sort of messages he would send.

“I later got an email saying that I had breached the organisation’s rules by sharing an image, and there was talk about ‘revenge porn’ charges.

“I was criticised for my response to abuse by someone who was essentially grooming me – he was trying to start a sexual or intimate relationship while he was in a position of power, and I was a child.”

Jack’s mum Allison confirmed she had been present when her son disclosed to investigators he had received the images and sexually explicit messages, and was angered to learn the claims had been described as “false” by McKendrick.

She said: “I felt let down and feel that other young people who were in contact with Jordan were not protected.”

In May 2016 Linden resigned as SYP chairman, with members told he wanted to focus on his studies. In late 2017, the police were asked to look at the claims made against Linden, however officers were unable to find evidence of criminality and closed the investigation.

Several men who were interviewed by the police said they had been told the probe was dropped as there was not enough evidence.

It is claimed that Linden used Snapchat to send lewd images to young people, with the app deleting any messages after a short period of time.

None of the alleged victims could produce the photographs as they had already disappeared.

They claim Linden was apologising for sending sexually explicit photographs.

One man, who did not want to be named, said: “I was inundated, he would try to touch and cuddle me.

“I just pushed him aside, but as it continued I reported his behaviour to youth workers, and said I didn’t want to share a room with him on overnight trips.

Police Scotland would not confirm whether it did pass this information to the SYP, but re-issued its statement from 2017, saying: “A number of people have been spoken to and enquiries have now concluded with no criminality established.”

Ben McKendrick did not respond when we asked him why he described the claims as false, or why he did not immediately go to the police.

A spokesman for the SYP did not answer the Sunday Mail's specific questions, but said: “SYP wishes to make it clear that all allegations of harassment or inappropriate behaviour of any kind are taken very seriously, investigated thoroughly, and the appropriate action taken in line with our policies and national child protection guidance.

“Where deemed appropriate, and in line with these policies, relevant information would be passed on to external authorities such as the police or social services.”

When we put the allegations to Jordan Linden, he said he was previously investigated and added: “Clearly someone – for their own agenda - wishes to revisit an issue that has been fully investigated and concluded.

“As I said the other day, I just ask that I be allowed the space to focus on recovering my mental and physical health.”

Linden resigned as council leader on Wednesday after admitting wrongdoing, but said he intends to remain as an SNP councillor.

He said: “Although I have never approached any personal interaction with ill intent, I accept that my behaviour at that party in 2019 caused a sense of discomfort which I entirely regret.”

Linden's predecessor as leader of North Lanarkshire Council, North Lanarkshire Labour councillor Jim Logue, demanded the SNP hierarchy come clean on who knew what and when about the accusations against Linden.

He said: “Based on these new allegations, I am of a view that Councillor Linden is unfit to hold any public office and should seriously question his current position as a councillor.

“Since the election in May 2022 the SNP in North Lanarkshire have presided over three months of a complete absence of political leadership, with no committees meeting or any articulation of any policies or service developments.

“The questions for the SNP locally and nationally are: Who knew what about his presenting behaviours? Why was Councillor Linden approved as a councillor? And furthermore why was he elected as the Leader of the Council?

“We now have an administration which is incapable of providing the necessary leadership which North Lanarkshire expects or requires.”

An SNP spokeswoman said: “We were aware that the Scottish Youth Parliament had asked Police Scotland to investigate allegations that could have included individuals who were members of the Scottish National Party.

"We understand Police Scotland concluded that no action was required.

“The SNP takes all complaints seriously. If another organisation upheld a complaint against an SNP member, we would have had to consider if it had any impact on that individual’s membership status but our understanding is that no complaints were ever established.”

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