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All political parties must improve how they deal with inappropriate behaviour, says Finance Secretary Kate Forbes who was speaking amid the latest scandal that has left PM Boris Johnson clinging to his job

By Scott Maclennan

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One of Scotland’s top politicians has said “all parties” must recognise they have to do better when dealing with inappropriate behaviour.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes was speaking in Inverness amid the turmoil triggered by allegations engulfing Conservative MP Chris Pincher which has left the Prime Minister fighting for his political life.

At the time of writing, even Boris Johnson's close ally Michael Gove had called for him to go while 27 ministers and aides had resigned over the handling of the case which drew parallels with allegations around SNP MP Patrick Grady.

The SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford – the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber – survived calls for his resignation over his handling of the issue.

But pressure continues to mount on Boris Johnson due to his track record of allegedly misleading both parliament and the public on multiple occasions.

Can political parties still police their own members behaviour?

Asked whether independent procedures should be developed because parties appear incapable of policing themselves, Ms Forbes admitted that the public were losing patience with scandal after scandal.

“I think that is a really important question,” she said. “And I fully agree that parties, all parties, need to recognise and accept that they have had situations and circumstances that could have been dealt with much more effectively.

“And it's not any single party – there is blame across all parties, in terms of handling, in terms of approach and in terms of behaviour. Ultimately, I don't blame the public for being completely scunnered and cheesed off with some of the behaviour that we have seen.

“I think you're right that politics does set the tone for the country but I think we also need to accept that this may not be unique to politics either.”

Victims must still come first and progress must not be lost

Ms Forbes also underlined that the focus must remain on those who have been subject to attack or unwanted behaviour so that victims did not lose confidence that complaints would be listened to.

She said: “Over the last few years in particular we have seen far more confidence amongst victims or complainants to come forward and we cannot let that confidence be eroded by some of the challenges around handling that we've seen – and I use that word challenges knowing that's putting it mildly.”

Potential local impact of Westminster crisis

The turbulence at Westminster comes as an enormously important decision is set to be handed down regarding Green Freeports, so could that impact or even delay the decision as those backing the Opportunity Cromarty Firth bid wait for a response.

“Well, I, as one of the judges, sincerely hope that that can progress well and I see no reason why it can't progress," she said.

“I think this has the potential to be genuinely transformational for our economy, particularly at a time when we've got the Scotwind leasing round, we know that we need to develop and build a stronger supply chain.

"And we know that there are great businesses across Scotland that could benefit from some of the policy proposals within the Green Freeports.

“So I certainly see no reason why we can't meet the original deadline and, obviously, the Scottish Government will have 50 per cent of the say, the UK government will have the other 50 per cent of the say. And we're absolutely committed to delivering."

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