Independent inquiry into Marine Scotland bullying claims urged by MSP

An MSP has called for a “truly independent inquiry” into the treatment of a Scottish Government agency employee who was pictured taped to a chair at work.

Scottish Labour’s Rhoda Grant made the call as she claimed DeeAnn Fitzpatrick suffered “institutional racism, sexism, harassment and abuse at the hands of Marine Scotland”.

The Highlands MSP described her constituent as a “brave, courageous woman” and said she has endured oppressive behaviour over years.

Equalities Minister Christina McKelvie said the case is the subject of an ongoing internal process, making it inappropriate for her to comment at this stage.

Ms Fitzpatrick previously claimed she experienced bullying and harassment while employed as a fisheries officer at Marine Scotland’s Scrabster office in the Highlands.

The Canadian national lost a case at an employment tribunal in June last year, which did not consider the restraint incident alleged to have occurred in 2010.

Scottish Cabinet meeting
Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government Leslie Evans alongside First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (Andrew Milligan/PA)

In 2018, Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government Leslie Evans was asked to review the case of Ms Fitzpatrick by the First Minister and concluded the chair incident was “completely unacceptable, whatever the circumstances”.

Ms Grant used a member’s debate on condemning misogyny and harassment to raise the whistleblower’s case in a speech she described as “probably the most difficult” one she has made.

She claimed a manager “referred to women in extremely derogatory terms”.

“I cannot repeat the language used here in the chamber, but it was racist, sexist, vicious and degrading,” Ms Grant told MSPs.

“DeeAnn has been subject to institutional racism, sexism, harassment and abuse at the hands of Marine Scotland, a Scottish Government directorate.”

Ms Grant said “the abuse continues”, despite her raising the matter at senior levels in Government.

Over years “the oppressive behaviour is constant and undermining”, Ms Grant said, adding her constituent was “constantly being held to a different standard than others”.

“I’m told by a colleague that this was deliberate and systematic conduct by others in the office and in the line of command in Marine Scotland, designed to wear her down and force her out,” she said.

On the photograph, she said: “Officers photographed her to humiliate and degrade her because she spoke out about inappropriate behaviour in the workplace.”

The MSP claimed Ms Fitzpatrick has not been suspended but has been given no reason why she is not allowed to return to work and is being “pursued by Marine Scotland with further disciplinary action”.

She told the chamber: “The First Minister’s investigation only looked at the incident with the photograph, neither was it independent.”

She demanded “a truly independent inquiry” into Ms Fitzpatrick’s treatment, saying: “It cannot be put off any longer.”

SNP MSP Rona Mackay described the case as “extremely shocking”, while Green co-convener Patrick Harvie said it was an “experience which I hope all of us across the chamber would find utterly intolerable”.

Conservative MSP Annie Wells said: “I hope that this goes some way to ensuring that DeeAnn gets the independent inquiry that she absolutely, desperately deserves.”

Ms McKelvie told MSPs that “misogyny, racism, harassment and sexism have no place in today’s society, or in our working environment”.

On the case in question, she said: “I appreciate and I know how strongly Rhoda Grant and many others feel about the issues that DeeAnn has faced.

“I know that it is still subject to an ongoing process, an internal process, that really I shouldn’t be getting involved in.

“It would be completely inappropriate for me to comment on (it) at this time.

“I know that Rhoda Grant has been offered a meeting with Scottish Government officials to discuss this and I would urge her to take up that offer if she can.”

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