WOMEN in Holyrood are “acutely aware” of its sex pests but are held back out of a sense of party loyalty, according to Kezia Dugdale.

The former Scottish Labour leader made the claim in an article yesterday following a series of allegations about how women in politics are treated north and south of the Border, and just over a week after the resignation of Scottish Government childcare minister Mark McDonald.

In a column for a Sunday newspaper, Dugdale wrote: “The fierce ... challenge of power and loyalties apply in the Scottish Parliament today, where women within the parties are acutely aware of who the pests are but party loyalty comes first.

“When you live and breathe this world, you can’t pollute it with uncomfortable truths. That’s why no party, however well meaning, can fix this culture with a beautifully crafted harassment policy.

“It has to be done outwith the political system by completely independent agencies who will both handle the allegations and provide the necessary support to victims.”

Holyrood attempted to address the scandal last week, setting up a hotline which women working in the building could use to raise their concerns.

Moves also got under way to end the male dominance of Holyrood’s governing corporate body with one male MSP quitting after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declared it “unacceptable” that there were no women members.

SNP backbencher Gordon Macdonald stood down from the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB), with party bosses confirming his place will be filled by a female colleague.

Scottish Green MSP Andy Wightman also said he would stand down from the SPCB after Holyrood “agreed to a mechanism for appointing a more gender-balanced corporate body”.

The Lothian MSP, who is likely to be replaced by Alison Johnstone, said he was taking action because he believed “the structures of our Parliament should be representative of the public we seek to serve”.

In a further move, a Holyrood committee last week announced it will launch an inquiry into the procedures and rules governing complaints of sexual harassment.

MSPs on the standards, procedures and public appointments committee agreed to look at the processes for dealing with allegations of sleaze and sexual misconduct and also the culture surrounding Holyrood.

As part of the work, the committee will also examine the MSP code of conduct following a request from the parliament’s Presiding Officer, Ken Macintosh.

A series of investigations is taking place around the country following a number of complaints made by women politicians and activists across parties.

Last week, Central Scotland Labour MSP Monica Lennon became the first politician north of the Border to publicly tell of her experience of being assaulted. She said the incident happened at a Labour Party social event and was joked about by others.

McDonald stood down as childcare and early years minister last weekend after it emerged he had sent a text message to a woman which included a reference to a sex act. The woman who received the message said she spoke out as she believed “people have to change”.

“The bottom line in this is there’s no point in people coming forward if people don’t change,” she said.