SNP WESTMINSTER leader Ian Blackford has spoken out about the leaked recording of him telling MPs to offer Patrick Grady "as much support as possible" after his suspension for inappropriate behaviour. 

After days of silence, Blackford joined fellow MP Amy Callaghan in releasing a statement apologising for the comments made in the audio clip, which was released to the Daily Mail over the weekend.

Blackford said it was of "deep regret" that a teenage SNP staffer had been subject to Grady's actions in the first place, and said an external review of support available to party staff would be launched.

READ MORE: Inside the SNP: What's being said after the Patrick Grady leaked recording?

"As SNP Westminster leader, I have a duty of care to all of our staff," Blackford wrote. "That is why I deeply regret that a member of staff was subject to inappropriate behaviour. It was completely unacceptable and should never have happened. I am sorry that it did.

"Staff must have full confidence that the group takes complaints seriously. In this case, the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme investigated what happened. We respect and accept that independent process."

He went on: "More than that, however, staff have a right to feel fully supported when a complaint is made. I regret that the complainant does not feel that this is the case. The way that this situation has played out publicly over the last few days, including recordings from the parliamentary group, has caused distress to the complainant amongst others and I am sorry that is the case.

"We will consider all lessons that must be learned to make sure staff have full confidence they will receive the support they need. As such, I am initiating an external review of support available to staff, to sit alongside the independent advice service and independent complaints process. 

"Raising complaints of this nature is never easy, and I am determined that staff have the support they need."

Responding to the comments, the Tories said "he must go".

Scottish Conservative chair Craig Hoy said: "It's astounding that it took Ian Blackford this long to realise he should apologise.

"The SNP Westminster leader has shown appalling judgement and is only now saying sorry in a ddesperate bid to save his own skin.

"His credibility is in tatters and he must go, so that no victim is ever let down this atrociously again."

Callaghan previously issued an apology over her own comments in the recording.

In an audio recording leaked to the Daily Mail newspaper of a meeting of SNP MPs,  Callaghan is allegedly heard telling her colleagues: “We should be rallying together around (Grady) to support him at this time.”

Blackford also features in the audio, urging members to offer Grady “as much support as possible” and has since been called on by opposition parties to step down.

Callaghan, the MP for East Dunbartonshire, was the first MP heard speaking at the meeting to issue an apology about what was said in the leaked audio.

On Monday, she posted a statement on Twitter which read: “This can and should only start with a wholehearted apology to anyone – especially survivors of harassment – who has been hurt or triggered as a result of this week.

“I have been searingly reflective and honest with myself. Whilst I can’t forgive myself for how inappropriate it was for me to frame my input this way, I owe everyone, not least survivors and my constituents, an explanation.

“I am both sorry and, ultimately, take full responsibility for my words as insensitive, poorly worded and misplaced as they were.

“I’m taking full accountability for the hurt and disappointment I’ve caused, not least of all to those directly impacted by sexual misconduct in this case.”

Last week, Glasgow North MP Patrick Grady was found by an independent investigation to have behaved inappropriately towards a member of staff at a party function in 2016 and suspended from Parliament for two days.

The victim was a teenager at the time.

The party also withdrew the whip from the MP until he had served his suspension.

The handling of the complaint has drawn criticism, most notably from the victim himself, who said he had been made to feel as though it was his fault and his life had been made a “living hell”.

In her statement, Callaghan, who returned to the House of Commons earlier this year after spending months in hospital after suffering a brain haemorrhage, went on to talk about how survivors of sexual misconduct must be supported.

“I should have prefaced my comments and reiterated this throughout my contribution,” she added.

“I believed I was in a situation where my support of survivors was implied. I was wrong. This isn’t good enough.

“My comments without this context absolutely warrant the upset they have caused. I am truly sorry.”

She said the SNP is “falling short” in supporting complainants adding: “Zero tolerance can’t be a slogan, it has to be real.”

The MP said she has written to the group’s chief whip asking for a “full root and branch review” by an independent organisation looking into misconduct and harassment structures.

Grady made an apology in the Commons after the suspension was handed down, saying: “I am profoundly sorry for my behaviour and I deeply regret my actions and their consequences.”

A Scottish Government minister has said Blackford, his party’s Westminster leader, should not resign after he urged SNP MPs to support Patrick Grady.

READ MORE: SNP MP Patricia Gibson cleared of sexual harassment by Westminster investigation

Neil Gray, who was MP for Airdrie and Shotts from 2015 to 2021, however, said he believed the sanctions on Grady were “right”.

When asked if he believed Mr Blackford and Mr Grady should resign, he said: “No, I think there was an independent process that was set up and agreed by all parties at Westminster that ensured that people who had complaints were able to come forward and have them considered in an independent fashion.

“That process concluded that there was a sanction to be meted out on Patrick Grady which was absolutely right and the SNP group at Westminster mirrored that sanction.

“So, I think now what’s important is ensuring that all parties concerned – obviously my first thought is with the complainant – and ensuring they have the support that they require, but that all parties have the pastoral support that is required going forward and that, obviously, following incidents like this, we always reflect and ensure that our processes as a party or Westminster group are as responsive as possible and make sure that we learn any lessons that are necessary.”