Nearly a third of women working in the Scottish Parliament have reported being the victim of sexual harassment or sexism.
A survey ordered by Holyrood chiefs reveals more than 200 mostly female staff have been subjected to everything from serious criminal attacks to offensive remarks.
The parliament’s presiding officer Ken Macintosh said the report made for “difficult reading” and apologised to those who had been affected.
It revealed MSPs and other powerful figures in the building were the most likely to be the perpetrators.
One respondent said politicians can get away with inappropriate behaviour staff thanks to a culture in which staff are “conditioned to give them the VIP treatment”.
The First Minister said she was “shocked, saddened and disappointed” by the results and demanded those responsible change their behaviour.
The most commonly reported behaviour was sexist comments (12% of respondents), followed by looks, leers or remarks of a sexual nature (10%), unwanted physical contact (5%) and being asked sex-related questions (4%).
Nearly half (45%) of respondents at the Scottish Parliament, where 1,685 people work, said the perpetrator was an MSP.
Nicola Sturgeon called for a “clear course of action” from the parliament’s working group.
“Women or men experiencing harassment or sexism must never be made to feel that it is their fault,” she said.
“The most significant change that can be made in response to these results is a change in behaviour by the perpetrators.”
A fifth of staff – 30% of women and 6% of men – said they had experienced sexual harassment or sexist behaviour. The response rate was 61%.
There were 44 reports of unwanted physical contact, including at least two serious sexual assaults and 11 incidents of invasion of personal space.
The survey was carried out in the wake of revelations about the abhorrent sexual behaviour of Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood producer.
It also revealed concerns about reporting incidents, with a quarter (23%) not sure how to do so and 17% saying there is a culture of discouraging the report of sexual harassment.
One respondent said: “I’ve known the majority of people conducting in an inappropriate manner to be MSPs, as they know the staff here are conditioned to give them the VIP treatment.
“On the occasion that I did report the incident I felt like I was not listened to and not given chance to explain my concerns, in fact it was treated like idle office gossip and a bit of a joke”.”
Richard Leonard, the Scottish Labour leader, said: “Harassment of any kind is unacceptable and it is incredibly worrying that there is so little confidence in the reporting mechanisms.”
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said her party will put new measures into place to “make clear the standards we expect from elected and non-elected members”.
Mr Macintosh said: “I am sorry that people have experienced this type of behaviour while working here. I am determined to address this.”
The presiding officer added a working group to tackle the behaviour has “already started to identity the key strands of work it will take forward to address the issues raised by the report”.