Ian Blackford is facing demands to quit as SNP Westminster chief for backing an MP who has been found guilty of sexual misconduct.
The senior nationalist politician was heard urging colleagues to offer support to Patrick Grady in a leaked recording from a meeting on Tuesday.
An independent probe found Mr Grady had made unwanted sexual advances to a staff member who was aged 19 at the time, back in 2016.
The Glasgow MP was also suspended by the party, but Mr Blackford has been slammed by rivals after he said he was “looking forward” to welcoming back Mr Grady.
According to The Times, SNP MPs have now been threatened with legal action due to the damning recording being leaked.
Scottish Labour said it was appalling that Mr Blackford was continuing to back Mr Grady despite his misconduct.
MSP Neil Bibby said: “That Ian Blackford and SNP MPs would stand and applaud after one of their colleagues admitted abusing his position to take sexual advantage of a staff member is disgusting.
“There is no place in politics for men who turn a blind eye to abuse because it has been perpetrated by a friend.
“Mr Blackford is leader of the UK’s third party and close ally of the First Minister, he must stand aside.”
Meanwhile, Scottish Tory MSP Craig Hoy said: “More effort appears to have gone into catching a mole than mending the hurt caused by Patrick Grady.
‘Ian Blackford must now resign’
“And rather than protecting a vulnerable staffer, they are protecting their own necks and watching their backs.
“But threatening legal action and interrogating their own MPs in this way is a new low even for the nationalists.
“Ian Blackford must now resign as Westminster leader or be sacked.”
Former SNP Westminster chief Angus Robertson defended Mr Blackford today and insisted he should not resign.
He said: “Having spoken to Ian Blackford in the past about this very testing situation, I know that he is mindful about the person in question who was treated inappropriately.
“I don’t think that Ian Blackford should face the calls that he is, especially from political parties throwing very large rocks while sitting in glass houses.”
Mr Grady was the SNP’s chief whip at Westminster until March 2021, but he was not removed from the post when his party reportedly became aware of allegations against him in 2017.
His victim said his life has been a “living hell” since he first made the complaint and claimed “the SNP has made me feel like it’s my fault”.
Mr Blackford has been SNP Westminster leader since 2017. He denied earlier this year he had plans to quit his post.