THE allegations of sexual misconduct surrounding film producer Harvey Weinstein, while familiar to far too many women, had seemed a scandal limited to shining a light on the dark underbelly of Hollywood.

Instead, in just a couple of weeks, it has triggered admissions of sexual harassment and exposed deep-rooted and long-standing behaviours towards women in almost every aspect of public life.

Far from being immune, politics at all levels has been a breeding ground for misogyny, sexism and misconduct towards women. Its exposure is the biggest crisis politics has faced since the MPs expenses scandal several years ago. Public representatives were jailed then. Few of us will be surprised if an elected politician were again to face similar consequences over past or repeated behaviours.

In recent days I have heard the claims of victims and the subsequent investigations and resignations of those accused described as “an inquisition” or a “witch hunt”.

They are neither of those things. They are a long overdue serious and appropriate response to behaviour that has deliberately targeted and attacked the dignity and equality of women. This moment is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on and face up to, once and for all, a culture which exists in every workplace in Scotland and the UK.

It has created a situation where men – especially men who hold positions of power over others - must examine their past or present conduct towards women, and where women can have the confidence to say ‘this is unacceptable and I will not tolerate this’.

Glasgow City Council is the biggest local authority in the country. It is also an employer for tens of thousands. We should set a standard of no less than zero tolerance of sexual harassment. In recent years, the City Chambers has not been immune to allegations of harassment and bullying of women – with, it has too often seemed, the same kind of shrug of the shoulders non-response that has pervaded other political institutions.

Well not any more. At last week’s full council, my colleague Feargal Dalton and I tabled an emergency motion where we made it loud and clear that sexual harassment in the workplace is wrong and will not be tolerated.

We acknowledged the emergence of issues in Holyrood and Westminster over the last few days and noted that while we in Glasgow City Council have established procedures where people can raise concerns about harassment and bullying in confidence, we want to ensure they are appropriate and working.

I was pleased that our call for the Council Chief Executive to make sure our processes were fit for purpose and to swiftly implement any improvements was supported unanimously.

As a result the Chief Executive will look at the feasibility of putting in place an additional confidential, independent route to raise issues, ensuring women in particular have the confidence to raise any concerns they might have about conduct in the workplace.

We will ensure that any of our staff or politicians are comfortable and confident about reporting harassment and bullying and that appropriate action will be taken. We must also ensure that our systems are equally robust if allegations are made against either a member of staff or a politician.

Glasgow has much to build on. A political leadership and senior management largely female in make-up is already bringing cultural change to how we do business and interact. Last week’s unanimous motion is another step forward.

These revelations have been a wake-up call to everyone in politics and beyond.

Some of those whose past behaviour has now caught up with them have tried to excuse it as being acceptable ‘at the time’. It never was – not in 1997, not in 2007, not ever. But we now find ourselves in 2017, and those harassing and bullying have exhausted their excuses. We may not have yet reached the darkest hour in this current scandal but it could lead our political institutions and society as a whole to light on the other side.

On another note...

LAST week’s full council also saw Glasgow take another lead at local level, this time on tackling period poverty.

Several weeks ago the Scottish Government announced sanitary products would be provided for free in schools, colleges and universities, making us one of the first countries in the world to take on this issue.

My colleague, and the City Government’s convener for equalities, Jen Layden, acknowledged the cross-party work done on period poverty to date but raised concerns about where women and girls in vulnerable situations could fall through the net.

With this in mind Jen proposed a motion where we would work with our Government colleagues in Edinburgh to develop and implement a plan to introduce free sanitary products in Glasgow schools and to scope out extending access to others.

Following cross-party support and taking on board amendments put forward by Labour and the Greens, a pilot project running in four city secondaries will look at the best way to give out products from August 2018.

It will give us a sense of how widespread this issue is in city schools and whether lack of access to sanitary products is affecting school attendance for some female pupils.

It was a good example of our ability to work across political boundaries and across tiers of government for the benefit of our citizens.

AND finally, 50 years ago this week Scottish politics was changed forever with Winnie Ewing’s victory in the Hamilton by-election.

Enough has been written and said over the years about the impact of that victory on our political landscape and how it marked the SNP’s coming of age. But Winnie was also an inspiration for women in politics in this country and beyond.

At the weekend celebrations in Winnie’s honour were held in Hamilton, with events planned for Glasgow and London later this month. If ever a Scots politician of our time merited a celebration its Winnie.