Website survey

We want your feedback on the Scottish Parliament website. Take our 6 question survey now

Skip to main content

Language: English / Gàidhlig


Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, November 10, 2016

Meeting of the Parliament 10 November 2016

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Accessible Hospital Transport, Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body Question Time, Climate Change Action, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education and Training Strategy, Decision Time


Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body Question Time

Illegal Camps

To ask the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body what steps it is taking to prevent illegal camps being set up on the Parliament estate. (S5O-00332)

Members will note that the unlawful camp on the Parliament’s land was removed last week and fencing was erected across part of the Parliament’s estate. The fencing is a temporary measure to allow remedial work to the landscaping to take place.

The corporate body intends to consider possible longer-term measures. We are conscious that any such measures must be effective in terms of cost and function. They would also have to be sympathetic to the landscape and maintain freedom of access for the many people who come to the public areas of the Parliament’s estate to protest peacefully and lawfully or simply to enjoy the surroundings.

I make it plain that I make absolutely no criticism of the parliamentary authorities for the wholly admirable way in which they have dealt with the lawful removal of the illegal indycamp from the Parliament’s estate. However, I am concerned, as many members will be, that illegal camps should not be set up on the Parliament’s estate in the first place. The public of course have the right to peaceful protest, but not when that interferes with the rights of others, causes physical damage to the Parliament’s grounds or is incompatible with the nature of the Parliament’s grounds, which the Court of Session said are unsuitable as a campsite. What can the corporate body do, and what is it doing, to ensure that such disruptive, aggressive and illegal behaviour is not allowed to recur on the Parliament’s grounds?

It is too soon to say exactly what the corporate body might do in response to the issue. We are considering landscaping works on the grounds, which is one obvious possibility. However, there is a limit to what we can do lawfully to prevent incursions on to the Parliament estate without interfering with legitimate rights to access our land. In addition to proportionate physical barriers, there are, it has now been demonstrated, legal remedies that can be used successfully if further encampments are attempted.

We should note that the form of protest that was the subject of the recent court judgments is not one that is guaranteed under convention rights. We understand that the protesters plan to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, but we are confident that the order that we achieved from the court and the precedent that has been set, together with the possible landscaping works, will help to limit the risks of this happening again. I stress that the Parliament very much welcomes legitimate protest and demonstrations and the freedom of the public to access the parliamentary estate.

Roof Drainage

To ask the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body what assessment has been made of the drainage on the roof of the garden lobby. (S5O-00334)

An inspection of the roof was carried out in 2007 by our property service consultants, Lee Boyd. The garden lobby roof consists of stainless steel roof lights, which are designed as leaves and positioned close together. Combined with the three-dimensional form, that creates a complex roof arrangement. The inspection confirmed that the design can lead to water pooling in certain areas after heavy or persistent rainfall. The bespoke roof has shallow falls and raised seams, which are part of the original architectural design. Our consultants advised that the issue does not affect the roof’s waterproof structure. As a result, we clean the roof regularly to maintain its appearance and to check that the drainage points are clear and free flowing.

As we have heard, water continually sits on the garden lobby roof. Despite the regular cleaning, algae growth continues within a couple of weeks of cleaning. As a qualified chartered surveyor, I am concerned that the obvious design defect, which should have been rectified when the roof was built, will result in the premature failure of the roof. What is the annual cost of cleaning the roof, which appears to be done every three or four weeks? Would it not be better to fix the problem now rather than continually clean it?

Clearly, Edward Mountain is very knowledgeable on such matters, as he is a qualified surveyor. I will write to him with the annual costs that he has requested. The consultants found in 2007 that pooling does not affect the integrity of the structure, so we have chosen to manage pooling through our planned maintenance regime.

Boiling Water Dispensers

To ask the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body whether it will consider installing additional boiling water dispensers in the building, in light of health and safety concerns. (S5O-00333)

The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body currently has no plans to install additional hot water boilers in the members block. There is no mains water available other than at the north end of the corridors. The showers and toilets at the other end use tank-fed water, which is not of a quality suitable for tea points, and plumbing mains water to that end of the corridor would incur considerable cost. Tea points are provided on all levels of the MSP block and, where possible, doors are held open to allow unrestricted access along corridors.

What measures, including risk management assessments, are in place to deal with any drinks spillages in the building?

Any spillages should be reported to the facilities management helpdesk, which will promptly inform the cleaning team. We have not received any reports of accidents in the past 12 months. We strongly encourage members, staff and visitors to report accidents through the health and safety reporting site, which will allow us to identify problems and take the appropriate remedial action.

Unsold Food

To ask the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body what it does with unsold food from eating facilities in the building. (S5O-00301)

We estimate that only 4 per cent of food at Holyrood goes to waste. That is because staff work with our contractor to minimise waste, which has included the introduction of a waste monitoring system that helps us to understand how much food is being wasted and where that is happening, so that we can take the appropriate measures. All food waste is collected by our waste disposal contractor and taken away for industrial composting.

In the past few weeks I have been made aware of the food waste issue by an MSP’s staff members, who asked catering staff where unsold food goes. Will the corporate body consider distributing unsold food to any local organisation that could help people who are homeless or in need? Any unsold food would be very much welcomed.

I share some of Stuart McMillan’s concerns about what we could do. However, any food that is packaged will be kept until the use-by date and then will be classed as waste. Any unpackaged food that has been fully prepared and served is no longer temperature controlled and therefore becomes a risk for human consumption and has to be classed as waste.

I am aware that the issue was raised earlier this year at a previous corporate body question time. Officials keep it under regular review.