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Protests and demonstrations at the Parliament: Protest Policy

The Scottish Parliament is an open, accessible and participative parliament which recognises the importance of peaceful protest in a democratic society.   

This policy is written to help you organise or take part in a protest at the Scottish Parliament.

Working with us to facilitate your protest or demonstration

Please be assured we will work with you to facilitate your protest so that it runs smoothly.

We encourage you to contact the Security Office on 0131 348 6554 in advance of organising your protest, so we can discuss your plans and advise on any issues which may not be compatible with the terms for use of the Parliament’s estate which includes the landscaped areas surrounding the Parliament.

The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB), which has responsibility for the safe and effective operation of Parliament, permits protest on the Parliament’s estate, which includes its lands and buildings, subject to some requirements being met.

The aim of these requirements is to help facilitate an organised and effective protest whilst protecting the:

  • safety of all, including visitors, neighbours of the Scottish Parliament and all who work here
  • ability of the Parliament to carry out its essential democratic role
  • rights and interests of others to engage with Parliament

Protests and demonstrations can only take place outside the building

We ask you to respect the following requirements when using the Parliament’s grounds to protest:

  • at all times please take care of your safety and that of fellow protesters and other users of the Parliament building and land
  • the Parliament has an essential role in the functioning of the democratic process in Scotland.  Your protest cannot interfere with or seek to disrupt the functioning of Parliament
  • your protest cannot continue for an unreasonable period of time as by doing so you could negatively impact the rights of others to protest and to use the parliamentary estate for other activities
  • to move the location of your protest to another part of the estate, if asked to do so by a Parliamentary official or member of the Parliament’s Police Unit.  This would be to avoid obstructing others’ use of the estate or if it becomes evident you may be causing a safety risk to yourself or others
  • please do not obstruct the entry or exit of any individuals to the Parliament building.

Restrictions

There are also restrictions to what you can do as part of your protest:

  • please do not climb on any part of the building
  • please do not access areas where you have no authority to be
  • please do not camp at any time, including overnight, for protest or any other reason.  This is also for your own safety and wellbeing
  • please do not erect any structures on Parliament land without the Parliament’s permission
  • please do not attach banners, posters, flyers, leaflets or any other articles to any part of the Parliament land (including the exterior of the Parliament building, railings, flagpoles or bollards). We may remove any articles attached in this way
  • please do not project images or shine laser lights onto the Parliament building as part of your protest without prior permission
  • please respect the environment which includes our ponds, gathering spaces and seating areas which are enjoyed by the public throughout the year.  At the end of your protest, please remove anything you brought with you and leave the land as you found it.

SPCB’s responsibilities and Parliament as a protected site

The SPCB has responsibility for the parliamentary complex including the landscaped grounds.

Its responsibilities include:

  • providing access to the estate in a safe and secure manner
  • ensuring Parliament can continue to carry out its vital democratic role
  • maintaining an open, accessible Parliament for all those who are engaging with us in different ways.

To assist the SPCB in fulfilling these responsibilities, and to ensure its resilience, the Scottish Parliamentary estate is designated by the UK Home Office as a “protected site” in the interest of national security, under section 129 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA).  The same protections apply to the Welsh and UK parliaments. 

If your protest does not observe the Protest Policy

We recognise that protests and demonstrations are a human right and a vital part of the expression of democracy in Scotland.

If at any time your protest fails to observe the requirements set out in this policy, it may mean that we may withdraw our permission for you to hold the protest or demonstration at the Scottish Parliament. 

Before taking any action, we will engage with you fully to try to resolve matters. We will only exercise the option to take action, as a designated site under SOCPA, where the terms of this policy have been exceeded to the extent that our ability to fulfil our responsibilities are seriously disrupted; and as a result threatens parliamentary business; or the safety of those on site; or the legitimate right of others to engage and participate with Parliament.

In this event, we will notify you of this and may ultimately ask you to leave.

Please read the privacy notice for demonstrations and protests held at the Scottish Parliament.


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