An apology has been issued on behalf of the Scottish Parliament after a visitor was asked to remove a scarf in the colours of the suffragette movement.
The scarf was being worn by a woman in the public gallery of Holyrood’s Equality, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee.
MSPs on the committee were hearing evidence on the Scottish Government’s gender recognition reform legislation, which has faced opposition from campaigners.
During proceedings on Tuesday morning, the member of the public wearing the scarf was asked to remove it and told if she did not do so, she would be removed from the committee room.
Under the rules of the Parliament, visitors are banned from displaying banners, flags or political slogans, including on clothing and accessories.
Scottish Conservative MSP Russell Findlay, a member of the committee, raised concerns over the woman’s removal.
“It’s been noted on social media that a member of the public who was present was wearing a scarf in the colours of purple, white and green and has been asked to either remove the scarf or leave the room,” he said.
Telling the committee that he was seeking guidance, Findlay was interrupted by convener Joe FitzPatrick who said the meeting would be suspended while MSPs discussed the issue in private.
In a statement, Holyrood’s presiding officer Alison Johnstone has now apologised for the actions taken at the committee.
She said that the decision was an “error”, as she explained that the wearing of a scarf does not in itself breach the Parliament’s code of conduct for visitors.
“I wish to address an issue which occurred at the Equality, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee this morning which members may be aware of and which members have raised with me,” Johnstone stated.
“At that meeting, a visitor to the public gallery was asked to remove a purple, green and white scarf. Having declined to do so, the visitor was informed that she would not be able to return to the galllery.
“The request was made by officials in connection with the Parliament’s code of conduct for visitors which sets out that the display of banners, flags or political slogans, including on clothing and accessories, is forbidden.”
Johnstone also underlined that suffrage colours are not banned at Holyrood, as she said that the Parliament wants people to engage with the democratic process.
She continued: “Let me make one thing clear, suffrage colours are not, and have never been, banned at the Scottish Parliament.
“We actively support and promote universal suffrage in a number of ways at Holyrood and will continue to do so.
“I would like to advise the Chamber that the action taken this morning was not prompted by any of the members of the Committee.
“The action taken was an error and I would like to apologise on behalf of the Parliament. The wearing of a scarf in those colours does not, in itself, breach the visitor code of conduct.
“The Parliament wishes people to engage with the democratic process, including observing elected representatives debate and make the law of the country.”