Holyrood bosses are bringing in immediate changes in a bid to clamp down on protests which have regularly disrupted First Minister’s Questions.
Presiding officer Alison Johnstone said it is “deeply regrettable” that the Scottish Parliament needs to introduce the restrictions, but with a “small but persistent number of protesters” having halted proceedings she made clear further action will be taken if needed.
It comes after members of the public had to be cleared from the viewing gallery at Holyrood when climate change protesters repeatedly disrupted the final session of First Minister’s Questions before the Easter recess.
After suspending business five times for those shouting from the gallery to be removed, Johnstone ordered everyone to leave – although groups of schoolchildren were allowed back in.
Anyone who is found to be “wilfully disrupting business” will now face a six-month ban from Holyrood’s public gallery.
Anyone wishing to attend to watch the weekly First Minister’s Questions clash between the party leaders will also have to book a ticket, giving their name and address, with Holyrood bosses insisting ticket requests will not be processed without this information.
For groups of people attending together, the names and addresses of all members will have to be given, instead of the current system whereby only the details of the lead person making the booking are required.
Everyone collecting a ticket will have to show identification, with mobile phones and other electronic devices having to be stored in a secure locker and not taken into the gallery.
Groups of school children visiting the Scottish Parliament who have booked with either MSPs or Holyrood’s education or visitor services will be exempt from the new rules.
Johnstone said: “It is deeply regrettable that the Parliament has had to take this action.
“Over the past 25 years, we have prided ourselves on our openness to the public and the ease with which visitors have access to parliamentary business.
“However, a small but persistent number of protesters have brought us to the point where increased measures must be introduced.”
The presiding officer said she will review the effectiveness of the new arrangements after First Minister’s Questions next week.
She added that she will “if necessary, consider the implementation of further measures to continue to protect parliamentary business from disruption”.
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