Holyrood told to ditch £6m annexe and get sniffer dog

A computer-generated image of the Holyrood security extension
A computer-generated image of the Holyrood security extension
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SCOTTISH Parliament bosses were today urged to ban back-packs and employ a sniffer dog as a cheap but effective alternative to spending £6.5 million on a controversial security extension.

The new annexe, to be added to the front of the iconic building opposite the Palace of Holyroodhouse, is designed to combat would-be suicide bombers.

Visitors currently queue inside the parliament, directly underneath the debating chamber, before being security screened. The new arrangement will see them screened in the annexe before entering the main building.

Campaigners opposed to the extension say its location puts it directly in the roadside “standoff” blast zone in contravention of safety guidance.

Today a security expert who has worked with the parliament said: “Putting a glass box entrance, no matter how tough, into that space is daft. There are good reasons why the parliament sits back from the road as it does.

“Banning back-packs and having a trained spaniel sniffing everyone approaching the building would be a cheap, effective alternative.”

He added that banning traffic from Horse Wynd, which runs between the parliament and the palace, would also be a good idea.

Architectural student Ruairidh Moir, who is leading the campaign against the extension, has written to the cross-party Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB), which gave the go-ahead for the annexe, urging it to halt construction – which began last week – and warning it may be legally liable if queuing visitors were killed or injured in a bomb blast.

He quoted guidance from the Royal Incorporation of British Architects recommending a distance of 30 metres between a building and the road.

Mr Moir said: “The proposed new doorway is 15 metres from the road. Although the extension may incorporate blast protection, it is not uncommon for visitors to need to queue outside the main doorway. Thus, this new entrance is clearly breaching these codes and is putting the lives of main visitors to the parliament at significantly increased risk.”

He said the security extension was designed to mitigate the potential problem of an individual suicide bomber, but ignored the threat from a car bomb which was more significant because it could cause a much larger blast.

He added: “Distance from the road is key.”

Mr Moir said he had received no response from the SPCB. He said: “Their silence is deafening. It’s almost as if they had not thought about it and they are maybe realising what they have approved is a complete mistake.”

He called for construction to be halted, saying: “I know they have started on site, but the right thing for them to do is stop it.”

A Scottish Parliament spokesman said the SPCB was aware of the issues Mr Moir had raised.

He added: “The SPCB has received authoritative, expert security advice on protecting public safety at Holyrood, and a range of potential locations for the new public entrance were considered in detail before the current position was agreed upon.”