HOLYROOD politicians are being offered iPads at taxpayers’ expense – but they might have to wait up to three years.
The Scottish Parliament is expanding the range of mobile devices available for MSPs and their staff to include tablets and a wider selection of smartphones, as well as laptops and Blackberrys.
However, the rules say politicians can each have no more than four devices between themselves and their staff.
So anyone already using the maximum number of devices and wanting to get an iPad will have to give up one of their Blackberrys or laptops.
A Holyrood insider said: “People might start mysteriously losing lots of phones.
“Then we’ll suddenly have lots of people wandering round the building with shiny new iPads, checking their Facebook and stuff.”
The parliament will buy the new devices using a £60 million contract negotiated by the Scottish Government for the whole public sector and first revealed by the Evening News earlier this month.
Parliament bosses say that on a like-for-like basis, the new contract would cut the current £104,000 per year mobile phone contract to around £56,000 – a potential saving of about £240,000 over the five-year duration of the deal.
However, taking into account the wider range of devices available and the difficulty of predicting the take-up by MSPs, the parliament is describing the new contract as “cost neutral”.
MSPs are allowed to have tablets in the debating chamber if they use them as “an electronic alternative to a briefing folder”.
Around 30 MSPs are said to already use tablets they have bought themselves. Only five are understood to have claimed for them through their office expenses.
Lothians Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale, who has her own iPad, said the tablet had already proved its worth in the debating chamber.
She said in a recent debate on widening access to law courses, Edinburgh Central SNP MSP Marco Biagi had made a speech praising Edinburgh University.
She said: “I knew where to check the figures online and was able to point out the actual numbers to him and show that Edinburgh had the second-worst record of any university in Scotland in widening access to law.”
The new contract for devices comes into effect in the new year.
The parliament also plans to use the Christmas recess to upgrade wifi access at Holyrood.
One aide to an MSP said: “The improved wifi is great, but it would be better if they got the mobile phone reception sorted. It’s notoriously bad. You have to hang out of windows to try and get a signal.
“It will probably always be a problem because there’s so much metal and stone in the building.”
A Holyrood spokesman said there were boosters throughout the building to ensure mobile phone coverage for Vodafone, which has a contract with the parliament.