Parliament under fire over £34,500 stab-proof vests

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SCOTTISH Parliament bosses have spent £34,500 to kit out security staff at Holyrood with stab-proof vests – even though there has never been an attack.

Each of the 90 security personnel have been supplied with the protective clothing, although they will only have to wear it when on duty at main access points to the building.

The parliament described the move as “precautionary but prudent”, but Independent Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald questioned why the vests were suddenly necessary more than a decade after the parliament was established when there had been no previous incidents.

She said: “No-one is more appreciative of the security staff in the parliament than I am. They do an absolutely wonderful job and in many respects they are under-appreciated.

“Any measure to make their job safer or more pleasant I would support, but I would expect to see a risk analysis of why this is happening after the parliament has been going for more than 10 years.

“There are better things the money could be spent on.”

Official parliament figures show a 1124 knives were confiscated last year from visitors arriving at the security screening point at the main entrance. Many of these were pen-knives, which the owners had returned to them when they left. Any knives with lockable blades or blades longer than 3.5 inches are handed to the police.

But a spokeswoman confirmed there had never been a stabbing incident.

She said: “There has been a review of security best practice and this is the time at which parliament has decided it is appropriate to do this.”

She said security guards would wear the vests when they were at the main public entrance to the parliament or at the gate in Holyrood Road, which gives access to the underground garage and the goods delivery yard.

She said: “Once people have been through the airport-style security screening, there is an assumption there is nothing untoward on them.

“This is about the parliament’s duty of care to staff in areas of work where they are considered more exposed to risk.”

It is understood the vests were not issued on any recommendation from MI5, which has previously urged expensive security measures such as turnstiles, concrete bollards and benches near the main entrance and a not-yet-agreed new screening hall.

The parliament spokeswoman said: “We constantly monitor and review our security measures. This is a preventative and prudent measure.”

iswanson@edinburghnews.com