HOLYROOD bosses are to spend more than £500,000 on installing extra toilets in the Scottish Parliament.
They say the number of visitors who came to see the Great Tapestry exhibition last year had highlighted the “limitations” of the toilet provision for members of the public in the £414 million building.
But today critics said large visitor numbers should not be a surprise and questioned why enough toilets were not included when the parliament was built ten years ago.
Work will start next week on building the new loos, which will include a “Changing Places” toilet for visitors with profound disabilities, as well as doubling public toilet capacity in the main entrance hall.
In a bid to improve accessibility for visitors, internal double doors and a screen wall which currently separate the hall from the shop and toilet area will also be removed and new doors built for the shop.
A report on the plans to the cross-party Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body said: “The unprecedented success of the Great Tapestry exhibition in September 2013, a month in which we welcomed a total of 53,827 visitors, highlighted limitations on the existing public toilet infrastructure in the main hall.
“While the visitor numbers experienced in September were exceptional, the lack of capacity in this area is regularly apparent at peak times during the parliamentary week.”
Around 400,000 people visit the parliament each year – for business as well as tourism.
But that is well below the 700,000 a year forecast by consultants before the building opened.
Margo MacDonald, the Independent Lothian MSP and long-time Holyrood critic who died last month, frequently highlighted the lack of adequate toilet provision for visitors and said she had pointed it out at the design stage.
The new toilets are due to be completed in July.
Six tenders were received for the work and the contract has been awarded to Clark Contracts Ltd, based in Edinburgh and Paisley, for £357,290, which means the total cost including professional fees, fixtures, fittings, contingencies and VAT will be £535,022.
Lothian Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale said: “Half a million pounds is an awful lot of money to spend a penny.
“It’s absolutely right and appropriate to spend money on adaptations to make sure no-one is excluded from visiting the parliament.
“But this money goes way beyond that. It should not come as a surprise that the parliament is a popular place to visit. Why was this not thought of first time round?”
The parliament said the pressure on public toilet facilities had been observed “over a number of years” and the opportunity was being taken in advance of this year’s Festival of Politics and the return of the Great Tapestry exhibition in the summer, to increase capacity.
A spokeswoman said: “The work will be programmed to ensure all business continues as usual and with as little disruption as possible.
“The works will be carried out in phases, with temporary partitions used to separate the works from public areas where appropriate. Excessively noisy tasks will be restricted to hours when the building has closed to the public.”