Parliament group complain about number of nibbles

A group have complained about catering at the Scottish Parliament after a shortage of canapes at a recent event. Pic: Nick Ansell/AFP/Getty Images
A group have complained about catering at the Scottish Parliament after a shortage of canapes at a recent event. Pic: Nick Ansell/AFP/Getty Images
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Scottish Parliament caterers have been accused of skimping on the nibbles at receptions.

One unnamed organisation which held an event at Holyrood complained some of their guests never got to taste a canapé, despite fewer people attending than expected.

The amount of food served at the Scottish Parliament receptions has come in for criticism. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The amount of food served at the Scottish Parliament receptions has come in for criticism. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The latest comments on catering at the parliament, released under Freedom of Information, reveal high praise for the food and service at the staff canteen and public cafe.

But when it comes to events held in the parliament, some of the verdicts are not so positive. One organisation said: “We placed a catering order for 160 – we actually had 100 guests attend the reception. We do not feel that the quantity of food and drinks was adequate, particularly considering we over-catered quite substantially.

“A number of guests commented that they did not have an opportunity to taste the canapés. Overall, whilst the quality and service was very good, we don’t feel that it represents value for money.” Another urged “greater menu and wine choice”. And feedback on a pre-Christmas event said: “Complaints about the quality of the mulled wine!”

The parliament hosts dozens of receptions each year. They must be sponsored by an MSP, but outside organisations can draw up the guest list, put on displays to promote their cause – and pay for refreshments.

Demand for such events has been so high that the parliament now uses the MSP restaurant to host them as well as the garden lobby and committee rooms. The food is provided by catering giants Sodexo, which also run the staff canteen, MSP restaurant and public cafe.

Among feedback from the staff canteen was praise for “excellent Christmas lunch”. Customers also noted: “Fantastic vegan option today”, “Indian food great”, and “loving the rump steak”.

Comments on the public cafe included: “Helpful and knowledgeable staff”, “Excellent overall experience – lovely pastries” and “The best sandwiches I have ever bought – I wish you would open a branch in York”.

Lothian Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale said it could be costly for groups to hold an event at the parliament.

“The idea they have managed to find the money but are left hungry sits a bit uneasily with the idea of the parliament being open to all.

“People are not allowed to bring in their own caterers, so the pressure is on Sodexo to prove the value of them having a monopoly.”

A parliament spokeswoman said: “Approximately 30,000 people enjoy events at Holyrood each year. The feedback is overwhelmingly positive.”

Sodexo is not allowed, by the terms of its contract, to comment.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com