SCOTTISH Parliament bosses were today accused of creating “Fortress Holyrood” after they decided to go ahead with a controversial new £6.5 million security extension.
The annexe at the front of the building, facing the Palace of Holyroodhouse, is intended to prevent terrorist attacks by ensuring people go through security screening before entering the parliament building itself.
Presiding officer Tricia Marwick said security experts had said that in light of current threats it was “highly advisable” to build such a facility.
She said: “We have a duty of care to all MSPs, staff, contractors and to the 400,000 members of the public who come through our doors each year, and in law we must take all steps ‘reasonably practicable’ to safeguard their wellbeing.”
But Green MSP Patrick Harvie condemned the decision. He said: “I’m dismayed that parliament is to spend millions of pounds on a piece of security theatre, when public services in Scotland are being cut in every community. I’ve never been convinced that the Scottish Parliament should be turned into Fortress Holyrood.
“We’re supposed to be an open and welcoming place, but it seems some people would prefer that we do the same as Westminster and surround ourselves in concrete bollards and security paraphernalia.”
And Independent Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald said she believed the security extension was unnecessary.
She said: “Architecturally, from the drawings I’ve seen, it doesn’t look too bad. And financially, it’s not over the top for such a building. But I don’t think we need it. If you are a determined terrorist you will probably find a way of getting into the building avoiding security.”
Before deciding on the security extension, members of the cross-party Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, which is chaired by Ms Marwick, took legal advice and were told they have a responsibility to take “reasonably practicable” measures to protect MSPs, staff and visitors or they would be open to prosecution under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.
Work is due to start next month and be completed by next summer. The cost will be met from “existing resources”.