Morning briefing: Holyrood security | Murray expenses | Teacher stress | Earthquake whales

An artist's impression of the proposed new security hall at Holyrood
An artist's impression of the proposed new security hall at Holyrood
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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 parliament said the cost would be met from “existing resources”.

Ian Murray tops expenses list for Lothians politicians

EDINBURGH South Labour MP Ian Murray has the highest expenses claims among the Lothians’ Westminster politicians, new figures show.

He claimed nearly £174,000 in expenses in 2011-12, ahead of Livingston Labour MP Graeme Morrice, who filed for just over £156,000.

The lowest claimer among Lothians MPs was Midlothian Labour MP David Hamilton on £135,677.03.

Overall, the figures from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority showed MPs claimed nearly £90 million in 2011-12, up from £71m.

But Ipsa chairman Sir Ian Kennedy said that, stripping out the effect of the general election in 2010, the claims rate had, “like for like”, been about the same. He said: “If we want a good service from our MPs, we have to fund them. If you don’t think you get a good service, use your vote.”

Stressed teachers hammer helpline

STRESS has led to more than 1000 Scots teachers contacting a specialist helpline in the last two years.

Figures from Teacher Support Scotland also show the number of issues reported by staff more than doubled from 2010 to 2011, from 675 to 1389.

Issues raised by teachers include anxiety, sleeplessness and relationship breakdown.

Julian Stanley, chief executive of the Teacher Support Network, said: “Staff are under unprecedented pressure. If a teacher is having a difficult time, it can affect hundreds of pupils.”

Earthquake theory in whale stranding

PILOT whales which became stranded on a Fife beach may have been driven there by a seabed earthquake, experts said.

The phenomenon, known as a seaquake, occurred off the Norwegian course on August 30, and scientists believe it may have caused the group of 26 whales to veer off course.

Experts are also exploring if sonar equipment on a seismic survey vessel near Aberdeen could have scrambled the whales’ navigation systems.

Sixteen whales, including three calves, died.