New £280k voting consoles already needing a touch up

John Swinney and Alex Neil see the funny side at First Minister's Questions
John Swinney and Alex Neil see the funny side at First Minister's Questions
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THEY cost £280,000 and took most of the summer to fit – but already Holyrood’s latest state-of-the-art equipment is in need of repair.

Contractors are being called back to the Scottish Parliament to carry out more work on the expensive new touchscreen voting consoles on MSPs’ desks in the debating chamber, which were installed less than two months ago.

The parliament confirmed workmen would be returning to Holyrood during the two-week October recess to change software settings so MSPs would be able to see on the display screen how much time they have left to press the button to cast their vote.

A source said it was only during training sessions to show MSPs how to work the new system that it was realised the countdown clock was missing.

They said: “The officials were taking us through a voting scenario and they pointed this out as a problem which had been identified but was going to be rectified. Somebody had pointed out the countdown clock was not there.

“For £280,000, questions have to be asked about why the contractor has got to come back in the October recess.

“And if it is just a simple software upgrade, surely that could be done at a weekend or one of the days when the parliament is not sitting.”

The debating chamber was out of bounds for most of the two-month summer recess while the contractors fitted the new sound and voting system, replacing the previous consoles and microphones, which were said to have reached the end of their useful life, although they had been in use for less than seven years.

MSPs voiced scepticism at the time about the need for so much money to be spent on replacing the system at a time when finances are tight.

The lengthy installation work meant the chamber could not be used for events during the annual Festival of Politics.

Now the contractors will be back in the chamber during MSPs’ October break, which starts at the end of next week.

A parliament spokesman said the contractors would be carrying out work so a 30-second countdown would appear on the screen in the consoles.

But he said it would be at no cost to the parliament.

He said: “Officials asked for that as part of the original specification. Effectively we are changing the software settings.”