A ONCE-exclusive MSPs’ restaurant at the Scottish Parliament is set to be rented out for £1000 a night.
Holyrood bosses have agreed a six-month trial in which the restaurant can hired by organisations for awards ceremonies, charity dinners and corporate events.
But some MSPs have warned the parliament must ensure it preserves its policy of open access and be careful what events it allows.
The restaurant – now redesignated the Members’ Room – was once subsidised to the tune of £80,000 a year and reserved for MSPs, serving cut-price lunches and evening meals.
Too few politicians used the eatery and now it is only open at lunchtimes three days a week. The rest of the time it is used for parliamentary functions and events hosted by MSPs.
In a bid to increase income, the cross-party Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body plans to allow commercial lets on Fridays, weekends and during recess – although weddings and parties are not acceptable.
The parliament has stressed that the new policy will not affect parliamentary business.
Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone said the parliament already hosted a wide range of MSP-backed events and she questioned why people would want to pay £1000 a night to hire the room.
She said: “You would expect that most organisations would still like to have that MSP support. The question is what the criteria will be. Why would an organisation decide they would rather pay £1000 plus VAT than ask one of their local representatives or an MSP with an interest in the issue to host an event on their behalf?
“Parliament will have to be very careful about the kind of event it allows. It should be something the parliament as a whole would be comfortable with, the kind of event an MSP would not hesitate to sponsor.
“The parliament is for the people of Scotland and maintaining that open access is vitally important. If we have fees of £1000 that will exclude a lot of grassroots organisations.”
A parliament spokeswoman said: “The Corporate Body has been looking at ways to reduce subsidy within the parliament by increasing income.
“As such, it has agreed to allow certain commercial events to take place in the Members’ Room when the building is not being used to support parliamentary business. This will run as a pilot for six months.
“The Corporate Body has made it clear that any income generating activity must not impact on parliamentary business or affect the parliament’s reputation in a negative way.”
She said examples of events for which the room could be rented included dinners and receptions for international associations, local corporate organisations and charities and meetings including AGMs.
“Other event types including weddings, birthday parties, private bookings etc will not be permitted.”