Pigeon problem at Scottish Parliament: contractors issue warning over health risks from build-up of guano

Contractors tackling the long-running pigeon problem at the Scottish Parliament have issued a red-print warning about the potential health risks of bird muck on the building.

By Ian Swanson
Friday, 31st December 2021, 4:55 am

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Monthly reports to Holyrood officials from maintenance company Trac, released under Freedom of Information, repeatedly draw attention to "high levels of guano" in various places around the parliament complex, particularly in the service yard but also the MSP block and the entrance area.

One typical passage says: "The service yard continues to be the focus area for pigeon mess activity and remains ideal for roosting and nesting – continual monitoring and cleaning required."

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Pigeons have been a persistent problem at the Scottish Parliament. Photo: Ian Georgeson

And the report for May 2021 says "further proofing" to deter the pigeons is required "behind spiking on the duct vents" in the service yard.

It then adds in red type and capital letters: "Guano is high risk here if it is seeping into the vent duct and being blown around the building."

And an earlier report spells out the wider risks of accumulating bird muck: "Regular loafing or roosting in any area will cause guano to build up and if for example a window is left open dried bird droppings can be blown as dust into the office area, which over time risks a bacterial infection getting into your lungs.

"There is also a higher risk to those contractors who perform essential maintenance or cleaning if they are constantly exposed to bird guano more frequently as part of their everyday duties.

"Nesting materials or guano build up can also cause issues with drains and could cause an issue around outside ventilation systems or could cause fires nesting in outside plant machinery."

A log of calls about pigeons from building-users also reveals concerns about the build-up of guano around the building.

One complainant in August said: "There is quite a lot of pigeon droppings all over the service yard and it needs a clean up. There is a lot next to the cycle gate area. There is also some in the cyclist pedestrian entrance way leading to the creche stairwell. In addition the press tower mezzanine fire exit stairwell escape way is covered. Apart from it being smelly it's a health and safety issue."

And in October, another reported: "At my team meeting yesterday one of my colleagues raised concerns about pigeons roosting above the cycle gate and the amount of excrement that they leave in the area, including on the cycle gate turnstiles and handles."

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Pigeons have been a persistent problem at Holyrood. When the building first opened in 2004 there were reports of muck and feathers being blown through vents onto researchers' desks.

Lothian Tory MSP Jeremy Balfour said that while issues related to Covid were a priority, proper maintenance at the parliament building was still important.

He said: "We have a responsibility to our staff and all those who work in the building to take care of their health and safety. It is very important the building is kept and maintained properly.

"It also needs to look good for the public. The parliament represents Scotland and it's iconic for tourists."

The Scottish Parliament said it had ensured the building's ventilation system was free of any guano and the issue was closely monitored.

A Holyrood spokeswoman said: "All recommendations regarding guano were implemented."

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