Scottish Parliament moves gift shop near exit

The shop at the Parliament is on the move. Picture: Jayne Emsley
The shop at the Parliament is on the move. Picture: Jayne Emsley
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IT’S the trap all self-respecting tourist attractions have to set for visitors – a souvenir shop at the exit.

It places temptation firmly in the way of those leaving the building – a memento of an enjoyable day out, a present for home, sweets for the kids.

Now the Scottish Parliament is getting in on the act, splashing out £30,000 to relocate its shop to what Holyrood bosses hope will be a more lucrative spot next to a remodelled exit.

Items on sale range from a 50p tartan pencil to a boxed crystal decanter and six glasses priced at £300, as well as a variety of books, ties, mugs, chocolate and jewellery. Scottish Parliament whisky is already one of the shop’s top sellers and it is hoped it could be flying off the shelves even more quickly once the relocated shop opens. But the plan has already come under fire because the new shop will feature a bigger booze display area – at a time when politicians are meant to be tackling Scotland’s unhealthy relationship with drink.

Dr Evelyn Gillan, of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “It would be nice to see the Scottish Parliament lead by example and not extend the shelf space available for alcohol.

“We appreciate the parliament shop is primarily aimed at tourists and will focus on particular products. We’re not accusing them of selling anything irresponsibly. But it would still be good if they showed a lead. I’m sure there are plenty other things we can sell people to remind them of Scotland – it does not have to be alcohol-related.”

The shop relocation comes in the wake of the recently-opened £6.5 million security annexe which has forced alterations at the front of the building. The cross-party Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body discussed some years ago the idea of moving the shop as part of the redesign, but the proposal was taken no further until this summer when it was agreed copying what big theme parks and US Disney attractions do – making people leave via the gift shop – could boost sales.

Around 400,000 people visit the Scottish Parliament each year – for business as well as tourism – and there are plans afoot to grow that number.The Great Tapestry of Scotland recently drew crowds of more than 30,000 during a three-week run, with some queuing for an hour to get in.

And next week sees the opening of the Andy Warhol exhibition Pop Power and Politics, which is also expected to attract unprecedented demand.

Plans are already being developed to transform the old shop’s spot in the reception area into exhibition space. A spokesman today admitted the shop has been “operating at around the break-even point”. He said: “By relocating it close to the new exit we should be able to increase footfall and income for the parliament.”

But he brushed off criticism of their bigger booze shelf, adding: “Alcohol is a relatively modest part of our overall sales. To put it in perspective, we sell around 30 bottles of whisky a month.”