Scottish Parliament suspends public engagements

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The Scottish Parliament has announced it will suspend public engagements due to the “extremely challenging circumstances” caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh announced the measures, which include events, tours and access to the public cafe and shop all being suspended from Tuesday.

There will also be no access to the building for the general public on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays; no inward and outward education and community outreach or international relations office visits.

No foreign travel for committee business will take place either, with discussions still taking place on domestic travel.

“All parties in the Parliament have agreed that we must take further steps in order to prioritise chamber and committee business.

“While openness and accessibility are cornerstones of the Scottish Parliament, the coming weeks are likely to see major changes to how we operate from normal.”

He added: “We will continue to monitor developments closely and remain in regular contact with other UK legislatures, the Scottish Government and the chief medical officer.

“We recognise that this health emergency is creating great anxiety amongst staff, members and visitors alike, and our response will continue to evolve taking account of the latest information available and closely following the public health advice.”

Anti-austerity rally in Scotland
Elaine Smith wrote to Mr Macintosh at the weekend (Danny Lawson/PA)

The MSP said in her letter: “As we were advised at last week’s bureau, there are now increasing pressures on the cleaning contract and the staff that the private contractor employees.

“If we close to the public and also close the public gallery, cafe, shop, toilets, etc, then efforts could be employed to concentrate on cleaning elsewhere in the building.

“I presume the aim is to try to keep the members meeting for as long as possible and, as such, restricting the visitors to the building would also help to substantially cut the risk to elected members.

“Closing the building to the public would also mean the possibility of a reduced police presence and less pressure on our security staff.

“As you know, we can’t stop this virus and sooner or later the Parliament will be unable to physically meet but at the moment we should be proactive in trying to minimise the spread amongst all building users.”

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