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by Kirsteen Paterson
22 February 2024
Green MSP accused of 'trying to shut down' Scottish Parliament in arms protest row

Ross Greer MSP | Alamy

Green MSP accused of 'trying to shut down' Scottish Parliament in arms protest row

Conservative MSP Stephen Kerr has accused a Scottish Green MSP of "trying to shut down" the Scottish Parliament and 'orchestrating' the intimidation of visitors.

Kerr has asked Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone to take action after a Wednesday evening protest outside the building, where Green MSP Ross Greer thanked attendees "for what you have achieved tonight".

Activists blocked the entrance to the parliament ahead of a drinks reception for aerospace player ADS Group.

The reception was sponsored by Eastwood MSP Jackson Carlaw and targeted by the Edinburgh Gaza Genocide Emergency Committee over the company's involvement in the supply of arms to Israel.

Campaigners chanted "shame on you" in what Greer called a bid to "prevent arms dealers from attending a shameful reception lauding their industry".

Speaking in the chamber after First Minister's Questions today, Central Scotland MSP Kerr called on Johnstone to intervene. He said: "Last night members of the public seeking to enter this parliament were obstructed and intimidated, and all of this [was] orchestrated and trumpeted by a member of this parliament, a Scottish Green MSP. 

"This is surely unacceptable conduct for a member of the Scottish Parliament to seek to prevent members of the public entering their own parliament. So I ask your guidance on the following: what actions will now be taken in the light of last night's events to secure safe access for the public to enter their parliament at all times, and what action will be taken against the member who I believe has brought disrepute to the Scottish Parliament? 

"Because not only did he plan and conduct the obstruction in the demonstration, but he claimed responsibility for it. He sought to shut down this parliament."

Kerr went on: "We all believe in freedom of speech and the right to protest, but the right of the people of Scotland to come safely and securely into their parliament and leave their parliament when they choose to do so must also be safeguarded."

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said Johnstone should "give high priority to the absolutely essential role that the right of peaceful protest plays in our democracy and in the life of our parliament".

Johnstone said: "I am not aware of all the circumstances that the member Mr Kerr refers to but it's absolutely clear, I'm sure to all of us, that security of all building users and our guests is absolutely paramount.

"I can confirm that I'm aware that there were extremely difficult circumstances last evening, and that all our scheduled events were able to proceed and I'm certainly very grateful to our staff and to police colleagues who made that possible. 

"I can assure all members our procedures are very much kept under review and they are adjusted where that is appropriate."

Speaking in a debate on a Gaza ceasefire after the exchange, Greer said: "I want to start by congratulating those who peacefully protested outside this building last night, those who took direct action to try and obstruct the arrival of Israel's arms dealers to this nation's parliament whilst the nation of Israel, whilst the military forces armed by those companies, conducts a campaign of genocide in Gaza.

"The real shame in this building last night was that an event, a wine reception for arms dealers, went ahead during a genocide."

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