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by Margaret Taylor
09 March 2023
Presiding Officer pledges action on protestors as FMQs is disrupted again

Presiding Officer pledges action on protestors as FMQs is disrupted again

Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone has said “work is underway” to try to prevent protestors interrupting parliamentary proceedings after First Minister’s Questions again had to be temporarily suspended so a member of the public could be removed from the chamber.

FMQs has been disrupted on numerous occasions since the beginning of this year, with Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross last week having to apologise to members after swearing when shouting from the gallery forced a pause to his questioning of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

This week’s session had barely begun when Ross was again forced to sit down while police intervened to remove a man who was shouting from the public gallery.

Later in the session fellow Conservative Murdo Fraser asked Johnstone whether anything could be done to keep a track of protestors, who are generally heard shouting about climate change, and to prevent repeat offenders from returning.

“Over the last number of weeks we've been subjected to increasingly tiresome interruptions from protesters in the public gallery,” he said.

“In a democratic society we recognise there is a right to peaceful protest, but it's very disruptive for those of us in the chamber, for other people who have come to watch proceedings in the public gallery [and] for those watching at home, who tune in to see the First Minister and the Scottish Government be held to account.

“Will you therefore, through your office and through the corporate body, look at the question of allocation of tickets to the public gallery? Are these individuals obtaining tickets directly or are they doing that through the offices of MSPs?

“What sanctions are being applied to those who are being disruptive? Are their names being taken? Are they being prevented from coming back on another occasion and what other steps can be taken to try to address what is a weekly irritation to all members?”

Johnstone said she could “assure [Fraser] and all members that work is underway” to deal with the ongoing disruption, adding that she had spoken to members of the parliamentary bureau and corporate body about the issue as well as with party leaders and MSPs.

“This issue will continue to be pursued and I will give members an update in due course,” she said.  

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