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by Louise Wilson
07 March 2024
Presiding officer pledges to work with police after FMQs disrupted nine times by protestors

A protester is led away after disrupting FMQs | Alamy

Presiding officer pledges to work with police after FMQs disrupted nine times by protestors

The presiding officer has said parliament will work with security teams and Police Scotland to clamp down on protests after First Minister’s Questions was disrupted nine times.

Food insecurity campaigners interrupted proceedings, shouting hunger was a “political choice” from the viewing gallery.

Alison Johnstone was forced to suspend the session on each occasion as the individuals were escorted from the chamber.

At the end of FMQs, the presiding officer said: “Unfortunately the opportunity for more elected members to represent their constituents by putting questions to the first minister has been disrupted once again.

“I think that we would all agree the principal of this parliament being open and accessible is extremely important. Visitors are very welcome to attend to see their elected representatives at work – but not to disrupt this work.

“Again, I would say to colleagues that parliament will work with security colleagues and with Police Scotland and will take any further action that is required in this regard.”

The session ran over by 11 minutes due to the repeated interruptions.

It is believed the be the highest number of protests to take place at FMQs, with Humza Yousaf’s debut last year interrupted six times.

Following protests in consecutive weeks in the first quarter of last year, Johnstone introduced new measures to prevent them – including a new ticketing system, a banning of mobile phones form the gallery and a six-month ban from the parliament for protesters.

After today’s seventh interruption, Yousaf described it as “frustrating” but added the campaigners were “protesting in the wrong parliament”.

Earlier in the session, the first minister faced a grilling from both Douglas Ross and Anas Sarwar on NHS waiting times.

Ross raised issues with patients waiting several hours for treatment in emergencies, including ambulances having to queue outside hospitals.

Sarwar said SNP ministers had broken the law which guarantees a 12-week wait between diagnosis and treatment of a condition more than 680,000 times.

Yousaf pointed to the Covid pandemic which had added to the pressures facing the NHS, but insisted “activity is moving in the right direction” and progress was being made on reducing long waits.

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