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by Liam Kirkaldy
16 March 2020
Scottish Parliament suspends public engagements in response to coronavirus

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Scottish Parliament suspends public engagements in response to coronavirus

The Scottish Parliament will suspend public engagements from 17 March onwards in response to growing concern over the spread of coronavirus, it has confirmed.

The move is driven by an attempt to ensure parliament continues to scrutinise legislation, hold ministers to account and represent voters, while also helping to protect both staff and visitors. 

It comes after Boris Johnson warned that everyone in the UK should now avoid "non-essential" travel and contact with others.

The Prime Minister said people should work from home where possible, as part of a range of stringent new measures.

The parliament’s decision means events, tours and meetings of cross party groups will be suspended, while the public shop and cafe will also be closed.

Parliament will suspend access to the building for the general public on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays, alongside inward and outward education and community outreach.

At present the building will remain accessible to visitors for meetings connected with parliamentary or constituency business, and the public galleries in the chamber and committees will also remain open when parliament is sitting, though the public is encouraged to watch online instead. (available here)

Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh said: “With each day that passes, it has become clearer that we are facing extremely challenging circumstances now and in the weeks ahead.

“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.

“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.”

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