Nearly five years after the Glasgow Airport terrorist attack, in which a bomb laden vehicle was rammed into the terminal building, the managers of the Scottish Parliament building have been given planning permission for a new security hall.
But the plans have come under severe criticism from Scottish politicians.
The hall is designed to extend the security perimeter beyond the immediate building. At an estimated cost of more than £1m, it is designed to protect the more than 400,000 visitors and 1000 daily passholders as well as the infrastructure of the Parliament building.
The building was opened in 2004 and cost £414m to construct, far in excess of the initial £40m cost estimate.
Other recommendations following the Glasgow Airport attack have already been implemented – at a cost of around £2m – including the addition of turnstiles at the Queensberry House and Canongate entrances, a new vehicle entry system and bollards and other streetscape measures designed to keep vehicles away from the building.
The management of the Parliament building, the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB), says the new security hall would complete the extension of the security perimeter.
Strengthening the existing entrance was not considered a viable option by the SPCB because it would allow potential threats to get too close to the building.
The new hall, incorporating weapons detection technology and blast mitigation materials, will be linked to the existing building via a short walkway.
The new layout will allow security measures to be adapted and adjusted to suit the threat level but crucially, according to the SCPB, will not subject visitors and staff “to any discernible difference in the levels of security screening during normal security states”.
And it’s necessary to protect visitors and staff at the building and to meet the SPCB’s duty of care to the public.
The new hall has been criticised by Scottish politicians of various parties. Former Scottish Parliament presiding officer Lord Steel (Lib Dems) said the plan was “more than bonkers”.
Green MSP Patrick Harvie accused the SPCB of creating a war on terror “myth” to “separate politicians from the people”.
He said Holyrood had been designed post 9/11 and therefore incorporated all the necessary security measures. “This proposal, like the absurd bollards already in place down the Royal Mile, does nothing to protect the public – it’s part of a long-standing ‘war on terror’ myth designed to separate politicians from the people they represent and to build a sense of fear and exclusion around public spaces.”
Having obtained planning permission, the SPCB is seeking expressions of interest from building contractors. A final decision to proceed with the project will not be taken until after the tendering process is complete and the SCPB is satisfied with the costs and timetable.