Scottish Parliament bans smartphones from public gallery after protests

Written by Ruaraidh Gilmour on 31 March 2023 in News

New measures brought in as disruptions 'tended to be filmed and posted on social media'

Credit: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

The Scottish Parliament has banned mobile phones from the chamber viewing gallery following weeks of disruption during First Minister’s Questions.  

In an email to MSPs, presiding officer Alison Johnstone set out new security measures to address the issue of regular protests in chamber – primarily from Just Stop Oil and other climate groups – which have led to the suspension of parliament.  

Johnstone cited the reason for banning mobile phones was because recent disruptions have “tended to be filmed and shared on social media”.  

The ban, issued earlier this week, has come into force with immediate effect, and over the coming weeks, the parliament will introduce secure storage for electronic devices. In the interim mobile phones must be stowed away at all times while visitors are in the viewing gallery.  

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Members of the media are still permitted to use mobile phones from the media gallery.  

Alongside banning phones from the viewing gallery, the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) has formally requested that Police Scotland’s Protest Liaison team and the parliament’s security team engage with the protest groups that have been disrupting business.  

Members have also been encouraged to “play their part”. Johnstone has asked that when approached for tickets for FMQs the member’s office reiterate the visitor code of conduct. This says that visitors should “not applaud or shout out during meetings” or “cause a distraction or disrupt parliamentary business”.    

The presiding officer has not ruled out the introduction of further measures if the disruption continues.  

Johnstone said: “My hope is that those who have disrupted chamber business realise their actions impact on others.  For almost 20 years the public at Holyrood has enjoyed open, ready access to parliamentary business with the minimum of restrictions or security checks. These measures are a proportionate initial response to what is a recent phenomenon. Work is underway on a range of other measures, ready for implementation, should the SPCB consider these necessary to further protect parliamentary business from persistent disruption.”


About the author

Ruaraidh Gilmour is a reporter at PublicTechnology sister publication Holyrood, where a version of this story first appeared. He tweets as @Ruaraidh0.

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