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Scottish Parliament

The controversial new Scottish parliament

The controversial new Scottish parliament is one of Britain's best-loved buildings according to a new poll out just a day after another survey found it was one of the most hated.

The poll by YouGov of more than 2,000 people - for Construction Skills, the skills councils for the construction industry - found that the controversial new parliament was the eighth most popular new building in the UK.

But the public can't seem to make up their minds about a building that went 10 times over budget and was three years late.


Origins of the Scottish Parliament


The Scottish Parliament evolved during the middle ages from the kingscouncil of bishops and earls. It is perhaps first identifiable as aparliament in 1235, described as a colloquium and already with apolitical and judicial role. By the early fourteenth century theattendance of knights and freeholders had become important, and from1326 burgh commissioners attended. Consisting of the three estates ofclerics, lay tenants-in-chief and burgh commissioners sitting in asingle chamber, the Scottish Parliament acquired significant powersover particular issues. Most obviously it was needed for consent fortaxation (although taxation was only raised irregularly in Scotland),but it also had a strong influence over justice, foreign policy, war,and all manner of other legislation, whether political, ecclesiastical,social or economic. Parliamentary business was also carried out by sister institutions, before c. 1500 by General Council andthereafter by the Convention of Estates. These could carry out muchbusiness also dealt with by parliamenttaxation, legislation andpolicy-makingbut lacked the ultimate authority of a full parliament. See also other resources on the subject.


HOLYROOD REACHES 100,000 VISITORS


Visitor figures went through the 100,000 barrier at the new Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood today. The landmark figure puts the Parliament on schedule to reach its projected number of 780,000 visitors in the first year alone.

Since opening to the public on 7 September, just over nine weeks ago, members of the public have flocked to Holyrood to watch debates, give evidence at Committees and simply see Scotlands new Parliament building for themselves.Speaking in the Parliaments Main Hall this afternoon visitor number 100,000 was 71 year old, retired weaver, Mr John Corrigan. He had travelled from Galston in Ayrshire with his friend and neighbour, retired lorry driver Bart Paton, also 71.Mr Corrigan who was presented with a bottle of Scottish Parliament champagne courtesy of the Parliaments shop said:

Were through from Ayrshire for the day. We wanted to see the Parliament because we had only seen it on the television and wanted to see it in reality.

Asked how it felt to be the 100,000 th visitor, Mr Corrigan said:

Great. Its brilliant to be here, adding quickly, and well drink that when we get home!Head of Visitor and Outreach Services, Rosemary Everett said:The response from the people of Scotland and from tourists visiting Scotland has been overwhelmingly positive.So far, we have welcomed an average of around 1500 visitors per day. The building itself is proving to be a very popular attraction with many people taking advantage of the guided tours on non-sitting days.However, on business days the public gallery is frequently packed with everyone from school children to groups of senior citizens eager to see how the Parliament works.
According to market research commissioned by the Parliament, the projected visitor numbers for the first three years are as follows:

  • 780,000 visitors expected in 2004 05 767,000 visitors expected in 2005 06
  • 759,000 visitors expected in 2006 07

The busiest day yet in Parliament was on Wednesday 27 October with 3735 visitors.


MSPs BACK WATER SERVICES BILL

The Scottish Parliament's Environment and Rural Development Committee today endorsed the general principles of the Water Services etc (Scotland) Bill.

In its Stage 1 Report, the Committee welcomed the proposals in Part 1 of the Bill to reform the regulation of the water industry. The Bill will replace the current Water Industry Commissioner with a Commission of four to six members. However, the Committee was concerned to make sure that customers are well represented in the system and that individual complaints are properly handled. The Committee has reserved judgement on these proposals until it takes more evidence before Stage 2.

The Committee supported the proposals in Part 2 of the Bill to regulate competition in the water industry. The Bill prohibits anyone other than Scottish Water from using the public water and sewerage networks. It also introduces a licensing system for companies who want to compete to provide retail water and sewerage services to business customers. While the Committee welcomes these proposals, it wants to see competition managed in a way that allows Scottish Water to remain a stable and efficient public provider.

The Committee endorsed proposals for a new procedure for determining water charges. It has recommended that this process should be made even more transparent and allow customer interests to be included.

The Committee also supported proposals in Part 3 of the Bill for dealing with water pollution from abandoned coal mines. It recommended that the Minister should consider whether similar powers are needed to deal with pollution from other mineral workings and landfill sites.

Committee Convener Sarah Boyack said:

The Committee wants to see a water industry in Scotland that is strong and efficient, and which works in the best interests of all its customers. This is of huge importance to Scotland's economic development as well as its environment. The way the industry is run and paid for is also a major social policy issue. The Bill takes an important step forward in improving the regulation and governance of the industry.

Achieving the correct balance between legitimate competition and the desire for stability in the industry is not easy, but our Committee believes that the new framework set out in the Bill goes a long way to achieving this.

However, our Committee has asked the Minister to consider and act on our recommendations before we debate the detail of the Bill at Stage 2 . We have made a number of recommendations which we believe would improve the Bill, and have asked him to investigate and clarify several issues. The Committee is particularly concerned, along with the Finance Committee, that further work needs to be done on the costs assumptions before the impact of the Bill can be properly managed.

Our Committee welcomes the Bill and recommends that the full Parliament approves it at the Stage 1 debate on 17 November 2004.

One member of the Committee (Alex Johnstone MSP) dissented with the Committee's conclusions on the issue of regulating competition in the water industry.

While the Committee was considering the Bill, the Executive was also running two major consultations which will shape the water industry for the next few years. The first consultation relates to the investment priorities for 2006-14; the other relates to the principles which should underpin water charges for 2006-10.

The Committee heard a substantial amount of evidence on these issues and its report contains a number of comments on the consultations. These include recommendations that:

Investment in new water and drainage infrastructure to allow housing and commercial development must be a priority. But it is complex, and decisions on prioritising projects must be integrated properly with the processes for local and structure planning.
Tackling odour nuisance from waste water treatment works must be a priority. The Minister should consider using the Bill to set up a statutory code for tackling this.
Scottish Water should have flexible contingency funds to be able to tackle emergencies and unforeseen investment needs.
The Minister should publish detailed information on the winners and losers in any proposed changes to charging structures.
The Minister should seriously consider how water conservation measures and incentives for efficient water use can be built into charging systems and the regulation of the industry.

 


MSPs BACK WATER SERVICES BILL

The Scottish Parliament's Environment and Rural Development Committee today endorsed the general principles of the Water Services etc (Scotland) Bill.

In its Stage 1 Report, the Committee welcomed the proposals in Part 1 of the Bill to reform the regulation of the water industry. The Bill will replace the current Water Industry Commissioner with a Commission of four to six members. However, the Committee was concerned to make sure that customers are well represented in the system and that individual complaints are properly handled. The Committee has reserved judgement on these proposals until it takes more evidence before Stage 2.

The Committee supported the proposals in Part 2 of the Bill to regulate competition in the water industry. The Bill prohibits anyone other than Scottish Water from using the public water and sewerage networks. It also introduces a licensing system for companies who want to compete to provide retail water and sewerage services to business customers. While the Committee welcomes these proposals, it wants to see competition managed in a way that allows Scottish Water to remain a stable and efficient public provider.

The Committee endorsed proposals for a new procedure for determining water charges. It has recommended that this process should be made even more transparent and allow customer interests to be included.

The Committee also supported proposals in Part 3 of the Bill for dealing with water pollution from abandoned coal mines. It recommended that the Minister should consider whether similar powers are needed to deal with pollution from other mineral workings and landfill sites.

Committee Convener Sarah Boyack said:

The Committee wants to see a water industry in Scotland that is strong and efficient, and which works in the best interests of all its customers. This is of huge importance to Scotland's economic development as well as its environment. The way the industry is run and paid for is also a major social policy issue. The Bill takes an important step forward in improving the regulation and governance of the industry.

Achieving the correct balance between legitimate competition and the desire for stability in the industry is not easy, but our Committee believes that the new framework set out in the Bill goes a long way to achieving this.

However, our Committee has asked the Minister to consider and act on our recommendations before we debate the detail of the Bill at Stage 2 . We have made a number of recommendations which we believe would improve the Bill, and have asked him to investigate and clarify several issues. The Committee is particularly concerned, along with the Finance Committee, that further work needs to be done on the costs assumptions before the impact of the Bill can be properly managed.

Our Committee welcomes the Bill and recommends that the full Parliament approves it at the Stage 1 debate on 17 November 2004.

One member of the Committee (Alex Johnstone MSP) dissented with the Committee's conclusions on the issue of regulating competition in the water industry.

While the Committee was considering the Bill, the Executive was also running two major consultations which will shape the water industry for the next few years. The first consultation relates to the investment priorities for 2006-14; the other relates to the principles which should underpin water charges for 2006-10.

The Committee heard a substantial amount of evidence on these issues and its report contains a number of comments on the consultations. These include recommendations that:

Investment in new water and drainage infrastructure to allow housing and commercial development must be a priority. But it is complex, and decisions on prioritising projects must be integrated properly with the processes for local and structure planning.
Tackling odour nuisance from waste water treatment works must be a priority. The Minister should consider using the Bill to set up a statutory code for tackling this.
Scottish Water should have flexible contingency funds to be able to tackle emergencies and unforeseen investment needs.
The Minister should publish detailed information on the winners and losers in any proposed changes to charging structures.
The Minister should seriously consider how water conservation measures and incentives for efficient water use can be built into charging systems and the regulation of the industry.

 


PROCEDURES COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS MORE TIME FOR BILL SCRUTINY

The Procedures Committee today sets out a package of proposed changes to the Parliaments Standing Orders aimed at providing more time for scrutiny throughout the 3-stage process for considering Bills.

Committee convener Iain Smith said:

This Report is the product of a major inquiry, which had as its theme the speed at which Bills progress through the Parliament. It was clear from the wide range of evidence we heard that there are key points in the scrutiny process that are often highly pressured, either for members or for witnesses and other external interests.

What we propose is not a radical overhaul, and there is no single procedural change that will transform how Bills are handled. But the overall effect should be to build in more time where it is most needed, and also to give the Parliament more flexibility in timetabling, particularly at Stage 3.

Some of the key recommendations of the Report are:

That more time should be allowed for Stage 1 inquiries, including at least six to eight weeks for the submission of written evidence on any substantial Bill.
That there should be an extra week between Stage 1 and Stage 2 to allow for the preparation of amendments.
That the notice-period for lodging amendments should be increased by a day from two days to three at Stage 2 and from three days to four at Stage 3 primarily to enable members (and outside observers) to see further in advance how the amendments are to be grouped for debate.
That there should be more flexibility in how Stage 3 proceedings are timetabled, to avoid the situation arising where whole groups of amendments have to be dealt with formally, without debate, because a timetabling deadline has already expired.
That more time should be allowed for the debate on passing the Bill, and that it should be possible to schedule that debate for a later day than the proceedings on Stage 3 amendments.
That the Explanatory Notes and Financial Memorandum that accompany a Bill on introduction should be revised before Stage 3 where the Bill has been amended in relevant respects.
The Report is expected to be debated on Thursday 11 November, together with (in a separate debate) the Committees previous report, A New Procedure for Members Bills (6th Report, 2004), which was published in July. (This is subject to the Parliament agreeing today to a business motion lodged yesterday on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau.)

Background

The new Report the Committees 7th Report, 2004, Timescales and Stages of Bills (SP Paper 228) is published in two volumes. Volume 1 sets out the Committees view, together with the recommended standing order changes, and has a summary of recommendations at the beginning. Volume 2 consists of the evidence and other supporting material.

Witnesses heard during the inquiry included the Minister for Parliamentary Business (then Patricia Ferguson MSP), two Ministers (Ross Finnie MSP and Cathy Jamieson MSP), other MSPs with experience as conveners or members of committees scrutinising Bills (Pauline McNeill, Margo Macdonald, Stewart Stevenson, Alasdair Morrison) and representatives of interested bodies who had given evidence on Bills and contributed to their scrutiny (including COSLA, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Ramblers Association, Barnardos and Save the Children). A wide range of written evidence was also received.

 


 

EDUCATION CENTRE OPENS TODAY AT HOLYROOD

Members of pupil councils from Royal Mile Primary and Holy Rood High were today the first to visit the newly opened Education Centre at the Scottish Parliament. They were welcomed to Holyrood by the Deputy Presiding Officer, Murray Tosh, who introduced the event.

Local MSPs also came along to meet the group as part of the official launch of Parliament's programme of school visits. Following an informal discussion about the Parliament with Members, the young people were given a tour of the building and were shown some of the facilities on offer for school groups.

The education visits programme is now fully booked until the end of June 2005. Nearly 9000 young people will take part in almost 300 groups. Bookings for the 2005 06 session will start to be taken in the summer term 2005.

Deputy Presiding Officer Murray Tosh said:

Bringing young people into Holyrood and showing them how Parliament works is one of the most rewarding parts of our work. And from 1999 onwards, the level of interest in the Parliament's education service has been immense.

Even though Holyrood can accommodate twice as many school visits as our temporary home on the Mound, all our places are booked up until June 2005. That is a hugely encouraging response from Scotland 's schools.

Ten-year-old Sacha Hamilton, a P6 pupil at Royal Mile Primary, enjoyed her first visit to parliament with her classmates.

She said: "I think it's important that we are able to come and see it and find out about it, because if we don't, when we're a bit older, we're going to wonder 'why was it built'"

And Ross Walker, 17, an S6 pupil from Holyrood High, agreed it was important for young people to understand how important issues, such as decision-making, affect everyone.

He said: "Not everyone is interested in politics, but it's great to come here and learn how things are done. I've found out today that a lot of what happens is very similar to the pupil council work we do in school. And of course, it's a stunning building with lots to look at."

Background

Those visiting today were:

Fifteen S2 - S6 pupils from the Holy Rood High pupil council executive committee.

Ten P3 - P7 from Royal Mile Primary pupil council.

The Education service at Holyrood will be able to accommodate twelve school visits per week compared with only six per week at the Mound. Four visits will take place per day on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursday.

 


 

PARLIAMENT GEARS UP FOR FREEDOM OF INFORMATION

From today the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) will make available online policy papers it has considered since August 2004. From now on papers will be published alongside the minutes of the relevant SPCB meeting. This forms part of the Corporate Body's preparations to meet the terms of the Freedom of Information ( Scotland ) Act (FOI).

Some papers will not be published where, for example, publication would breach the Data Protection Act. Where exemptions to FOI legislation or other legal reasons apply, the papers concerned may not be published. The Corporate Body will endeavour to make as much information available as is practicable and consistent with the legal provisions concerned.

The minutes of SPCB meetings are already published on the web. From today the website also provides links to the relevant associated policy papers considered at each meeting, including papers backdated to August 2004.

By putting in place these publishing arrangements the Parliament and SPCB aim to meet the terms of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act before it comes into formal effect on 1 January 2005.

Presiding Officer George Reid said:

The Scottish Parliament is committed to openness as one of its four founding principles. We believe our publication scheme reflects that commitment.

Over time, we hope that the Parliament will be regarded as a leading example of openness, and a model Scottish public authority in the way it responds to the new freedom of information regime in Scotland .

Background

Requests for historical SPCB policy papers will be considered under the terms of the publication scheme. The SPCB accepts the duty to assist with such requests as far as is reasonable, a duty placed upon it by the Act.

For full details of Parliament's publication scheme, see:

http://web.archive.org/web/20051231194648/http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/cnPages/foi/index.htm




MANAGEMENT OF MEDICAL EQUIPMENT SHOULD BE IMPROVED

The management of medical equipment by the NHS in Scotland should be improved, according to a report published today by the Parliament's Audit Committee.

The report follows the Committee's inquiry into the issues raised in the report by the Auditor General for Scotland (AGS) Better equipped to care Follow-up report on managing medical equipment AGS/2004/2.

The Committee recommends that the Scottish Executive Health Department (SEHD) set clear standards for the management of medical equipment by NHS Boards and concludes that better information is needed if NHS Boards are to assess future medical equipment needs more effectively.

The Committee also concludes that risk should be better managed, particularly for low cost pieces of equipment.

Committee Convener Brian Monteith said:

Our inquiry led us to conclude that the management of medical equipment can and should be improved.

NHS Boards should be provided with clear standards against with their performance can be measured to ensure accountability.

The Committee believes that current information gathering activity is inadequate, despite the considerable resource tied up in the collation of statistics.

Better information is needed if gaps in the provision of medical equipment are to be identified and addressed and if the performance of NHS Boards is to be effectively measured.

In the report the Committee states that SEHD's role in achieving and maintaining improvement must be strategic and should not attempt to prescribe in detail the quality and quantity of medical equipment purchased by NHS Boards. However, the Committee recommends that SEHD develop a strategic national approach to the management of medical equipment which:

Better manages risk, particularly in relation to low cost high volume items;

Improves information for assessing future need so that gaps in provision are identified and addressed;

Delivers a nationally agreed minimum data set; and

Provides NHS Boards with clear standards against which their performance will be measured to ensure accountability.

Background notes:

The Audit Committee's report is available on the Scottish Parliament's website.

The report sets out the Committee's findings and recommendations in relation to its inquiry into the report of the Auditor General for Scotland (AGS) entitled:

Better equipped to care Follow-up report on managing medical equipment AGS/2004/2. This report is available online at: http://web.archive.org/web/20051231214259/http://www.audit-scotland.gov.uk/

The Audit Committee held an oral evidence session on 25 May 2004 when it took evidence from the Scottish Executive Health Department.

In undertaking the inquiry the Committee sought to examine the health department's leadership role in the management of medical equipment and information to support performance management and accountability for medical equipment.


SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT BUILDS ON SUCCESS WITH FIRST TOUR VISITORS


The first family to gain exclusive access to the new Scottish Parliament have described the building as inspirational.

The Milton family, from Oldmeldrum in Aberdeenshire were among 25 lucky people to take part in the first official guided tour of the building on Monday 11 th October.Ian Milton, wife Alison, and sons Ramsay (13) and 10-year-old twins Findlay and Fraser, visited the Parliament during a short break in Edinburgh and the whole family pronounced themselves very impressed.Ian, who works as a chartered surveyor, commented:I know people who had visited the Parliament in the run-up to the opening ceremony and Ive seen it on TV but I must admit it really is impressive when you actually see it for yourself.Its a bold and inspirational building - the debating chamber is beautiful and the garden lobby area is also really eye-catching.Alisons view was also very positive:The whole building demands a reaction, she said. It definitely exceeded my expectations Scotland deserves an impressive building for its Parliament and thats definitely what has been achieved.The younger members of the Milton family also enjoyed their tour and sung the Parliaments praises.Eldest son Ramsay commented: It was good to hear the guide explaining the background to the Parliament it would be interesting to know what the architect had in mind when he was designing it.Twins Findlay and Fraser were also impressed and described the Parliaments debating chamber as cool and awesome. The launch of the tour service follows Saturdays successful official opening of the building in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen. Demand for the rest of the year is expected to remain high, with Parliament staff already receiving bookings up to Christmas Eve.The tours last for 45 minutes and provide a detailed commentary on the building itself, from its design to the artwork on the walls, and the history of the Scottish Parliament from devolution to elections. Visitors can also expect to gain an insight into the day-to-day workings of the Parliament.Starting from the main public area of the Parliament building, visitors are taken to the floor of the Chamber to see where the MSPs meet to debate and decide on the issues that matter to the people of Scotland .In the Chamber, visitors can view a number of striking elements which include an oak beam ceiling reminiscent of early boat-building principles.

The tours include visits to one of the six Committee Rooms where MSPs take evidence from witnesses, scrutinise legislation and conduct inquiries - and go further into the building to allow views of the MSPs office accommodation and historic Queensberry House. Visitors can also explore some of the most eye-catching areas of the building, including the Garden Lobby, glazed walkway and black and white corridor, where MSPs are interviewed by the media.Up to four tours every hour will run at the Parliament, each accommodating a maximum of 25 people. Until the end of the Parliaments current October recess and during future recess periods, the tours will run seven days a week.At all other times when the Parliament is sitting, the tours will run on Mondays and Fridays and at weekends. The tours cost 3.50 for adults, 1.75 for concessions and there is no charge for children under the age of five or support workers/carers accompanying a disabled person. There are a range of family ticket prices and a 10 per cent reduction for large groups of 25 or more. The charges have been set at a level to cover the cost of operating the professional tours.The service is run by a pool of 100 guides from the Scottish Tourist Guides Association and Mercat Tours. Initially, tours will be given in English and the intention is to offer tours in other languages by next year.In addition to the guided tours, all visitors to the Parliament can freely access the public areas, view an exhibition about the Parliament or make use of the shop, public caf鬠cr裨e and Visitor Information Desk.On business days, members of the public can book free tickets to see Parliament in action in committees or meetings of the full Parliament. This is a very popular option and booking in advance is recommended. On non-business days, the Chamber and Committee Room public galleries are open for visitors to see these remarkable spaces and staff are available to answer questions.A massive 32,982 visitors passed through the Scottish Parliament's doors in the four weeks since the new building opened its doors to the public on September 7. The figure is almost 3,000 more than those who visited the Parliament at its former George IV Bridge location in the year between May 2003 and April 2004. The public cr裨e has been used by almost 60 visitors to the building so far. The Parliament shop has made brisk sales since opening in recent weeks, with the best selling items including a range of postcards depicting the building and The Scottish Parliament Whisky, with both the blend and malt proving popular.To book a tour, please call telephone (voice): 0131 348 5200Textphone users are also welcome to contact any of the Scottish Parliament's telephone numbers using the RNID Typetalk service. Guided Tours The Parliament offer a guided tours service, run by professional tour guides. The tours last approximately 45 minutes and take you from the Main Hall to the floor of the Chamber to see where the MSPs meet to debate and decide on the issues that matter to the people of Scotland . You will also visit a Committee Room and explore further into the building, to allow views of the MSPs office block and historic Queensberry House.
There is a charge for the guided tours to cover the cost of the professional tour guides:

  • Adults: 3.50 Concessions: 1.75 (children aged 5 to 16; people aged 60 and over; students; unemployed; disabled people) Children under 5: Free
  • Support workers/carers accompanying a disabled person: Free

Please ask for details of our family ticket rates and discounts for pre-booked groups of 25 or more people.For further information about arranging a guided tour, please contact us before visiting on Telephone (voice): 0131 348 5200 Textphone users are also welcome to contact any of the Scottish Parliament's telephone numbers using the RNID Typetalk service.
Textphone: 0845 270 0152 (local rate)
Fax: 0131 348 5601 Email: sp.bookings@scottish.parliament.uk

Address: The Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh , EH99 1SP

In addition to the guided tours, all visitors to the Parliament can freely access the public areas, view an exhibition about the Parliament or make use of the shop, public caf鬠cr裨e and Visitor Information Desk.
On business days, members of the public can book free tickets to see Parliament in action in committees or meetings of the full Parliament. This is a very popular option and booking in advance is recommended. On non-business days, the Chamber and Committee Room public galleries are open for visitors to see these remarkable spaces and staff are available to answer questions




HISTORIC OPENING OF HOLYROOD ATTRACTS GLOBAL INTEREST

International interest in the Opening of Holyrood ensured that Parliament's website yesterday attracted visitors from locations all across the world, with people logging on from Guadalajara to Glenrothes, Barcelona to Beijing, Dundee to Dar es Salaam, and Hanoi to Honolulu.

With interest from Aberdeen to Zagreb, the greatest number of hits came from the UK and the United States, with other visitors accessing the site from more than 80 other countries, ranging from Nepal, Qatar and Saint Lucia, to Brazil, China and India.

On the day of the Opening itself and the week running up to it, Parliament's website served more than 375,000 pages, with information about the Opening and latest pictures of the Holyrood building being most popular after the front page itself.

Presiding Officer George Reid said:

The Opening of Holyrood gave us a chance to show off the range of Scotlands best talent on the international stage, and the level of interest in Parliaments work from around the world is a pleasing reflection of our internationalist outlook.

The day itself lived up to my high expectations for it, and key to that for me was being able to bring people from across the country into the heart of their new Parliament building.

Peter Lederer, Chairman of Visit Scotland, said:

The eyes of the world were on us at the weekend and I have no doubt that the successful opening of Holyrood will bring even more visitors to the Capital.

International public interest was matched by the range of countries which sent representatives to Holyrood on the day. Those who gathered for the days events included speakers of Parliaments from Ghana to the Slovak Republic, and consular representatives from over forty countries, ranging from Mongolia to Mexico.

The opening celebrations also attracted international media coverage in countries ranging from Bahrain and China to Australia and Canada.

Background

Records for Parliament's website showed that the greatest interest in the Opening yesterday came from the UK and the United States. The remaining visitors came from more than 80 countries, as follows (largest number first):

Canada, Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Australia, Republic of Korea, Sweden, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Japan, China, Poland, Denmark, New Zealand, Greece, Ireland, Norway, Singapore, Israel, United Arab Emirates, Luxembourg, Argentina, Hungary, Iran, Finland, Peru, Portugal, India, Mexico, Russian Federation, the Czech Republic, Thailand, Turkey, Nigeria, Philippines, Brazil, Slovenia, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, Malaysia, Iceland, Hong Kong, Cyprus, Croatia, Uruguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Slovakia, Pakistan, Benin, Liechtenstein, Bahrain, Indonesia, Dominican Republic, Serbia and Montenegro, Malta, Colombia, Morocco, Romania, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, British Virgin Islands, Tanzania, Andorra, Saint Lucia, Lithuania, Macau, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Egypt, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Belarus, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Panama, Chile, Nepal and Bulgaria.


GUIDED TOURS OF HOLYROOD GET UNDER WAY

Visitors will be able to gain exclusive access to the new Scottish Parliament building from Monday 11 October when the official programme of guided tours gets under way.

The Parliament has already been inundated with bookings for the guided tours, which will give the public access to private areas for the first time such as the floor of the Debating Chamber.

The launch of the service follows Saturdays successful official Opening of the building, performed by Her Majesty the Queen.

Thousands of spectators turned out to witness the historic day and enjoy the packed programme of entertainment and events laid on along the Royal Mile and around the Parliament building.

The first round of the professionally-run guided tours programme, setting off from the buildings Main Hall tomorrow morning, is fully booked and demand for the rest of the year is expected to remain high, with Parliament staff already receiving bookings up to Christmas Eve.

The tours last for 45 minutes and provide a detailed commentary on the building itself, from its design to the artwork on the walls, and the history of the Scottish Parliament from devolution to elections. Visitors can also expect to gain a deeper insight into the day-to-day workings of the Parliament.

Starting from the main public area of the Parliament building, visitors are taken to the floor of the Chamber to see where the MSPs meet to debate and decide on the issues that matter to the people of Scotland.

In the Chamber, visitors can view a number of striking elements which include a ceiling reminiscent of the hammer-beam roof of Old Parliament Hall, and also echoing early boat-building principles.

The tours include visits to one of the six Committee Rooms where MSPs take evidence from witnesses, scrutinise legislation and conduct inquiries and go further into the building to allow views of the Members office block and historic Queensberry House. Visitors can also explore some of the most eye-catching areas of the building, including the Garden Lobby, the glazed walkway and the black and white corridor, where MSPs are often interviewed by the media.

Up to four tours every hour will run at the Parliament, each accommodating a maximum of 25 people. Until the end of the Parliaments current October recess and during future recess periods, the tours will run seven days a week.

At all other times when the Parliament is sitting, the tours will run on Mondays and Fridays and at weekends.

The tours will cost 3.50 for adults, 1.75 for concessions and there will be no charge for children under the age of five or support workers/carers accompanying a disabled person. There will be a range of family ticket prices and a 10 per cent reduction for large groups of 25 or more.

The charges have been set at a level to cover the cost of operating the professional tours.

The service will be run by a pool of 100 guides from the Scottish Tourist Guides Association and Mercat Tours. Initially, tours will be given in English and the intention is to offer tours in other languages by next year.

In addition to the guided tours, all visitors to the Parliament can freely access the public areas, view an exhibition about the Parliament or make use of the shop, public caf鬍 cr裨e and Visitor Information Desk. On business days, the public can book free tickets to see Parliament in action in Committees or meetings of the full Parliament.

This is a very popular option and booking in advance is recommended. On non-business days, the Chamber Gallery and Committee Rooms are open for visitors to see these remarkable spaces, and staff are available to answer questions.

A massive 32,982 visitors have passed through the Scottish Parliament's doors in the four weeks since the new building opened its doors to the public on 7 September The figure is almost 3,000 more than those who visited the Parliament at its former George IV Bridge location in the year between May 2003 and April 2004. The public cr裨e has been used by almost 60 visitors to the building so far.

The Parliament shop has made brisk sales since opening in recent weeks, with the best selling items including a range of postcards depicting the building and The Scottish Parliament Whisky, with both the blend and malt proving popular.

Philip Riddle, Chief Executive of VisitScotland said:

The new Parliament building is an exciting addition to a range of fantastic visitor attractions in Scotland.

We expect there will be a huge interest in the Holyrood building from home and abroad.

Guided Tours

The Parliament offer a guided tours service, run by professional tour guides. The tours last approximately 45 minutes and take you from the Main Hall to the floor of the Chamber to see where the MSPs meet to debate and decide on the issues that matter to the people of Scotland . You will also visit a Committee Room and explore further into the building, to allow views of the MSPs office block and historic Queensberry House.
There is a charge for the guided tours to cover the cost of the professional tour guides:

Adults: 3.50
Concessions: 1.75 (children aged 5 to 16; people aged 60 and over; students; unemployed; disabled people)
Children under 5: Free
Support workers/carers accompanying a disabled person: Free
Please ask for details of our family ticket rates and discounts for pre-booked groups of 25 or more people.

For further information about arranging a guided tour, please contact us before visiting on Telephone (voice): 0131 348 5200

Textphone users are also welcome to contact any of the Scottish Parliament's telephone numbers using the RNID Typetalk service.
Textphone: 0845 270 0152 (local rate)
Fax: 0131 348 5601

Email: sp.bookings@scottish.parliament.uk

Address: The Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh , EH99 1SP

In addition to the guided tours, all visitors to the Parliament can freely access the public areas, view an exhibition about the Parliament or make use of the shop, public caf鬠cr裨e and Visitor Information Desk.
On business days, members of the public can book free tickets to see Parliament in action in committees or meetings of the full Parliament. This is a very popular option and booking in advance is recommended. On non-business days, the Chamber and Committee Room public galleries are open for visitors to see these remarkable spaces and staff are available to answer questions.



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