The Big Lunch

– in the Scottish Parliament on 5th March 2020.

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Photo of Jeremy Balfour Jeremy Balfour Conservative

1. To ask the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body what its position is on facilitating the Eden project initiative, the big lunch, in June 2020 to bring people who work at the Parliament together and help strengthen the sense of community. (S5O-04233)

Photo of Ruth Davidson Ruth Davidson Conservative

The big lunch looks like a really worthwhile event, with a strong message of community engagement. I know that all members and the SPCB would want to be supportive of such an initiative. As the member will be aware, in recent years, we have supported a similar event, the great get together, which is a project that was initiated by the Jo Cox Foundation. As such, I suggest that the Eden project make contact with the Scottish Parliament’s events and exhibitions team to discuss the event in more detail, so that it can be considered along with other events, such as the great get together.

Photo of Jeremy Balfour Jeremy Balfour Conservative

I thank the member for that positive answer. Would the SPCB also consider other community initiatives on the back of the big lunch, such as regular exercises or healthy workshops to give all MSPs and parliamentary staff the opportunity to socialise and improve their mental and physical health and wellbeing during work break times?

Photo of Ruth Davidson Ruth Davidson Conservative

Those are exactly the sort of positive suggestions that the SPCB would consider in the future. Our events team is designed to help members and outside organisations to facilitate such events.

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

Given the current situation around the coronavirus and in the context of the question on the Eden project initiative and the promotion of other large gatherings of people, what immediate and practical steps will be taken to safeguard building users, such as the disabling of the fingerprint entry system? What further steps will be taken should the virus move beyond the containment phase?

Photo of Ruth Davidson Ruth Davidson Conservative

Officials have been monitoring the spread of coronavirus over recent weeks and recognise that if the number of cases increases, it may have significant impact on us all, whether we work at Holyrood or in a local office or are a visitor to the Scottish Parliament. At our meeting this morning, the corporate body discussed our approach to pandemic planning and considered the options open to us in limiting exposure to the virus. The corporate body is mindful of its duties and responsibilities, including those under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, to its employees and those who work at the Parliament.

At present, our focus is on promoting hand and respiratory hygiene as the main measures in preventing the spread of the virus. Hand sanitiser dispensers have now been placed around the building to help with that.

On the two-factor identification system, while we take steps to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus, it is important that we remain vigilant and do not introduce vulnerabilities into our agreed approach to security. The readers used at the entrances carry no more risk of cross-contamination than a door handle, so two-factor identification will not be suspended. For those with concerns about cross-contamination, hand sanitiser is available at each of the main entrances.

On large gatherings, other legislatures, such as the European Parliament, have chosen to stop their engagement activities and, to limit exposure to those who normally work at Holyrood, we may choose to do the same, should circumstances warrant that. The corporate body recognises that that would be done only in the most extreme circumstances and would be informed by advice from officials such as the chief medical officer.

Photo of Elaine Smith Elaine Smith Labour

Could the SPCB publish guidance on, and could more attention be paid to, fighting the spread of infection, for example by putting paper towels back into toilets, replenishing soaps quickly, supplying wipes for keyboards and situating hand gels at the public entrance and the entrance to the MSP block? I also ask the SPCB to look again at the fingerprint entry system in the context of infection.

Photo of Ruth Davidson Ruth Davidson Conservative

I reassure the member that the SPCB will continue to monitor the situation in accordance with our teams and engagement activity with other official bodies, including other UK legislatures and the Scottish Government resilience room.

We have already communicated with members and others on the outbreak and we will continue to do so regularly as the situation develops.

Officials are creating a frequently asked questions sheet on how public health advice can be followed. The aim is for that advice to be as applicable to members and their staff as it is to staff and contractors at Holyrood. We recognise that mitigation steps may need to be increased in future as risks change or emerge. If required, we will take steps that are in line with the advice from public health agencies.

On the specific issues of hand sanitiser at the public entrance, replacing paper towels and so on, we had a discussion this morning about the work that cleaning crews do and how we can increase what they do as the situation merits it. We will continue to take advice on that from public health bodies.