Security crackdown after eco protesters wreak havoc at Humza Yousaf's FMQs debut

A demonstrator calling for action on climate change is removed by police as Humza Yousaf attends his first First Minister's Questions
A demonstrator calling for action on climate change is removed by police as Humza Yousaf attends his first First Minister's Questions
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Holyrood's presiding officer has announced a security crackdown after environmental protestors created chaos at Humza Yousaf's debut First Minister's Questions.

Alison Johnstone said the perpetrators would be banned from Holyrood's public gallery for six months and "more stringent measures" would be introduced to identify in advance those who intend to disrupt proceedings.

She hit out after she was forced to suspend proceedings five times in 15 minutes following a series of outbursts, which appeared to be coordinated.

Eventually, Ms Johnstone, who is Holyrood's version of the Commons Speaker, cleared the main chamber's public gallery to ensure there were no further interruptions.

The protests have become a weekly occurrence at First Minister's Questions, which is televised on the BBC, and usually occur at the start of proceedings when Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross is cross-examining the First Minister.

It was reported that one of those thrown out had also been ejected three weeks previously. However, it was the first week the protestors had staggered their interventions to create so many interruptions.

According to Holyrood's official record, First Minister's Questions were suspended only seconds after it started at 12pm, then again at 12.04pm, 12.06pm, 12.13pm and finally 12.15pm.

The parliament previously banned mobile phones from the public gallery in an attempt to deter protestors but Ms Johnstone promised a stricter crackdown.

'Wholly unacceptable scenes'

She later wrote to MSPs about the "wholly unacceptable scenes", saying all those responsible "will be issued with a ban from the chamber public galleries for six months."

In an attempt to prevent a reoccurrence, Ms Johnstone said: "We will introduce, at the earliest opportunity, more stringent measures to identify those who disrupt our proceedings.

"We will also amend our visitor access policy to explicitly state that anyone who wilfully disrupts business will be excluded from our public galleries."

She said it was the first time people had been excluded from the parliament in its 25-year history but she "must consider the impact on the welfare of others in the gallery where such action may result in alarm and distress."

The protests repeatedly halted Mr Ross's momentum as he tried to take Mr Yousaf to task over his new ministerial team, including the creation of an Independence Minister.

Some of the protestors shouted about the development of Rosebank, west of Shetland, which contains up to 350 million barrels of oil and is the largest undeveloped field in the North Sea.

'We must stop this'

Mr Ross blasted the protesters, saying: "This shower have been doing this week after week, and the image of genuine constituents being forced out of our Parliament is one we will all regret and one none of us want to see repeated."

He said he was grateful that some school children had been permitted to remain, but added: "We must do something to stop this going forward."

Mr Yousaf later told journalists: "I understand why people want to demonstrate about very important issues of the day, but this disruption is stopping members of the Scottish Parliament keeping me under scrutiny."

In a statement posted on Instagram, Just Stop Oil and This is Rigged claimed responsibility for the protests, saying: “New First Minister, same demands. Humza Yousaf will you commit to ending all new oil and gas projects including: Rosebank, Jackdaw, Abigail & Peterhead?

“As the new First Minister you must ensure a fully funded, fair, transition for Scotland’s oil and gas workers."