By Neil Pooran
MSPs have banned pictures of their luxurious new £125,000 bar at Holyrood.
The swanky watering hole – called the Queensberry House Lounge – cost taxpayers £75,000 to build with the rest paid for by catering contractors Sodexo.
But parliament bosses are refusing to let taxpayers see what they have helped pay for because of concerns over MSPs’ “privacy”. The move has even angered some MSPs, who claim the public should be allowed to see the bar.
The new bar has been created because parliament chiefs said they could not justify the £50,000 annual cost of keeping the existing restaurant in the £414m building open at night. Critics have long argued that Holyrood politicians should use local bars anyway.
The Queensberry House Lounge will serve between 4pm and 10pm on weekdays.
Light meals are on offer until 8.30pm, and the bar can accommodate around 30 people. The Lounge will only be open to MSPs, other parliament passholders and invited guests.Those lucky enough to be invited in will also be able to take advantage of tea and coffee between 10 am and 4pm.
Prices will reflect local rates, the parliament has said.
But a parliament spokeswoman said photographs were not allowed in advance of the bar opening because it would disrupt preparations. And pictures will not be allowed once the building was open to protect members’ privacy, she said.
She said: “Our focus remains on providing a service to those using the lounge – and their expectations of privacy in this space. This is entirely in keeping with how we manage private areas of the building.”
The decision to open the new bar was made in June by the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body (SPCB), a cross-party group which also contains the presiding officer for the Scottish Parliament Tricia Marwick. It said only 7% of seats in the existing restaurant were occupied at any given time after 5pm.
Labour Lothians MSP Kezia Degdale said: “If the existing bar in the Parliament cannot sustain itself, it should close and we should all be encouraged to use bars in the local area. There are great small businesses all around the parliament and I’m sure they could do with some support from politicians.
“The public is entitled to see anything and everything that goes on in the parliament. Transparency is one of its founding principles. Especially in these austere times, and given the history of the building, the public is entitled to see what this bar looks like.”
Eben Wilson, of campaign group Taxpayer Scotland, said: “This is a great example of how un-enterprising our political elite can be. Ordinary taxpayers don’t have their own bars subsidised, we pay for them through the drinks we buy.”
“Why should politicians be allowed private clubs that we are not allowed to see payed for by our hard earned cash? The privacy they are demanding rams home the idea that they consider themselves to be an elite.”
The existing restaurant and bar will remain open at lunchtimes and will have a dinner service twice a month. It will host members’ sponsored events and receptions later.