HOLYROOD has refused to publish the paperwork behind its “Draconian” decision to empower the police to remove protesters under threat of criminal prosecution.

The Scottish Parliament announced on Thursday that the building and its grounds were to become a “protected site” in the interests of national security.

It means that from October 1, it will be an offence to be on the parliamentary estate “without lawful authority”, punishable by a £5,000 fine or a year in jail upon summary conviction.

The Parliament today published the minutes of the June 24 meeting that took the decision, which revealed Green MSP Maggie Chapman had raised some initial concerns.

However the paper setting out the background and rationale for the decision was withheld in its entirety on security grounds. 

The parliament’s website describes the paper as an “unavailable document”.

Holyrood’s founding principles include openness and accountability.

READ MORE: Holyrood protesters to face criminal prosecution under new law

At present, the police have very limited powers to remove people if there is no substantive offence taking place outside Holyrood, and long, noisy demonstrations are a regular occurrence.

Holyrood's new status means officers can remove people from anywhere in the building and grounds, including the grassy area and ponds opposite Holyroodhouse, and the public and staff entrances.

In recent days, hundreds of people have gathered in these areas to demonstrate in support of women's rights and against Covid vaccine passports.

It is understood a demonstration is planned outside the parliament next week to protest against the new law.

The change was requested by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body [SPCB], the cross-party group of MSPs that manages the parliament, and which is chaired by the Presiding Officer.

It was then approved by the Home Office under UK serious organised crime legislation.

It puts the Scottish Parliament on the same footing as Westminster and the Welsh Senedd.

Prominent SNP MP, Joanna Cherry QC, criticised the move.

She tweeted: “Why did the corporate body of the @ScotParl feel the need to seek such a draconian anti #FreedomOfExpression power from Westminster? What’s the mischief they feel needs addressing?”

PO Alison Johnstone said the parliament would continue to welcome and facilitate “peaceful protest that respects the rights of others”, which was an essential part of democracy.

However she said that “in practical terms this offers grounds for removing those on site in contravention” of Holyrood’s estate management policy. 

The minutes of the SPCB meeting of June 24 record under “Estate management” that “the SPCB discussed the Scottish Parliament becoming a designated site under legislation in line with the UK and Welsh Parliaments. 

“Maggie Chapman raised some concerns about the proposal. Following discussion of these and other queries the SPCB agreed to apply for designated status.”

There was no vote on whether to seek protected site status.

A Scottish Parliament said: “Designated status will not affect the SPCB’s policy of welcoming and facilitating peaceful protest that respects the rights of others.

"Such protests are an essential part of the expression of democracy in Scotland.

"As a matter of standard practice we do not publish corporate body papers that  contain security advice.”