MEMBERS of the public will be banned from taking their phones into Holyrood’s public gallery after a spate of protests during First Minister’s Questions. 

Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone announced the new digital device policy as part of a raft of new restrictions ahead of Humza Yousaf’s first appearance in the chamber as First Minister. 

She said the Scottish Parliament's Corporate Body (SPCB) had also formally requested Police Scotland "engage with the protest groups that have been disrupting business" to "explain that their actions have wider consequences for all members of the public observing FMQs."

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There has been disruption in the chamber nearly every week for some months now, with most of those taking part calling for politicians to do more to tackle climate change.

Just Stop Oil is one of the groups behind the protests, with activists filming their intervention and sharing it on social media. 

In a letter to all MSPs, Ms Johnstone said it would "now be a condition of entry to FMQs that all mobile devices be stowed away at all times and must not be used in the public gallery during proceedings."

She said secure storage for electronic devices would soon be installed in parliament "so that our policy for FMQ’s becomes no electronic devices in the public gallery."

The Presiding Officer said: “The Scottish Parliament is an open and accessible parliament - welcoming many thousands of people annually.

“We recognise the importance of peaceful protest and have actively supported and facilitated demonstrations in our landscaped grounds since the Holyrood building opened in 2004, and we continue to do so.  Protest is not, however, permitted in the building.

“The right of the public to observe their elected representatives at work is important. Our visitor access terms make clear that the public galleries are for observing business.  The Parliament must be able to carry out its democratic functions unhindered.

“The Parliament exists to legislate, to hold the government to account and to represent the will of the people.  When disruption to parliamentary business happens, it brings these functions to a halt.

"At FMQs, any disruption reduces the time available for Members to scrutinise the First Minister and the government of the day.”

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The Presiding Officer urged MSPs to make sure that constituents asking for tickets for FMQs, were reminded of the visitor code of conduct which states they should “not applaud or shout out during meetings” or “cause a distraction or disrupt parliamentary business”. 

Ms Johnstone added: "My hope is that those who have disrupted chamber business realise their actions impact on others. 

"For almost 20 years the public at Holyrood have enjoyed open, ready access to parliamentary business with the minimum of restrictions or security checks.

"These measures are a proportionate initial response to what is a recent phenomenon. Work is underway on a range of other measures, ready for implementation, should the SPCB consider these necessary to further protect parliamentary business from persistent disruption."

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Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser welcomed the measures. 

He told The Herald: "It is good that the SPCB are taking this seriously and this is a welcome first step. MSPs and the public are frustrated at the constant interruptions to Parliamentary business from selfish protestors.

"We also need to ensure that those who disrupt proceedings are not readmitted to the Chamber gallery, and face lengthy bans. If these measures prove insufficient, then we may need to go further still, but it is hoped that these will have an impact."

Just Stop Oil has been approached for comment.