Holyrood goes spy-tech to get computers switched off

SCOTTISH Parliament bosses have set up an electronic "spy" system to make sure MSPs and Holyrood staff switch off their computers at night.

And any politicians, researchers or officials who fail to comply can expect constant e-mails reminding them to do so.

The move is part of a drive to cut the parliament's energy use by eight per cent by March 2009.

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Thermal images of the 414 million Holyrood building have previously highlighted problems with energy loss.

Last week the Evening News reported plans to replace existing tungsten light bulbs at Holyrood with energy-saving lamps, intended to reduce energy consumption by 25 per cent. There were also calls by one MSP for committees to do without artificial lighting at their meetings.

Parliament chief executive Paul Grice has told members of the cross-party Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, (SPCB) which is responsible for managing the building, that meeting the energy target will require all building users to follow good practice by turning off office equipment when not in use, turning lights off and keeping heating to a reasonable level.

He continued: "To help remind building users of their responsibilities, a system has been devised which can determine when a PC has been left on overnight and automatically issue an e-mail to remind individuals to switch PCs off."

He said a trial run among parliament staff had resulted in a "marked reduction" in the number of computers left on overnight and the system was being extended to MSPs and their staff.

Edinburgh South Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Pringle, who sits on the SPCB, said

: "A lot of people just don't remember to turn their computer off before they go home for the night.

"It's an excellent idea and it should save a huge amount of energy."

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The e-mail which is sent automatically to those whose computers are left on says: "An automated check last night has shown that PC XXX was left switched on outside of normal hours and that you were the last person to be logged on to it.

"The parliament has a target of reducing energy consumption by eight per cent of the 2005-2006 total by March 2009. Shutting your PC and monitor down at the end of the day would help considerably towards this target. Thank you for your co-operation."

One researcher said: "We do try to remember to switch off, but sometimes you have too much on your mind.

"If you get a message every day, I suppose it does make you more likely to remember.

"It's a difficult thing to argue against – if you said anything it would be seen as un-green."