Scottish Parliament is not family-friendly and needs to change, MSPs say
Meghan Gallacher, the deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives, whose daughter Charlotte was born last year, suggested nursery provision could be provided – as it is in Westminster.
Senior SNP minister Angus Robertson, the father of two young daughters under the age of four, said there had been “zero outreach to me and other MSP parents of young children to discuss solutions” since his election in 2021.
Cross-party talks are taking place following concerns that those with young children, particularly women, are being forced out of frontline politics.
It is understood the Care Inspectorate visited the parliament in 2021 and confirmed it would not be granted a license to run an onsite nursery due to the lack of ready access to safe outdoor space. The creche, which reopens next month after closing during the pandemic, has a maximum stay of four hours.
Ms Gallacher said she has had early talks with Mr Robertson about pushing for change. She told The Scotsman: "It has been challenging, and that's why myself, and other members as well, have raised the issue of the parliament not being family-friendly, and I have been critical of that.”
Ms Gallacher said “talented MSPs” have left Holyrood because of the lack of work-life balance, adding: "And I think unfortunately history will continue to repeat itself unless the parliament makes a bold decision to try and make the parliament more family-friendly.
"Now, I think that's open to debate. I don't think there's necessarily a clear answer. However, when you look at the provisions we have here compared to the provisions they've got down in Westminster – Westminster actually has a nursery for members to utilise; we've got a creche which never opens."
She criticised the Scottish Government for “changing timetables at the last minute”.
Mr Robertson told The Scotsman: “The Scottish Parliament isn’t nearly family-friendly enough and has had no functioning childcare for too long. Frankly, a creche is not even going to cut it for MSPs who may have parenting responsibilities at the same time as needing to be at Holyrood. Since being elected in 2021 there has been zero outreach to me and other MSP parents of young children to discuss solutions."
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Parliament said: “It’s timely that the Scottish Parliament has recently carried out an audit looking at barriers to equal representation and participation at Holyrood. Just last month, the cross-party board established in early 2022 to assess the findings of the audit, published a package of over thirty recommendations.
“A key recommendation is that an advisory group, made up of MSPs from all parties and external experts, now be established to oversee the implementation of the report and make sure that progress continues. We will be asking MSPs to put themselves forward to join this group.
"The report also calls, for example, for further research into MSP parental leave provisions and a review of the unpredictability of sitting times, in order that changes be made to maximise a family-friendly working environment.”
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