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Friday, 6 April, 2001, 05:13 GMT 06:13 UK
MSPs' role in protest probed
Anti-Trident protesters in Scottish Parliament
The anti-Trident protesters disrupted First Minister's Questions
An investigation has been launched into the behaviour of MSPs during a demonstration by anti-Trident campaigners in the Scottish Parliament.

The parliament's Presiding Officer Sir David Steel said he was concerned that several members appeared to be encouraging the demonstrators.

The Scottish National Party MSP for the Lothians Margo MacDonald, who joined the demonstrators in the public gallery, said she shares their frustration because democracy is letting them down.

Sir David told MSPs he was concerned that some members applauded the demonstrators.

Margo MacDonald MSP
Margo MacDonald: "Democracy is letting them down"
He said that it is a serious matter to encourage the disruption of parliament.

About 11 protesters chanted and sang as First Minister's Questions - led by Deputy First Minister Jim Wallace - got underway.

They tied themselves to the railings in the public gallery with plastic ties.

The presiding officer suspended the sitting for about 15 minutes to allow security staff to clear the protesters from the chamber.

The demonstrators - most of whom were women - unfurled banners, shouted and sung out protests and threw pieces of paper down onto the ranks of MSPs below.

Sir David's investigation should be completed by the time MSPs return from the Easter recess in two weeks.

Presiding Officer Sir David Steel
Sir David Steel: Concerned
It is not clear what measures he could take against the MSPs concerned.

Afterwards Margo MacDonald said she supported the reasons for the protesters to be there.

She said she would not normally encourage disruption of the democratic process - but she shares the frustration of the demonstrators that democracy and the parliament is letting them down by refusing to debate nuclear weapons because it is a reserved matter to Westminster.

Trident Ploughshares group protester Ellen Moxley, 66, who described herself as an observer to the protest, was not arrested.

She said: "The aim of today was to highlight in our own people's parliament the fact that we have genocidal nuclear weapons on Scottish soil and that we are not able to debate it because it is a reserved issue.

Nuclear weapons

"This is extremely important because 51% of people in Scotland don't want Trident submarines in Scotland."

She said the decision for the protest was taken after last week's "perverse" judgement at the High Court which found that nuclear weapons were not illegal.

Lothian and Borders Police said 11 people had been arrested for breach or the peace and a report was being sent to the procurator fiscal.

Scottish Socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan praised the protesters, saying: "These peace campaigners acted with dignity and deserve the support of MSPs for bringing the whole issue of Trident and the need for disarmament into the Chamber."

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See also:

30 Mar 01 | Scotland
Judges rule Trident not illegal
13 Feb 01 | Scotland
New Trident submarine in service
12 Dec 00 | Scotland
Trident fine deadline for MSP
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