Water hazard: Visitors fall into ponds outside Scottish Parliament

The ponds outside the Scottish Parliament have emerged among Holyrood's top hazards in the past year.

The ponds at the Scottish Parliament have seen a lot of falls over the years
The ponds at the Scottish Parliament have seen a lot of falls over the years

Official data on accidents in and around the parliament reveal three separate incidents where visitors fell into the shallow water features.

In one case the accident log records the fall into the pond nearest the public exit “resulted in bruising”. But in the other two incidents it says there were “no reported injuries”.

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All the falls occurred over a three-day period in December last year. No further details of the accidents were given in the records released by the parliament under Freedom of Information.

The data showed the top accident hot spot was the service yard and the where five accidents were recorded between October 25 last year and November 3 this year. None of these incidents, which involved visitors, parliament staff, a contractor and a member of the public, resulted in any injuries.

Other accidents at the parliament included a member of staff who suffered Injuries to their back, shoulder and wrist following a trip on steps, another who was left with injuries to their hand after tripping on the grand staircase and a third who sustained an injury to their back, chest and shoulder when opening a heavy exterior gate in the MSP garden.

A member of staff injured their face and hand tripping on a cable in the garden lobby and another suffered a minor injury to their jaw when a “window was blown open by wind”.

There were no compensation payouts by the parliament as a result of accidents over the past year.

The late Enric Miralles, the architect who designed the parliament, included the ponds to double as an ornamental feature and an anti-attack measure, describing them as "a pleasant background for the public, helping security as well".

But there have been several accidents over the years, including one elderly man who got out of a taxi and walked into a pond. Another visitor suffered broken ribs after falling into one of the ponds while reading a text message and an MSP accidentally stepped back into a pond while taking a photograph.

Temporary safety barriers were put up in 2006 after a spate of accidents, but parliament officials accused the police of "precipitate action". The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents was called in and proposed fencing and extensive signage to warn of the hazard and draining the water in winter. But a second report, by architects Lee Boyd, said the plans were "excessive".

At one point the authorities even considered filling in the ponds, which they said would save the parliament £75,000 a year in running costs. In the end, new concrete benches were added to the existing ones around some of the pond edges as part of a £1.5 million programme to boost security.

Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said on balance the ponds were a positive feature. "One of the problems has been it’s an interesting building and people look up at it and don’t see where they’re going and step into a pond. But during the lockdown I think a lot of people appreciated them. In the summer you saw a lot of families bringing their kids to paddle and a lot of dogs using them as a watering hole.”

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