Holyrood safety fear after 100lb block of granite hangs loose

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A SECTION of the Scottish Parliament had to be shut yesterday after a granite slab came loose and was left hanging above a roof.

The restaurant and bar used by MSPs was closed after the 100lb block became dislodged between the third and fourth floors of the ministerial tower, where Alex Salmond and his colleagues have offices.

The incident came only eight weeks after an inspection of the faades of the building, designed to highlight any safety issues.

Although parliament officials were keen to stress there was no threat to users of the building, the incident is likely to cause embarrassment after a number of high-profile problems at the Holyrood building.

Technicians were called to secure the slab with ropes before it was lowered to the ground early yesterday evening.

The Scotsman understands about 1,000 similar slabs around the building will now have to be checked.

It has been suggested one of three pins which was designed to secure the panel to the building failed.

Had the block fallen, it is likely it would have landed on the steel roof of the kitchen and would not have caused serious danger to any catering staff.

The loose block was about a metre long and 45cm wide.

As a result of the incident, staff at the members' restaurant were evacuated while the area was secured. The facility is due to reopen today.

It is the latest in a latest problem at the Holyrood building, which has been plagued by incidents including leaks and a loose beam since it opened in 2004. In 2006, the debating chamber was forced to close after a large wooden beam broke from the roof and swung over the heads of MSPs below.

The chamber remained shut for more than six months at a cost of around 500,000.

Yesterday, a Holyrood spokeswoman said: "Health and safety assessments were undertaken and the parliament closed the kitchen of the members' restaurant as a precaution.

"The detached panel was lowered safely at 5:30pm today. Structural engineers will now look at this panel and examine why it detached. The parliament has a rolling programme of routine inspection of the exteriors.

"This area was last inspected on 23 March. Because this has occurred we will be looking at the faades again. The building has continued to be open for business as usual throughout the day and the members' restaurant will reopen today."

When the building opened, it was three years behind schedule and more than ten times thebudget at over 400 million.

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