MSPs will be able to breastfeed in debating chamber

Female MSPs will be allowed to breastfeed their babies in the Scottish Parliament’s debating chamber.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jo Swinson with her baby Gabriel in her Commons seat.
Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jo Swinson with her baby Gabriel in her Commons seat.

Holyrood’s presiding officer Ken Macintosh has confirmed he would support any MSP who wanted to breastfeed.

In Scotland, following a bill introduced by Labour MSP Elaine Smith, Holyrood passed legislation in 2004 making it illegal to ban women from breastfeeding in public. However, the definition of “public place” in the legislation makes it unclear whether the MSPs’ chamber is covered by the provisions.

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Macintosh, who is responsible for the conduct of MSPs in parliament, gave the move the go ahead in response to calls from a standards committee working on diversity in parliament.

A growing number of parliaments across the world are allowing mothers to feed their babies in debating chambers. Larissa Waters, a Green MP in Australia, addressed colleagues in 2017 while feeding her baby, Alia Joy. In Canada, Liberal MP Karina Gould breastfed her three-month-old son during a debate on legalising marijuana.

However, breastfeeding is not permitted in the House of Commons.

A Scottish Parliament spokesperson said: “The presiding officer is responsible for MSPs’ conduct in the chamber. He has indicated that, although the situation has yet to arise, he would always support any mother who wished to breastfeed in the chamber.”

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who gave birth to a baby boy in October, has said she backs breastfeeding in parliament. Last year Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jo Swinson made British political history by taking her 11-week old son Gabriel into the chamber of the House of Commons.