There’s been a moose, loose aboot Queensberry Hoose. There have also been sightings in Holyrood’s Garden Lobby, the MSPs’ restaurant and the Scottish Parliament toilets.
The increasingly brazen activities of the parliamentary mice have led to bid to persuade the Holyrood authorities to get a resident cat to work as a pest control officer.
The prospect of Holyrood acquiring its own moggy was raised by the SNP MSP Christine Grahame, who has asked the Scottish Parliament’s Corporate Body (SPCB) to get a cat to rid the building of mice.
Ms Grahame has tabled a question to the SPCB asking it “whether it will consider procuring a resident cat as humane mouse deterrent”.
Should the SPCB take up Ms Grahame’s proposal, the Scottish Parliament will follow in a great tradition of political cats spanning Dick Whittington’s rise to London Lord Mayorship to Humphrey, the famous Downing Street mouser who passed away in 2006. The job of “chief mouser” now rests with Larry, a brown and white tabby.
In typically patriotic fashion, Ms Grahame has suggested that the cat should be named “William Wallace or Robert the Bruce” so that it can send the mice away “tae think again”.
Ms Grahame, MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, yesterday insisted that her proposal for a parliamentary cat was a serious one.
“I hope they take my suggestion seriously. I am not talking about having a cat wandering around during the day when people are working at the parliament, but it would be good to get one in at night,” she said.
“The mice would smell the cat and would soon get the message. A cat would be better than using traps or poison.”
Her proposal was triggered by a spate of recent mouse sightings. Ms Grahame saw one in the garden lobby, whilst there has also been a reported sighting in the Members’ Restaurant.
Earlier this week, there was a minor stushie when three mice were patrolling outside the ladies’ loos in Queensberry House near the parliamentary bar.
As the convener of the Cross Party Group on Animal Welfare, Ms Grahame was keen to emphasise that the cat would be used as a “humane deterrent”. She also said the parliament would make a good home for a rescue cat.
Having observed the fall-out from the ladies’ toilet incident while she was in the bar on Tuesday night, Ms Grahame was in little doubt that something needs to be done to tackle the problem.
“The numbers of mice are increasing,” she said. “Of course, you are unlikely to get rid of them completely. The parliament was built on a brewery and there must be loads of them. They don’t seem to be frightened of MSPs anyway.”
A cat lover herself, Ms Grahame has two feline friends called Newtown and Boswell. They are named after the Borders town of Newtown St Boswells where they came from as rescue cats.
Ms Grahame’s hopes of a parliamentary cat are high given that a precedent for introducing a predator to scare off pests has already been created at Holyrood – albeit outside.
In 2009, four peregrine falcons and four hawks were brought in to prevent pigeons nesting on the £431 million building and causing a nuisance in the surrounding area.
Last night, a spokesman for the Scottish Parliament attempted to play down Holyrood’s mouse problem, saying: “We can’t pre-empt what the SPCB will make of Christine Grahame’s cat suggestion, but like most city-centre premises, we already have measures in place to keep mice at bay.
“We have traps positioned around the building, mainly in the basement plant rooms, where it is warm and more likely to attract mice.
“In practice, there are few signs of mice in the building.”
Dick Whittington’s cat The folk tale recounts that Whittington bought a cat to get rid of the rats in his bedroom in his rags-to-riches journey to become Lord Mayor of London.
Humphrey Named after Sir Humphrey Appleby – the mandarin immortalised in Yes Prime Minister –Humphrey was a fixture at Downing Street until it was mysteriously “retired” in 1997 amid rumours that Cherie Blair was allergic to cats, above.
Sybil In 2007, the job of Downing Street mouser passed to Sybil, a black and white cat owned by then-UK chancellor, Alistair Darling, and his wife, Margaret. They brought Sybil — named after Prunella Scales’ character Fawlty Towers — from their home in Edinburgh.
Socks was better-known stateside as the official “first cat” of the US under then-US president Bill Clinton. Socks — a stray cat — was named by Clinton’s daughter Chelsea.
Larry is the current 10 Downing Street cat — popularly known as the ‘chief mouser’ to the Cabinet Office.