Higher prices on the menu for MSPs' subsidised meals

MSPs are going to have to swallow higher prices to keep their plush restaurant at the Scottish Parliament.

Meals in the first-floor Holyrood eatery were subsidised by the taxpayer to the tune of 82,465 last year.

Plans to cut the parliament's overall budget by 15 per cent by 2014 sparked speculation that the members' restaurant could be shut down altogether.

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However, Holyrood bosses have opted for price increases and a renewed efforts to attract more customers.

A senior parliament insider said: "The restaurant is not under threat, we just need to get more people in.

"And we will have to push the prices up to be more commercially justified, which they are a long way short of at the moment."

A recent freedom of information disclosure showed that income from food in the MSP restaurant was 63,582 in 2009-10 but total costs, including overheads, amounted to 146,047 – a trading subsidy of 82,465.

The restaurant has been a source of controversy since the Holyrood building opened in 2004. Parliament bosses had originally set aside 60,000 a year to subsidise it, but after just two months they had to increase the amount because politicians were not using it enough.

The following year, the parliament spent 25,000 on red leather armchairs, matching sofas and new lighting in a bid to attract more custom to the adjoining bar area.

Holyrood bosses then lifted the MSP-only policy, allowing anyone working in the building to use the restaurant.

But business is still disappointing, despite a menu offering main courses for less than a fiver.

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Prices recently rose by five per cent over inflation and the plan is to increase them steadily to a more realistic rate.

The parliament insider said: "Prices will have to go up gradually in such a way as to cut the deficit without putting the future of the place in peril.

"They won't double overnight, but five years from now they may be double in real terms what they are now.

"It is seen as important to retain the facility, but given the fixed costs are going to be there whatever, the only way to change the current position is to have more money coming in at the till. That means prices going up and getting more people in."

Edinburgh Pentlands Conservative MSP David McLetchie said it was important Holyrood had a restaurant where MSPs could entertain guests.

"Every other parliament in the world I know of has such a facility as well as a canteen for day-to-day meals," he said.

"I don't have a problem with paying commercial prices for meals in the restaurant. I use it reasonably often and I would like to see members using it more."


A sample menu from the restaurant:

• Starter: Potato gnocchi with wild rocket, garlic and olive tapenade, 1.70

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• Main course: Fennel and avocado tart tatin with greens and pickled walnut relish, 4.40

• Sweet: Scottish berry pudding with clotted cream, 1.85