MSPs divided over portrait of the Queen for Holyrood

HOLYROOD bosses have agreed to a Tory MSP's call to install a portrait of the Queen in the Scottish Parliament.

A large painting or photograph of the monarch is expected to be hung in the main public entrance to the parliament following the suggestion from deputy Scottish Conservative leader Murdo Fraser.

But today other politicians said they believed such a portrait was unnecessary. And they called for other people to be considered as candidates to have their pictures put up in the parliament.

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Mr Fraser proposed the portrait in the summer, saying it would demonstrate MSPs' "respect" for the Queen after about a third of them failed to turn up for her visit to mark the tenth anniversary of the parliament.

He said the absence of a portrait was "a strange omission".

Now the cross-party Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB), which is responsible for housekeeping at Holyrood, has agreed in principle to "acquire" a portrait to display in the building.

In May this year, a painting of veteran Scottish Nationalist Winnie Ewing was unveiled outside the members' restaurant and a bust of former Labour leader John Smith has been placed nearby. Both are on loan to Holyrood.

Nearly three years ago there was controversy over the decision to commission photographs of the first two presiding officers, Sir David Steel and George Reid, by award-winning photographer Harry Benson at a cost of nearly 10,000.

Officials have been told the cost of Queen's portrait must come within existing budgets. "In these difficult times, this cannot be an expensive operation," said a parliament insider.

Labour backbencher Elaine Smith said: "I don't think it's necessary to have a portrait of the Queen. I was at the tenth anniversary event, even though I'm not a royalist, because it was a celebration of ten years of devolution and if she was the guest speaker, that was fair enough.

"But if we are considering a portrait of the Queen, there are other people's portraits we should consider for the parliament."

She suggested Labour pioneer Keir Hardie, who argued for home rule more than a century ago, or former STUC general secretary Bill Speirs, who died last month, who played a key role in campaigning for a Scottish parliament.

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Liberal Democrat MSP Hugh O'Donnell said a portrait of the Queen would not be one of his priorities.

He claimed the idea had been turned into a party political issue. "We got the portrait of Winnie Ewing, then John Smith was moved because Labour people said he had been left in a corner somewhere. Then Murdo came up with this wheeze about HRH.

"But if it's going to be equitable, I would propose Lloyd George or Gladstone."