PSS AWARDS WINNER: Government – Scottish Parliament


The Scottish Parliament accommodates around 1200 building users including 129 elected Members (MSPs) and their staff; some 450 Scottish Parliamentary Service staff; Scottish Government staff; contractors; media personnel; and plays host to around 300,000 visitors a year. Responsibility for providing accommodation, staff and services to the Parliament lies with the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB), a committee of Members chaired by the Presiding Officer. The Scottish Parliament site at Holyrood includes several connected buildings which require energy for heating, cooling and lighting. Staff and visitors to the site also produce emissions from their transport options. Day to day responsibility for delivering services is delegated to the Clerk/Chief Executive, who is Head of the Scottish Parliamentary Service.

The SPCB has made a commitment to continuous improvement of its environmental performance. To demonstrate this commitment, the SPCB has established an Environmental Management System (EMS), compliant with the international standard ISO 14001:2004. We have been certified to the standard since 2007.

In April 2013 the Leadership Group approved its second carbon management plan. This plan sets out an ambitious programme to reduce our carbon footprint by at least 34% by 2016 from a 2005/06 baseline. This will deliver a reduction in our carbon emissions of 1300 tonnes of carbon dioxide and annual savings of £245,000 per annum. But even this challenging target is only a staging post towards our vision to become a low carbon organisation, and the longer target is therefore to reduce our footprint by 42% by 2020.


Environment and sustainability is given the highest levels of attention at the senior level at the Scottish Parliament. There is an Environment and Sustainability Board with a Chair appointed by the Chief Executive, which reports directly to the SPCB.

The Environment and Sustainability Board has a remit to;

  • To innovate and lead the Scottish Parliament towards a more sustainable future using the Sustainable Development decision making matrix.
  • To develop a strategic programme for the sustainable development of the Holyrood site, engagement on sustainability with building users, and supporting local offices.
  • To review mandatory environment performance and progress against targets.
  • To provide assistance and support to the Environment Performance Manager to deliver this remit.
  • To support and provide direction to the Eco Network in its mission to develop and implement projects which will improve our environmental performance and to improve the level and understanding of environmental issues with their colleagues.
  • To act as a conduit within the local area of influence to encourage organisations to coalesce around sustainability issues and opportunities.

The Scottish Parliament has an employee led movement called the Real Action on Climate Emissions Team, who work to make the Parliament a low carbon workplace by running building user engagement activities.

We also have an Eco Network which is made up of environment champions from every department across the Parliament. These environment champions are able to report back on any environment concerns or suggestions from within their offices, and run mini engagement campaigns with their colleagues on specific issues such as energy and travel.


We have a comprehensive programme of communications on environmental issues incorporating the tools which are used by employees and building users across the Parliament.
We have an online social media type platform call SP Learning which has an unique ‘Community’ especially for those interested in the environment. There are posts and comments everyday with news stories being shared and suggestions for how employees can act more sustainably.

There is an all building user email sent once a week, called the Corporate Bulletin which will feature Environment and Sustainability stories when relevant.

The electronic online magazine called EH99 will feature environment stories and features in a chatty magazine style format.

We also use the communal area of the building as a good space to hold a stall or stand to provide further information and engage with employees and visitors in a face to face way.

Cost Effectiveness

If the target to reduce the carbon emissions by 42% by 2020 is achieved, the savings (compared to a business as usual scenario or where carbon emissions from electricity and gas are not carefully managed) are predicted to be approximately £300,000 and a minimum of 1800 tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum at current energy prices and will be greater if prices increase over this period.

There are also cost savings that have been made by reducing and recycling waste, particularly paper, but this is harder to quantify. The Paperless and Digital Parliament projects have been the main drivers for decreasing the amount of paper used by MSPs, their staff and SPCB staff. The projects involve changing the Business Bulletin, which details all the business occurring in the Parliament on each day, to an online digital version. The reduces the amount of paper by about 500 pages every business working day. The SPCB has also developed an app for the MSPs to use through which all parliamentary paperwork, briefings and meeting notes can be downloaded and annotated. The take up and use of this app is expected to increase in the next Parliamentary Session.

Finally the Digital Parliament project has enabled meeting rooms to become digitally enhanced, by incorporating smart boards, skype and video conferencing facilities.

Carbon Reduction

In 2010 the Parliament developed its first carbon management plan (CMP). This was revised in April 2013 and the CMP 2020 launched. The plan set the roadmap for reducing the Parliament’s carbon emissions and challenging interim and long-term targets to reduce emissions and electricity use by 42% by 2020.

More than 90% of the Parliament’s carbon emissions result from the use of electricity and gas. The CMP 2020 therefore focuses heavily on reducing use of electricity and gas by improving control of equipment in the building, making heating and ventilation systems more responsive to our requirements and investing in more energy efficient equipment.

For 2014/15 Emissions are down by 29% compared to 2005/06 and by 8% on the previous year. The majority of this reduction has been achieved by reducing the electricity and gas we consume in the Parliament building. We have invested in replacing our existing lighting with LED lights, which are much more energy efficient.

We are now three-quarters of the way towards our 2020 target, with some 1,083 tonnes removed from the footprint since 2005/06 and a reduction of 253 tonnes since 2013/14.

Biodiversity Enhancement

The SPCB continues to maintain its grounds with the aim of supporting the biodiversity of the area. A large area of the grounds has been raised up and planted with indigenous Scottish wildflowers, shrubs, wild grasses and trees. The wildflower meadows have been designed to contrast with the cut turf lawns of the surrounding area and feature plants such as sticky catchfly, dropwort and meadow cranesbill.


The number of wild plant and flower species has been greatly increased in recent years by staff volunteers working with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE). RBGE and Parliament employees grow appropriate flowering plants such as foxglove, red and white campion and viper’s bugloss, which were planted out in the grounds in autumn. In addition, a large quantity of yellow rattle seeds were planted by the team to help control the grass and give other wild plants the opportunity to flourish. Two years into this project, the grounds are full of colourful flowers enjoyed by both wildlife and people.

At the Scottish Parliament we are very conscious of our place in the landscape and are keen to ensure that we can contribute to thriving ecology across Scotland. We are very aware of the importance of bees as the world’s most important pollinator of food crops. It is estimated that one third of the food that we consume each day relies on pollination mainly by bees, but also by other insects, birds and bats.

We have 4 beehives onsite at the Scottish Parliament, during the summer they are situated in the Member’s Garden and can be visible from the Member’s restaurant. The bees have good access to all the foliage across Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat, as well as the plants and flowers within the Parliament’s Gardens and wild flower meadows.

Stuart Hood of Hoods Honey installs four new beehives at the Scottish Parliament. These hives contain the native Black Honey bee from one of Willie Smith of Innerleithen's stains. The hives were fed with a mixture of sugar and water. 08 March 2016.   Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
Stuart Hood of Hoods Honey installs four new beehives at the Scottish Parliament. These hives contain the native Black Honey bee from one of Willie Smith of Innerleithen’s stains. The hives were fed with a mixture of sugar and water. 08 March 2016. Pic – Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

The bees and beehives are managed on our behalf by Hood’s Honey, a family run, local business who have been beekeeping since 1950.

The beeswax (which is a bi-product of beekeeping), from Hood’s Honey bees has been used to fill the Great Seal of Scotland and seal every act of the Scottish Parliament since its inception – over 200 in number.

The beehives produce between 80lbs to 120lbs of honey each autumn which is bottled and sold in the Scottish Parliament gift shop. Hood’s Honey products are also available to purchase in the gift shop. We are participating in this initiative in an effort to increase public awareness of the plight of Scotland’s honey bee populations and to help support biodiversity.