This will cheer all who mock the substance of devolution, from The Scotsman:

“Uncertain future in store for parliament’s souvenir shop

IAN SWANSON SCOTTISH POLITICAL EDITOR

THE shop selling souvenirs to visitors at the Scottish Parliament is facing an uncertain future as takings plummet.

Officials admit the shop – which sells a wide range of goods from T-shirts to whisky and pencils to books – is likely to show a loss for the financial year just finished.

And a document drawn up by senior MSPs questions why the parliament has a shop at all.

Alternatives being floated include relocating the shop to a more prominent position, switching to on-line sales or setting up “shopping carts” in the entrance lobby.

Holyrood chief executive Paul Grice has already warned the cross-party Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, which runs the parliament, that income from the shop in 2006-07 was nearly 45 per cent below budget.

And the turnover was £93,000 down on the previous year.

But Independent Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald said it would be a mistake to close the shop, which employs the equivalent of 4.6 full-time staff.

She said: “Who said the SPCB couldn’t run a sweetie shop? Unfortunately this seems to prove the truth of that since every other parliament I can think of makes a success of selling souvenirs.”

Labour Lothians MSP George Foulkes accused the outgoing SPCB of taking a “negative attitude” for questioning the shop’s existence.

“If we take that line, the whole place will start spiralling downwards,” he said. “It would be a great loss if it were not there.”

Mr Grice said part of the reason for the slump was the temporary closure of the debating chamber after the beam collapse, which meant fewer visitors. Shop expenditure was also under budget.

He said plans were already in hand to ensure better signs for the shop, improve the product range and develop the on-line side. In the first full financial year in the new building at Holyrood, 2005-06, the shop contributed a profit of £13,056 to the parliament’s finances. Latest accounts have not been finalised yet, but a parliament spokeswoman said: “The shop is not currently expected to make a net contribution in 2006-07.”

And the outgoing members of the SPCB delivered a blunt assessment of the situation in a “legacy paper” left as a briefing for their successors.

They said: “The shop is not profitable and its location and layout has come in for some adverse criticism.

“Before beginning to look at options for improving the performance of the shop, consideration has to be given to why the parliament has a shop at all, to what extent having a shop helps us address strategic objectives or whether the space could be used for something entirely different.”

The new SPCB is due to discuss the issue after the summer recess.”

File under: Breweries – Piss-ups- inability to organise – Mickey Mouse

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