Scottish Parliament apology after woman wearing suffragette scarf ejected from Holyrood gender debate

The Scottish Parliament officially said sorry after a woman wearing scarf bearing colours of the Suffragette movement was ejected from a gender reform debate.

The member of the public was asked to remove her purple, green and white scarf as she attended the meeting in Holyrood on Tuesday, before being told to leave when she refused.

Two other women were reportedly wearing similar scarves, which they took off.

The incident happened during a meeting of Holyrood’s Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee, as it met to consider the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.

Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone has since apologised, saying “suffrage colours are not, and never have been, banned at the Scottish Parliament”.

The woman took to Twitter to share her outrage immediately after she was ejected from Holyrood on Tuesday, writing: “I have just been asked to remove my new scarf. I refused because its lovely & inoffensive. Apparently @ScotParl believes these colours are unacceptable while several MSPs wear rainbow lanyards. @ScotParl is now policing clothing colours.”

The incident was met with widespread outrage on Twitter, which came to the attention of MSPs still sitting in the committee.

Addressing the meeting, MSP Russell Findlay said: “It’s been noted on social media that a member of the public who was present and was wearing a scarf in the colours of purple, white and green and has been asked to either remove the scarf or leave the room...erm, can I seek some guidance as to why this happened?”

Chair Joe FitzPatrick MSP immediately halted the meeting, saying: “Suspend the meeting. We’ll have a discussion about this in private.”

The incident was not mentioned when proceedings resumed around 20 minutes later, but Alison Johnstone, Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament since 2021, made an apology later that day.

She said: “A visitor to the public gallery was asked to remove a purple, green and white scarf. Having declined to do so, the visitor was informed that she would not be able to return to the gallery.

“This request was made by officials in connection with the the parliament’s code of conduct for visitors, which sets out that the display of banners, flags, or political slogans, including on clothing and accessories is forbiddden.

“Let me make one thing crystal clear - suffrage colours are not, and never have been, banned at the Scottish Parliament.

“We actively support and promote universal suffrage in a number of ways at Holyrood and we will continue to do so.

“I would like to advise the chamber that the action taken...was an error, and I would like to apologise on behalf of the parliament.”

She added that the wearing of a scarf in those colours “does not in itself breach the visitor code of conduct” and that the parliament “wishes people to engage in the democratic process” by attending meetings.