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Tuesday, 28 March, 2000, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
Dewar repeats Holyrood costs denial
Holyrood site
Concern remains over the cost of the building
First Minister Donald Dewar has again denied suggestions that he or his team misled the public over the costs of the new Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood.

Mr Dewar has written to Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond, stressing that revised figures were announced after they had been fully confirmed.

He also dismissed as "absurd" the notion that the UK Treasury should fund any extra costs arising from the building.

That would mean that the cost could rise "uncontrollably", without Scotland having to pay the price, Mr Dewar said.

Repot goes to MSPs

Meanwhile, MSPs have begun discussions in private of an independent report into the cost of the new building.

The independent study, which was conducted by the respected architect John Spencely, proposes two price options for the controversial building.

According to Mr Spencely, the more elaborate building would cost 230m, while a less expensive option could be completed for 190m.

The parliament's cross-party corporate body, which is responsible for overseeing the project, has scrutinised the report, ahead of its scheduled publication later this week.

Sir David Steel
Sir David Steel: Pressing ahead
The cost of the new building has been a thorny issue since the Scottish parliamentary elections last year.

The Scottish Executive insisted the project, which has been designed by the Spanish architect Enric Miralles, would cost 40m.

However, it later emerged costs were rising, with higher estimates of more than 200m.

With the Scottish Executive and corporate body under growing pressure, Presiding Officer Sir David Steel announced that Mr Spencely would carry out a review.

Earlier publication

While he is not ruling out abandonment of the project altogether, Sir David believes the Holyrood development is still the best option.

Sir David said the corporate body would draft a reply before publishing the Spencely report.

With MSPs due to vote on the project, some are pressing for earlier publication of the report.

Last week, the issue threatened to ignite a turf war between MSPs and their Westminster counterparts.

Members of the House of Commons public accounts committee said they wanted to play an active role in the investigation into the cost of the parliament - but leading MSPs said it was none of their business.

Welsh First Secretary Rhodri Morgan has decided to put plans for a Welsh Assembly building on hold until June when a National Audit Office report on the assembly's accommodation needs is published.

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See also:

22 Mar 00 | Scotland
Holyrood bill put at 190m
20 Mar 00 | Scotland
Holyrood row sparks new 'turf war'
27 Feb 00 | Scotland
Building plan under threat
22 Apr 99 | The Scottish Parliament
Building for the future
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