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EDITIONS
Scottish Parliament opening Monday, 28 June, 1999, 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK
MSPs opt for Holyrood
Holyrood site
The Holyrood site is being cleared
The Scottish Parliament voted on 17 June to continue with the plan to move to a new site at Holyrood.

MSPs decided narrowly to reject proposals for a delay on further work on the Holyrood site.

The government also won a vote which, if it had been passed, would have called for student tuition fees to be scrapped.

The parliament rejected an amendment by Liberal Democrat MSP Donald Gorrie seeking a moratorium on construction of the new Scottish Parliament building.

Mr Gorrie and other MSPs had voiced concerns that the estimated 50m cost of the parliament building had already been nearly doubled.

Donald Dewar
Donald Dewar: Won the day
But MSPs backed First Minister Donald Dewar's motion stating that the project should go ahead and the parliament's cross-party corporate body should oversee its progress.

The parliament also overruled an amendment by the Scottish National Party's John Swinney immediately to scrap fees and set up a committee of inquiry into the issue.

It was a significant victory for the Labour and Liberal Democrat coalition administration amid speculation, that on the contentious issue of student tuition fees in particular, it could have been defeated.

The Holyrood victory came after Mr Dewar said failure to support the new site would make Scotland a ''laughing stock''.

But opponents of the plan said that without pause for thought, the new chamber would be known as ''Dewar's folly''.

Donald Gorrie
Donald Gorrie: Holyrood move defeated
The Lib Dems were expecting a tough time over tuition fees.

The Scottish National Party and Scottish Conservatives had accused the party of going back on its stated election aim of supporting their abolition and accepting Labour's promise of a review of student finance.

Mr Wallace began the debate by calling for the report into student finances and defending his party's manifesto promise.

"I may be wrong but I rather suspect some contributions in this debate may make reference to the election manifesto.

'Attacking poverty'

"I think it's worth reminding the parliament that our manifesto also emphasised the importance of providing access to further and higher education and to attacking student poverty," he said.

Mr Wallace said the administration had already made a start in addressing student hardship.

And he added: "The committee of inquiry gives us an opportunity to give further considered and immediate consideration to these important issues."

John Swinney
John Swinney: Attack on Liberal Democrats
But John Swinney, the SNP's Enterprise and Lifelong Learning spokesman, said his party supported "free education and not fee education".

Mr Swinney said he was not opposed to a report into student finances but was firmly against questioning the principle of free education.

He said he also felt compelled to question the Liberal Democrats' commitment to education for all, regardless of cost.

Referring to Mr Wallace's commitments at the Scottish parliamentary elections, he said: " I have to say I wonder what has happened to him in the last six weeks.

"It is a question of principle," said Mr Swinney. "It is a question of free education not fee education and it's a very Scottish principle.

Announcing the outcome of the debate on the Holyrood site, Presiding Officer Sir David Steel promised the cross-party corporate body overseeing the Holyrood project would be rigorous in its scrutiny of the development.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Audio
Asad Ahmed reports on the tuition fees vote
See also:

17 Jun 99 | UK Politics
28 Jun 99 | Scottish Parliament opening
28 Jun 99 | Scottish Parliament opening
28 Jun 99 | Scottish Parliament opening
28 Jun 99 | Scottish Parliament opening
28 Jun 99 | Scottish Parliament opening
28 Jun 99 | Scottish Parliament opening
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