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Friday, December 26, 1997 Published at 12:50 GMT



UK: Politics

Scots MPs 'not interested in Edinburgh parliament'
image: [ A site near Edinburgh's Holyrood Palace is emerging as front-runner for the Scottish parliament ]
A site near Edinburgh's Holyrood Palace is emerging as front-runner for the Scottish parliament

Only around a dozen of the 72 MPs holding Scottish seats are interested in switching to the parliament in Edinburgh in 1999, a survey has found.

The Scotsman newspaper reported more than 20 MPs said they were not interested in standing for the Scottish parliament, while a third have yet to make up their minds.

The newspaper, which spoke to 62 of the MPs, said two Cabinet ministers would not stand for the devolved assembly.

But it said the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, whom many people believe wants to become the first elected leader of the parliament, remains undecided.

The Scottish National Party's six MPs are unanimous in their wish to switch from London to Edinburgh.

Two of the Liberal Democrats 10 MPs in Scotland, including the Scottish leader Jim Wallace, said they too wanted to make the change.

The Scottish people will elect 129 Scots-MPs in 1999, under the terms of the Scotland Bill published last week.

The other key contender for the post of First Minister in the parliament - equivalent to the office of Prime Minister in terms of authority within the assembly - is the Secretary of State for Scotland, Donald Dewar.

The MPs questioned expressed no definite preference for either one of the two, The Scotsman said.

Home of palace could be seat of parliament

Mr Dewar has said a site near Holyrood Palace, which is currently occupied by a brewery, has emerged as a "strong entrant" in the competition to house the Scottish parliament.


[ image: Donald Dewar: in the running to be Scotland's First Minister]
Donald Dewar: in the running to be Scotland's First Minister
The early favourite of Calton Hill would cost £15m more than Holyrood or the two other locations being considered, the Scottish Secretary said.

Holyrood only became an option two weeks ago. But already it is edging ahead of a site by the waterfront in Leith, near the new Scottish Office building.

The fourth contender of Haymarket in Edinburgh's west end has always been regarded as unlikely to succeed.

But with Calton Hill opposed on cost grounds and Leith considered simply too far from the city centre, Holyrood is rapidly becoming the favourite amongst civil servants and prospective Scottish politicians.

Costings issued on Christmas Day put the price of a parliament at any site other than Carlton Hill at £50m but this excludes acquisition costs and other fees.

The government originally set a £40m limit for the building but has since accepted it will need to be larger than originally thought.

Mr Dewar said he would announce a final decision on the location before the first reading of the Scotland Bill in Parliament on January 12.

Scotland's NHS funds under review

The government has also announced the creation of a steering group to review the distribution of NHS funds in Scotland.


The BBC's Tim Reid reports on the new NHS funding arrangements
Microbiologist Professor John Arbuthnott is to chair the group, which will see if funds can more accurately targeted to communities' needs.

The Scottish Health Minister, Sam Galbraith, said: "This steering group will have a challenging task in seeking to achieve a sharing of health funds which is as fair as possible to all parts of Scotland.

"The current formula used for distributing some of these resources is now 20 years old and it is high time we reviewed it.

"It is important we take a strategic look at how the cake is cut across the board."






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