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Friday, August 13, 1999 Published at 16:36 GMT 17:36 UK

UK Politics

Row as parliament exceeds budget

The parliament is estimated to be running over budget

The first year running costs of the new Scottish Parliament are likely to be £3m more than originally estimated.

And the predicted increase is being blamed in part on the decision by MSPs to vote for extra allowances.

BBC Scotland reporter Rob Flett on the latest parliament cash row
Last year, civil servants at the former Scottish Office estimated £29m would be enough to cover the parliament's running costs in its first year.

But the Scottish Parliament's Presiding Officer, Sir David Steel, said an extra £3m will be needed to cover expenses which had not been anticipated.

These included £12,000 of additional allowances granted to each MSP, the cost of providing a computer for every member and postage costs.

[ image: Sir David Steel revealed the costs]
Sir David Steel revealed the costs
Labour said the figure is the current best guess on what is needed to provide a modern and efficient legislature.

And Scottish First Minister Donald Dewar insisted the final bill will represent value for money.

He said: "I am certainly not going to see a spendthrift parliament but I am certainly going to see one that is in the 21st century and which is able to operate effectively and efficiently in the interests of Scotland."

The Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats said they are satisfied the money can be justified - but they are both calling for efficiency savings in other areas.

However, the Scottish Tories said the overspend is bad for the parliament's already tarnished image - and are now calling for a debate on the matter.

The overspend row is the latest in a series of financial controversies to affect the parliament.

Spiralling cost

Some MSPs have complained about the spiralling cost of the new parliament building at Holyrood.

Liberal Democrat MSP Donald Gorrie estimated the cost of the project currently stands at £113 - more than twice the original figure set aside.

And in the first days of debate at the parliament's temporary home on The Mound, furious rows broke out over different allowance grades for members voted in via the constituency ballot and those who won their seats on regional lists.

[ image: Bill Aitken:
Bill Aitken: "Empire building"
The Scottish Conservative Party's Deputy Business Manager, Bill Aitken, is now planning to table a motion demanding that no money be taken away from health and education budgets to cover the cost of the increase.

Mr Aitken rejected suggestions the budget increase arose from MSPs' allowances but was down to the existing administration's own bureaucracy.

He said: "This disgraceful overspend could be reduced at a stroke by putting a halt to empire building.

"We now have 22 ministers in Donald Dewar's overblown Scottish Cabinet team to run the devolved Scotland - when previously it took only five Scottish Office ministers."

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