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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 June, 2003, 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK
Holyrood chief 'could have quit'
Paul Grice
Paul Grice said the cost was "devastating"
The Scottish Parliament's most senior official has admitted that he considered resigning over the building cost controversy.

The chief executive, Paul Grice, told MSPs that he had considered his position on a number of occasions.

He told the parliament's finance committee that there had been a "devastating" increase in the cost of the building.

Mr Grice said that after reflecting on the controversy he concluded he had done nothing to warrant resignation and his departure would not have helped the controversial project.

The end of the year represents a slip of one month overall on the projection given in January
Robert Brown

He said: "Of course I consider my position when such bad pieces of news come up but I honestly don't think we did or failed to do something of such magnitude."

"The other point to consider is, going forward from this, would my stepping aside help or hinder matters and again I think it is actually for the corporate body and others to judge.

"Nobody's indispensable but I honestly believe that stepping aside at this stage would actually hamper the project."

The finance committee also heard that the building may not be ready until at least the end of the year - a month later than the last estimated completion date.

'Alarm bells'

The disclosure came from Lib Dem MSP Robert Brown, a member of the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body.

Mr Brown was appearing before the committee along with Mr Grice and the director of the Holyrood project, Sarah Davidson.

The meeting follows uproar over the revelation of a further price hike in the project - up by 37m to 375m.

Mr Brown said construction firm Bovis informed him that another delay was likely.

He said: "Bovis currently predict with 95% confidence that the building will be completed by the end of the year.

"The end of the year represents a slip of one month overall on the projection given in January, although November 2003 remains both the target and a possibility."

Holyrood building
The project has been beset by delays and spiralling costs

He told MSPs: "Finally there remain two key questions - when will the building be finished and what will the final cost be?

"We have said at every meeting of the finance committee that we cannot give guarantees. I am afraid the complexity of the building means this is still the case."

Holyrood project director Sarah Davidson said fears were raised in April that the final cost could rise again.

She said it "became clear" that because of further delays, Bovis would have to produce a new programme for contractors.

'Ripped-off'

Fergus Ewing, SNP MSP for Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, said: "Was it not obvious to the members of the progress group then that there would be an increase beyond 338m?"

John Home Robertson, convener of the progress group, said it did not feel "alarm bells were being sounded".

Meanwhile, a spokesman for First Minister Jack McConnell said he did not know about the rising costs prior to this year's election.

The spokesman said: "The first that he knew about it was the day before it became public."

John Swinburne, of Scotland's Senior Citizens' Unity Party, told the companies involved that taxpayers had been "ripped-off".

He said: "This is the best money making scheme that's ever been devolved."


WATCH AND LISTEN
Brian Taylor reports
"Paul Grice knows the catastrophe the building has been for devolution"



SEE ALSO:
Holyrood cost cap 'impossible'
17 Jun 03  |  Scotland
Dewar defended over Holyrood
15 Jun 03  |  Scotland
McConnell unveils Holyrood probe
12 Jun 03  |  Scotland
Anger at Holyrood costs warning
05 Jun 03  |  Scotland


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