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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 February, 2004, 17:04 GMT
Steel rounds on Holyrood critics
Sir David Steel
Sir David rejected criticism levelled at him
Former Presiding Officer Sir David Steel has responded to his critics in evidence to the inquiry into the cost of the Scottish Parliament building.

Sir David addressed criticism from former Scotland Office minister Sam Galbraith and MSP Fergus Ewing.

Earlier, Sir David was interrupted by inquiry QC John Campbell while trying to read out a prepared statement.

The Fraser Inquiry has turned its attention to the stage when MSPs took charge of the project in 1999.

Lord Fraser's investigation aims to discover why the cost of the building has risen by more than 10 times to stand at more than 400m.

Sir David was chair of the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body (SPCB) - which has overseen the progress of the project after 1999.

During his evidence he hit out at criticism from Mr Galbraith.

He had previously told the inquiry that the price of the project would escalate when it was handed over "to this immature parliament".

If Fergus Ewing had been a humble seeker after truth rather than a reckless seeker after headlines he would have written to me to raise his questions
Sir David Steel
Sir David said: "I objected to what he (Sam Galbraith) said at the inquiry.

"I'm entitled to rebut (his claims) in a perfectly friendly way, but I can't let that pass without comment."

He also responded to criticism from Scottish National Party MSP Fergus Ewing - the son of retired party veteran Winnie Ewing - who said Sir David misled parliament on the potential consequences of scrapping the project.

Project costs

Sir David said: "It's a great pity Mr Ewing didn't inherit the elementary good manners of his mother.

"If he had been a humble seeker after truth rather than a reckless seeker after headlines he would have written to me to raise his questions."

The former presiding officer said the SPCB took six months to decide on what kind of parliament building it wanted.

Holyrood parliament site
The SPCB took control of the project when it cost 109m, Sir David said

Sir David said when the SPCB took control of the project, the price stood at 109m.

He said the subsequent rise in costs could be attributed to the SPCB's decisions, the influence of outside bodies and the impact of arrangements inherited from the former Scottish Office.

Referring to a private conversation with former First Minister Donald Dewar, Sir David said he had asked Mr Dewar about the possibility of using Calton Hill as the site for the new parliament.

If this (row) had come out in public we would probably not have got a resolution and the whole thing would have become bitter between the two architects
Sir David Steel
Sir David said: "I recall his response clearly. He said 'Don't you think David that a new Scottish Parliament after 300 years deserves a new building and not a jumble of old ones?'"

On Tuesday, the inquiry heard that the two architect firms RMJM and EMBT fell out over money.

Scotland's chief architect John Gibbons said he had to mediate in a row over money when Catalonian architect Enric Miralles asked for a bigger share of the design fee.

The disagreement was kept from the public, Sir David told the inquiry.

"It was our judgement that highly sensitive issues of disagreements among the architects and others had to be resolved and that the proposals for achieving a satisfactory resolution would be best served by the SPCB taking a strong line in private," he said.

"If this had come out in public we would probably not have got a resolution and the whole thing would have become bitter between the two architects.

"As it is we got it resolved."


WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC's Reevel Alderson
"Sir David said the architect increased the costs because he didn't follow the design brief"



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