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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 September, 2004, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
Former boss defends Holyrood role
Bill Armstrong
Bill Armstrong defended the construction management option
One of the key players in the Holyrood saga has hit back at criticism by Lord Fraser in his report on the Scottish Parliament saga.

Bill Armstrong denied he had done too little to alert ministers to the perils of using the "construction management" approach to the project.

Mr Armstrong is an experienced architect who was Holyrood's project manager for a year.

He was the subject of some of the most serious criticism by Lord Fraser.

The peer said Mr Armstrong and civil servant Barbara Doig had failed to ensure a proper study was made of the "highly risky" construction management approach, in which the client has full control but bears the risk.

Problems forecast

Mr Armstrong should have prepared and Ms Doig should have insisted on getting a report to be used as a basis for seeking ministers' views, said the findings.

But Mr Armstrong told BBC Radio Scotland he had no access to ministers at all.

"I reported to the project sponsor who then took information upwards to ministers. That was a civil service responsibility entirely."

Donald Dewar
Donald Dewar's timescale drove the decisions, Mr Armstrong said
He insisted civil servants, including the chief architect, the chief quantity surveyor, and director of administration, had all been made aware of the risks involved in construction management.

But construction management was the only method suitable for the circumstances at that time, said Mr Armstrong, who was Holyrood project manager from November 1997 to December 1998 when he resigned.

Documents delivered

He denied that he had not fully alerted the civil servants of the risks.

"If you go into a meeting with the chief architect, head of building, the chief quantity surveyor, the director of administration, all top level civil servants, you give them documents - their own documents, Treasury documents, Treasury recommendations - how much more are you expected to do to make them understand what is involved?"

He rejected criticism in the report that he gave poor advice.

"The selection of construction management was driven by one decision only," he insisted.

"That was Donald Dewar's decision to start the project on site in July 1999 and to finish it two years later.

"It left you with only one option - construction management, and that decision was driven by Donald Dewar's programme."

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