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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 May, 2004, 13:51 GMT 14:51 UK
Holyrood civil servants defended
The new parliament
The new parliament, seen from above
The role of civil servants and politicians in managing the Holyrood building project has been defended on the final day of the Fraser Inquiry.

Laura Dunlop QC, counsel for the Scottish Executive, said there was no evidence civil servants broke any rules or misled the public at any point.

Scottish Parliament solicitor Ian Leitch defended the role of MSPs.

Instead he pointed the finger of blame at the parliament's architects and construction managers Bovis.

Complex problems

On Tuesday, John Campbell, the counsel to Lord Fraser's inquiry, said the project had suffered a management failure of "gigantic proportions".

Mr Campbell had described the timetable as "unrealistic" and highlighted a lack of certainty about the final design. He also complained that there was "overall a lack of leadership".

Ms Dunlop conceded that there were things which could have been handled better, but she countered claims that the project involved "gigantic" failures.

Instead, she said the project showed Scotland had the skill to overcome complex problems.

She said: "In so far as civil service witnesses are concerned, the executive wishes to make it clear that it has not seen or heard any evidence that causes it to believe that any civil servant has been guilty of impropriety or, if this is different, any deliberate deception of the people of Scotland or their political leaders," she told the inquiry.

"Moreover the challenges which have been overcome in the realisation of the original vision for Holyrood must surely demonstrate that, far from our being 'not up to it', there is now a concentration of expertise in pioneering construction located here in Scotland."

Lord Fraser
Lord Fraser was hearing final submissions
The QC said a "serious charge" had been made that former project sponsor Barbara Doig kept the budget artificially low ahead of a crucial debate in June 1999 when the newly-elected MSPs narrowly voted to press ahead with the project.

Mrs Doig and other civil servants did not give the then First Minister Donald Dewar figures from cost consultants, including nearly 16m in risk.

Ms Dunlop said: "Omission of the figure for risk was a decision that the client - here represented by Mrs Doig - was entitled to take.

"It was taken in the belief that, with sound management, these additional costs could be removed - the much-used term 'managed out'."

But she conceded it would have been better if the 1999 submission had advised ministers of the project team's judgement that these elements could be "managed out".

'Effective management'

Mr Leitch urged Lord Fraser not to criticise MSPs on the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) - Holyrood's business team.

He said: "In short, politicians are elected, take office and make decisions of this kind. The SPCB was no different.

"Expertise in any given field is not a prerequisite. The democratic mandate is the qualification.

"I invite you to make no criticism. On the contrary it is my submission that you are entitled to find and report positively on this matter and that the obligation of the SPCB to ensure effective management systems were in place was discharged."

The inquiry, which has run since last October, has examined how the new parliament's price tag increased to more than 430m.

It has heard 43 days of public evidence, two days of closing sppeches and two days of evidence in private about security.

Lord Fraser will now draft his report.

He has set a target of publication in late August or the first week in September.

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