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Sir David Steel
"This needs to be a building which lasts for years to come"
 real 28k

BBC Scotland's Iain Macwhirter
"The project has been heavily criticised"
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Sunday, 27 February, 2000, 15:07 GMT
Building plan under threat
Holyrood site
The work is already behind schedule
The Scottish Parliament's Presiding Officer Sir David Steel has warned that he cannot rule out abandoning the new Holyrood building plan.

The project, which could reach in excess of 230m and be a year over deadline, has been dogged by controversy.

The parliament decided to act last week by appointing leading Scottish architect John Spencely to review the present situation and make recommendations about moving forward.

If we didn't carry on with the project we would have to make an assessment of costs... that option cannot be ruled out but it will be an expensive one

Sir David Steel
Sir David refutes reports that the building's cost is spiralling beyond 200m but he admitted he did not know what the true cost was.

He said: "We have appointed John Spencely to look into where we are at the moment and to find out where we go.

"Let us see what he has to say. He expects to give us some kind of report in three or four weeks."

Sir David told BBC Scotland's Holyrood Programme that he could not rule out "walking away" from the project.

"If we didn't carry on with the project we would have to make an assessment of what the cost would be of doing that.

David Steel
David Steel: Waiting for report
"That option cannot be ruled out but it will be an expensive option.

"If we started somewhere else we might find other problems.

"We will have a look at contracts and look at the costs of walking away from it," said the Liberal Democrat politician.

He added: "You have to remember that we are difficult clients. For example we didn't like the design of the chamber so they went away and came up with something else.

"You cannot then expect that there will not be some delay and not be some cost implications."

Parliament which lasts

Sir David emphasised the importance of getting the project right because it was "not just a new parliament for today but for 200 years to come."

The presiding officer's comments come as speculation is rife that the architect designing the building - due to be finished in 2002 - could make as much as 18.4m.

Enric Miralles' alleged mounting bill could soon be a concern for MSPs who are calling to see the original contract.

According to the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland a project of the size of the parliament would generate a payment for the architect equivalent to an 8% cut of the final cost.

Enric Miralles, architect
Enric Miralles: Architect
If the project has reached the 230m mark then that would represent some 18.4m.

Scottish Conservative Leader, David McLetchie MSP, seized upon the controversy saying: "The folly that is 'Donald's Dome' is now going to cost at least 190m more than the maximum figure of 40m given by Donald Dewar in his Devolution White Paper issued prior to the referendum in September 1997.

"Not only has Donald conned the people of Scotland on this issue but he has failed them by ignoring their key priorities.

'Out of control'

"Virtually the only person who wanted the new building at Holyrood was Donald himself.

"He has been warned throughout that this project was out of control and now he has handed the Parliament's corporate body a huge financial disaster in the making.

Building site
Building work continues at Holyrood
"Maybe now Donald Dewar will agree that he should have had a firm proposal with a cost ceiling before he started rather than a woolly concept."

When the idea of building a new parliament was first mooted, the cost was put at a maximum of 40m.

By March 1998 the original estimate had doubled - because consultants fees, VAT and the purchase of the site had not been included.

Last November, the cost had increased to 109m and was still rising.

The former Royal High School building on Calton Hill, which was converted in the 1970s for the purpose of hosting a Scottish Parliament but never used, was dismissed as unsuitable.

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See also:

22 Apr 99 |  The Scottish Parliament
Building for the future
21 May 99 |  UK Politics
MSPs demand rethink on parliament
19 Nov 99 |  Scotland
Parliament ponders Royal High flit
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