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The BBC's Emma Simpson
"Running late and over budget"
 real 28k

Two sides of the debate
MSPs Margo Macdonald and Tavish Scott debate the vote's outcome
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Wednesday, 5 April, 2000, 18:40 GMT 19:40 UK
MSPs back Holyrood project
Holyrood design
The current plan will remain
MSPs have voted to plough on with the current Holyrood building project.

An amendment by Liberal Democrat Donald Gorrie, which would have seen building work halted and other options considered, was defeated by 67 to 58.

A further amendment by Labour's Gordon Jackson, which supported the present scheme but with additional guarantees over funding and completion dates, won through by 67 to 58.

I am in a rather strange situation, being accused of being head strong one minute and then being accused of a lack of leadership and indecision the next

Donald Dewar, First Minister

In the debate which preceded the all important vote, Mr Gorrie and a number of opposition members urged the Scottish Parliament to consider other sites.

However, Mr Jackson said abandoning Holyrood would be an "act of lunacy".

The outcome of the vote settles an on-going row about the future of the new parliament building.

But during the course of the debate confusion set in over the role and alleged ill-health of the Catalan architect Enric Miralles.

Mystery over Miralles

Presiding Officer Sir David Steel told MSPs that Mr Miralles was unwell and in hospital in America but the architect's office in Barcelona said as far as it was concerned he was fine and was currently travelling.

All party leaders spoke during the fiery two-and-a-half-hour session.

First Minister Donald Dewar was one of the last speakers.

Donald Dewar
Donald Dewar feels the pressure
He told the chamber: "Holyrood is and was the right solution.

"I don't deny that there are lessons to be learned."

He reiterated that he had acted in good faith throughout the and he did not deliberately withheld information from MSPs.

"I do believe that I am in a rather strange situation, being accused of being head strong one minute and then being accused of a lack of leadership and indecision the next," said Mr Dewar.

If we run over budget, do we leave the roof unpainted or do we bring in our old curtains to cover the windows?

Margo Macdonald, MSP
He went on to outline that pulling out of the scheme at this stage would jeopardise any future building project.

The Labour politician hinted at the massive costs of possible litigation by the construction companies and designers involved with the building work.

"Time eats money in this case, and I do not believe it is sensible to go back to the architectural drawing board," said Mr Dewar.

The vote now means work will continue at the Holyrood site in Edinburgh, but costs will be capped at 195m and the project must be completed by the end of 2002.

The Conservatives and the SNP wanted other site to be considered - including new accommodation at St Andrews House on nearby Calton Hill, or expansion of the present quarters on the Mound in Edinburgh.

Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond: Favours re-think
Margo Macdonald, nationalist MSP, said after the vote: "We have voted ourselves the worst possible option. If we run over time and run over budget what do we do?

"This was a clear vote, but an unclear message. If we run over budget, do we leave the roof unpainted or do we bring in our old curtains to cover the windows?"

But the Liberal democrats Tavish Scott disagreed with Mrs Macdonald, saying that road ahead was now certain.

The new building for the nine-month-old Scottish Parliament has been dogged by setbacks since the architect was appointed and the site agreed.

The row has unsettled Labour MSPs - but they supported Mr Dewar's view that Scotland deserves a modern accessible Parliament, and that Holyrood offers the best site and the best design.


Last week, a report by leading Scottish architect John Spencely, commissioned by the Scottish Executive, recommended that a task force be established to rein in the cost of the new building.

His study confirmed the worst fears about cost and progress.

It was originally priced at 40m but Mr Dewar conceded last year that the figure would be more like 109m.

Mr Spencely stated that the cross-party corporate body under Presiding Officer Sir David Steel, which took over the project last June, should have monitored rising costs more closely.

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See also:

05 Apr 00 | Scotland
Holyrood: The Great Debate
30 Mar 00 | Scotland
Task force to curb Holyrood costs
22 Mar 00 | Scotland
Holyrood bill put at 190m
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