(299)  HOLYROOD INQUIRY: THE ISSUES TO DATE

Lord Fraser’s Inquiry into the ever-rising costs of the Holyrood building for the Scottish Parliament (see No. 275) adjourned its public sessions on 17 December 2003, having essentially worked its way through events up to the point when the project was handed over to the Corporate Body of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.  The inquiry will resume its public sittings on 4 February 2004.  In the meantime counsel to the inquiry and Lord Fraser will be studying the documentation arising from the period after the handover.  The issue between the inquiry and the BBC about the unpublished film interviews with Donald Dewar and Enric Miralles (see No 285) remains unresolved, although there are suggestions that the BBC will allow Lord Fraser to view the tapes privately.  The issues arising from the inquiry so far are well summarised by the BBC Scotland political editor, Brian Taylor, at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/3330529.stm.  The major questions are (1) the haste with which the decision to go for the Holyrood site was taken once it was known to be available (although this probably had nothing to do with the subsequent increase in costs); (2) the early estimate of £40 million was for a straightforward building on an open-field site – but was this figure chosen to ease the path of the Yes vote in the 1997 referendum? (the first estimate for the actual Holyrood building was £83 million);  (3) the choice of Miralles as architect, despite uncertainty about his reliability and insurance cover;  (4) lack of concern about costs in the committee chaired by the late Donald Dewar to select the designer and the designs to be used, and its emphasis on creating a landmark building;  (5) Mr Dewar’s decision not to leave the project to the Parliament itself;  (6) the inclusion of Bovis amongst the shortlist of management contractors for the project although the company was not amongst the lowest tenderers, and its subsequent success in the tendering competition (the possible failure to follow EC public procurement rules has led some of the unsuccessful contractors to consider the possibility of court actions for damages against responsible parties); and (6) the failure of Scottish Office and Scottish Executive civil servants to inform Mr Dewar about the reality of escalating costs and tensions in the project team as work proceeded, with the Parliament itself being misinformed about the matter as a result.  Meanwhile, it remains unclear whether the actual building will in fact be complete and ready for occupation in July 2004, as currently expected officially.

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