(28)  Its Holyrood!

The Scottish Parliament will be located on a site at Holyrood, it was announced on 9 January 1998. The site was previously occupied by Scottish & Newcastle, the brewing company, and is across the road from the Abbey and Palace of Holyroodhouse. Unlike the other main contender for the location of the Parliament building, Calton Hill, Holyrood has been the site of parliaments in the pre-1707 past. The first known parliament (or colloquium) at Holyrood was in 1255 when Alexander Comyn earl of Buchan and justiciar of Scotia presided over an inquest into the liability of Dunfermline Abbey to pay suit at Perth sheriff court (see Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol 1, p 426). Parliaments were also held at Holyrood in the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Palace became the principal royal residence in Scotland in the reigns of James IV (1488-1513) and James V (1513-1542). Holyrood was also of legal significance as the debtor’s girth or sanctuary, particularly after the Reformation of 1560. Indeed, the sanctuary, which extends from the Abbey Wynd in front of the Palace across the whole of nearby Arthur’s Seat, has never been formally abolished, although the last debtor booked in as long ago as 1880, the year of the passage of the Debtors (Scotland) Act which removed the sanction of civil imprisonment for ordinary debts which had been the main occasion for seeking sanctuary until that time. The first elections for the Parliament will be held on 6 May 1999. Only some nine of the 72 Scottish MPs at Westminster have so far indicated an intention to stand for the Scottish Parliament. But they include the present Secretary of State for Scotland, Donald Dewar, and the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Jim Wallace.