To the joy of the critics of the Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood, one of the wooden laminated and steel-reinforced beams supporting the roof over the debating chamber came away from its moorings on 2 March 2006, and swung threateningly 20 feet over the Tory benches. The chamber was cleared and remains closed, with subsequent full meetings of the Parliament taking place initially at The Hub building at the top of the Royal Mile and subsequently in one of the larger committee rooms back at Holyrood. The beam, it emerged, was not making any political point: one of the two bolts supposed to hold it in place was missing, and the other had sheared through the resultant stress. The second bolt also had damaged threads, which might have been caused by the bolt becoming jammed and someone then trying to remove it, twisting the head off or coming close to doing so. Symptoms perhaps of the desperate hurry to complete the building in the final stages of construction back in 2003-4? Whatever, the beam had to go off to St Albans in England for testing and repair, and all the other 59 beams in the debating chamber had to be checked. Result: closure of the chamber for at least two months, and the discovery of who knows what other defects as the checks proceed. Interestingly, the contractual defects liability period for the building had expired on 17 February 2006, just a fortnight before the beam came loose. The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body is therefore looking into other ways of recovering the cost to the public purse arising from the whole incident; so we could yet have that court case looking into the building of Holyrood of which we seemed to be deprived when the SPCB settled with McAlpine’s earlier this year (see No 533).
The Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, which will establish the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and make provision as regards complaints against members of the legal profession in Scotland (see previously No 530) was introduced in the Scottish Parliament by the Justice Minister on 1 March 2006. The Bill, which will now progress through the Justice 2 Committee, also makes provision in connection with the administration of the Scottish Legal Aid Fund, including the establishment of a register of advisers in connection with the advice and assistance scheme.
Without quite the fanfare of his first success in 2004 (see Nos 306, 307), Steve Gough the Naked Rambler finally reached John o’Groats together with his girlfriend, the also unclothed Melanie Roberts, on 20 February 2006. They had spent January having a little holiday back home in England; but on resumption of the nude trek through the north-east of Scotland, there had been two further arrests, one near Dingwall following the complaint of a Kirk minister, and another near Dornoch Bridge. But on neither occasion were charges pressed, and Gough was released to ramble on in the chilly winter air. At John o’Groats Gough refused to rule out the possibility of a third attempt to walk the length of Britain in the buff, although he also claimed to be looking forward to a return home to Hampshire. But Scots law had not quite done with him yet. On 1 March he was due to face one of the outstanding charges against him in Edinburgh sheriff court (see No 534), but on that day adopted his familiar claim to a right of nudity in court. The trial did not proceed, and upon Gough’s continued adherence to his attiring position the following day, Sheriff Derrick McIntyre jailed him for two months. Obviously the learned sheriff found the arguments barely tenable, indeed not even threadbare.