(543)  BEAMING AT HOLYROOD AGAIN

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).

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