I welcome this debate. It is right that the Parliament should take stock and consider how we should proceed. However, I hope that it will take a decision today, as I believe that that is important. The Parliament inherits plans-it inherits a scheme that I commend to this chamber-but it is entitled to consider the instructions that it should give to the corporate body. On that basis, I welcome what is happening today.
There has been a great deal of difficulty and uncertainty about discussing this matter rationally, and there has been much excitement in the public prints. I want to underline the fact that it has been difficult for those working on the project to do so in a conducive atmosphere. One member of the design team said to me recently that the whole period had been demoralising. We should bear in mind the impact of today's decision on those who have worked hard over a lengthy period to get us to where we are.
I have heard many fine words in this chamber about parliamentary business, about Parliament speaking and about Parliament being in charge of a particular project. I can think of no project that belongs more to the Parliament than the construction of the Parliament building. That is why the project will be the responsibility of the corporate body-an impartial body in which all parties are represented.
I say to the nationalists that I am astonished, in view of all that they have said about the business of Parliament, to discover that they are whipping on today's motion. I make it clear that, on my side, there will be a free vote. I am confident that I will carry most of my colleagues, although I cannot say whether I will carry them all. As the Scottish nationalists are whipping, I suspect that the result will be very close. I hope that even during this debate they will recall and consider some of the things that they have said about how we should run the Parliament.
I would never, in any public place, mention names but, from discussions at the presentations and from numerous private conversations, we know that the SNP is split on this matter. Almost all my colleagues would confirm that and I have no doubt that we would carry this vote comfortably on a free vote. Given the subject matter, it is absolutely disgraceful that the chamber will not get that chance. If I sound angry, it is because I am angry.
We have not at any time tried to hide what is happening about the parliamentary building. We
We had to take a decision on the site and I recognise that that may have been controversial. I ought to make it clear that in the 10 minutes that Sir David has imposed on me, I cannot go into points of information; I have a lot of things to say. I accept that there was a presumption in many people's minds that the Royal High School would be the site; in fact, we went there first, with our group of advisers and experts-people whose opinions had to be respected. There was a unanimity of view that the Royal High School was not-and could not satisfactorily be made into-a practical proposition, even if we built the debating chamber in the middle of Regent Road like some extended traffic island. That was not a possibility and we moved on from it.
We looked closely at St Andrew's House, which was a runner. An ingenious, fine and imaginative adaptation was produced for the interior, behind the traditional Tait façade of 1939. We were tempted by that, but decided against it, largely because of difficulties over space and over expansion on the site and because the construction costs were going to be £15 million higher than for the scheme that we ultimately accepted. Mr Salmond may laugh at me-he can go and discuss the matter with the architects, the quantity surveyors and the costing people-but I repeat: we were advised that the cost would be £15 million more.
When Mr Dewar says that the cost was £15 million higher, is he talking about the estimates at that time or about the new costs that we now know have arisen?
The cost was £15 million more at that point. In other words, the best estimate that could be given was £65 million, whereas the projected construction costs for a
We wanted a site that presented the right challenge. That challenge came with Holyrood, which was a late entrant because the owners and occupiers of the site were prepared to adjust their timetable in order to make the site available. The site is beside Holyrood Palace, on the Canongate, in the centre of one of the great medieval cities of Europe, beside and under the looming bulk of Salisbury crags and Arthur's Seat. The site gave us the challenge of creating, with empathy, a 21st century building that would be a gift from our time to succeeding generations and an appropriate and fitting home for our Parliament. Holyrood gave us the opportunities and we thought that it was right to go ahead.
We then decided to have a competition for a design team. I will go over that very quickly, but I will pay tribute to the independent members of the panel, Kirsty Wark, Joan O'Connor and Andy McMillan, who brought expertise and vision to the choice and worked extremely effectively in-I make no secret of it-what was one of the most exciting and satisfying processes of my 25 years in politics. I am a veteran of politics and have come out of many meetings telling the press that the decisions of those meetings were unanimous. On this occasion, the decision was unanimous. Every member of the team considered the distinguished architects who had submitted entries, looked at the designs, which had very different characters, and concluded that the design that was put forward by Enric Miralles best fitted the remit.
I again pay tribute to Enric Miralles, Benedetta Tagliabue and all others involved. I pay particular tribute to their partners RMJM (Scotland) Ltd for the way in which it has evolved the design and treated the site with sympathy and for its vision of a group of buildings rising from the site to mirror and merge with the sweep of the Canongate and the surrounding hills and buildings. The way in which the project grows out of the landscape is attractive.
I remember that when Mr Miralles first appeared before the judges, he produced splendid, large panels that were full of sweeping colour and vision and occasional pieces of script. I was much taken by the piece of script on the first panel, which said that Parliament was a mental place. That is an
I am already running out of time, but I will say a word or two about costs. We always said that £50 million was an initial construction cost and that there would be additional costs of VAT, fees and extras. It will be clear to those who bothered to read answers to parliamentary questions-I am sure that Mr Swinney did, as some of the figures that he adduced in parliamentary questions revealed this-that the final total would be around £80 million or £90 million. Mr Gorrie-indefatigable as always-extracted a lot of that information through parliamentary questions. The information was available and was never hidden.
I make it clear that the £109 million that we now hold to-to the best of our ability-includes VAT, fees, site acquisition and preparation, information technology and fit-out. I must make it clear that landscaping into the park and the traffic calming measures, which are a matter for the Executive and City of Edinburgh Council, are not included.
The reasons why the original construction costs went up from £50 million to £62 millions are well known, so I will skim over them. One was that there was a general view that a formal entrance at the bottom of the Canongate was a requirement. An increase in the circulation space-the passage and plant spaces-was largely dictated by the integration of Queensberry House. If members consider comparable buildings they will see that we are still doing well on price. As a result of the consultative steering group's work, the size of staff accommodation also had to be increased; the floor area in the original proposal increased by 44 per cent to 23,000 sq m and the cost rose by 24 per cent, which is perhaps not surprising. The increase was not caused by overspend on the original building. It was caused by the evolution of the building to meet the needs of this Parliament. The increase was fair and proper.
There have a been a lot of rumours, based on an article in a technical journal, that the building will be shoddy and inadequate and that the materials will not be fit for the purpose-I think that the phrase was that we would be given a Dinky and not a Porsche. I found it a little puzzling-if I may be allowed a small snipe-that the source of that phrase had complained about the cost of the building only a few weeks before. I was caught in the crossfire, although I do not necessarily object to that too violently.
If we had adopted such options we would not have unveiled the figure of £62 million. We did not take up those options because we want a quality
Hurrying on-I have to use that phrase constantly now-I say that the motion asks us to consider a few options. One is to cancel the project. I hope that that does not happen. If it does, there will be substantial implications in terms of the immediate cancellation costs and the claims for damages that inevitably arise when a disaster of that kind strikes a project. It would be a very expensive and-to use the phrase again-totally demoralising event.
The circumstances would also be serious if we were to call a moratorium or decide to stay in our present accommodation. We are, to an extent, camping in these buildings. Anyone who has worked here during the past few weeks will understand that. The building is inadequate in scope; the floor area of the group of seven buildings that we occupy is too small, probably by a third. Although the chamber is splendid-and I congratulate the architects, Simpson & Brown, on the work that they have done-it has few facilities.
I know that there is a suggestion, which Mr Gorrie will no doubt support, that we could take over the university premises and acquire a large number of properties in mixed ownership around this site. However, as anyone with experience of such matters will know, that is an expensive, time-consuming and difficult business, even if it were desirable, which I do not think it is. Yesterday, the rain came down as I left the chamber at about 5 o'clock and I was fair drookit by the time I got back to my office. When the winter comes, the difficulties of working in seven separate buildings will become apparent to all members.
I do not believe that it is any better to take the easy way out and ask for a substantial pause so that we can consider the other options. That will cost money, a factor about which the Conservatives are particularly worried. I am told by civil servants, my advisers and people who are involved in the design process that the immediate costs of a two-month delay would be around £2 million to £3 million and that there might well be other claims and costs.
We started on this trail in June 1997. We cannot, in two months, consider a range of new sites, get in the quantity surveyors and the statements from the architects and organise a new judging panel-it is unlikely that the same design team would go on to another site. There would be a major delay and-to put it bluntly; it is time to be blunt-this Parliament would be a laughing stock.
The problem that opponents of the Holyrood project have is not even that we are somehow junking Leith-although the proposed committee would consider Leith, apparently, along with other sites, such as Donaldson's school, which has suddenly appeared in the business bulletin thanks to Brian Monteith. That site was considered at the time; we were told that the proposal was unacceptable and that we should not waste money investigating it. However, if Parliament votes in that way, we will be committed to doing so. It would be a mistake to put ourselves in that position and, on any reasonable reckoning, we would not have a new home until 2004 or 2005.
The chamber is important and there has been a great deal of controversy about it. The plans for Holyrood show a slightly flattened semi-circle, which is similar to the seating arrangements in this hall. However, such plans can and will evolve. The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body might argue for change and arrive at a consensus with the design team. No one should think that the seating arrangement that we have in this chamber can be transferred to the new Parliament. I am advised that, if we stay here long enough, the seating will have to change as it does not conform to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.
We have employed the international access consultants, Buro Happold, who tell me that, in the not-too-distant future, there will have to be a revamp of the signing and physical access arrangements in order to comply with the law. That is a matter that will have to evolve along with other matters. It is not caught in concrete-to use a happy metaphor. That we should stop the building contract on the basis of an argument about seating would be unwise and unfair, not only to the Parliament, but to the many other people who have worked so hard to make a success of the project.
I apologise for slightly overrunning, Sir David. I finish by saying to my colleagues that this has never been an arbitrary process or a one-man show. All the important decisions were taken on specialist and skilled advice, matured by the cross-referencing of opinion. The design team was put in place by an independent body of good reputation. It is important that we press on with the project. We are trying to put in place a building of which we can be proud and we are putting in place a client and design team relationship that makes sense.
If we say that we will not allow the corporate body to move on and to try to work out any difficulties that emerge, I believe that we are almost sending it a vote of no confidence. We cannot design by committee, certainly not by a committee of 129. The corporate body will be able to influence, guide and work with the immensely
Yesterday, I was accused of having a lack of ambition and of not having the courage to stand by a radical vision. Today, the Parliament has the chance to stand by a radical vision; I hope that it will take that chance. [Applause.]
That the Parliament endorses the decision to provide its permanent home on the Holyrood site and authorises the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body to take forward the project in accordance with the plans developed by the EMBT/RMJM design team and within the time scale and cost estimates described in the Presiding Officer's note to members of 9 June 1999.
I allowed the First Minister some latitude on timing because of the importance of the topic and I must allow Mr Gorrie similar latitude when he speaks in a moment. Members should register whether they want to speak now so that we can assess the timings of speeches.
The other point, which I should have made earlier, is that the corporate body has arranged for members of the design team to be seated at the back of the chamber. During the debate, members may go over to them to ask questions on the project.
I agree with Donald Dewar on one issue: the site is a parliamentary issue. Why, therefore, is he making us vote on an Executive motion? That is an outrage and has caused what may be a disproportionate response from another party.
I have not lobbied my own colleagues, I have sent material to the whole Parliament-the same stuff to every member. How members respond to that material is up to them. As far as I am concerned, this is an individual, personal issue and Mr Dewar has as much right as I have, but no more, to make a decision.
In all my time in politics, I do not remember anything that has caused me greater offence than the idea that one man should decide the site of a democratic Parliament. That is what has happened and it is absolutely unacceptable. There was no consultation on the Holyrood site. There
There is no reason for the Scottish Office to have pursued the issue of the Parliament site at all. It had to produce a temporary site, which it has done very well, and I give credit where it is due. All the other Parliaments that I have heard of started in a temporary site and then chose, in a mature fashion, where they wanted to be. There is no reason whatever why the Scottish Office had to be involved.
If members vote for Mr Dewar's motion, they are committed to one thing for centuries. It is not like the standing orders, which we can change in the autumn-members will be committed for a long time. They will make that decision with no information on the alternatives. It would be ridiculous for a householder, deciding on a new house, to say, "Well, there are three options, but we will look at only one of them."
We are on a timetable that has been condemned by every professional who has spoken to me, whether or not they favoured Holyrood. Moreover, we have all received documents from professional bodies that favour Holyrood but have asked for a pause.
If members vote for this motion, they will limit themselves to the present costs, and improvements, which will doubtless emerge, will not be possible. I am sure that conversation will produce suggestions for improvements, but those improvements will cost money, and either we will not get those improvements or cuts will have to be made elsewhere.
The motion limits us to the present budget and to the present plans. Therefore, we are stuck with the proposed debating chamber. Mr Dewar said that that would be virtually no different from this debating chamber. From where I am standing I can see the faces of a great many members without craning my neck, whereas if I were to sit in an equivalent place in the proposed debating chamber, I would see only the back of members' necks. Personal contact is critical to any democratic debate, but the proposals will destroy that. Instead, they will produce a sort of Stalinist gathering, where people listen to a speech from the great leader. I am not into that sort of politics.
Our amendment is not anti-Miralles or against the design team, whose proposal contains many good things. It is not anti-Holyrood. It suggests that we examine the options, but it does not
The Scottish Office involved various clever people, but they are all totally committed to the Holyrood project. With all due respect, they do not give unbiased advice, and the document from your office, Sir David, is tendentious in the extreme. We must get independent advice if the Holyrood scheme is to go ahead with proper, genuine support from the public and from members. Such advice would enable us to improve the chamber and other aspects of the design. Moreover, we could consider the other options that Mr Dewar has tried to rubbish.
As I understand it, there were a number of different proposals for Calton hill, one of which was a very elegant scheme to add the chamber on to the outside of St Andrew's House. It is not true to say that the chamber would be hidden away, although there was one proposal to that effect. Part of the attraction of that site is not that it would be a traffic island in the middle of Regent Road, but that Waterloo Place and Regent Road would make a splendid boulevard. The site would involve the use of the Royal High School for meetings-not for full meetings of the Parliament, but for public consultation, committees and so on.
Calton hill has been seen as the great icon of the Parliament movement. We could use the existing, improved facilities of St Andrew's House. We could have a fine, new debating chamber-with new architecture and any other new buildings that were necessary-up on a hill, where people could see it, and not in down in a hole.
The Assembly Hall has great potential, as Mr James Simpson has shown, having dug out old plans from the University of Edinburgh on how to develop the area. That option needs to be considered, and it is extraordinarily foolish to rush ahead without considering it.
The Calton hill site has fine buildings and space for expansion, which Holyrood does not. It is a fine site, as is the Assembly Hall. When I walk up from the bus stop in the morning, my heart lifts on seeing this building on the hill. It is something that one can be proud of.
The designs for Holyrood are ingenious in many ways, but the site is in a hole. It has no presence-one has to climb Arthur's Seat to see it at all. It is a small site, with no room for expansion. It is hard to get to. People will drive to it, as the right bus routes do not exist. Even if people take the bus, they will have to make more bus trips, as they will have to change buses.
Will our transport policy deal with such problems? There will be disruption to traffic, which will be sent through Holyrood park. Is that what we
Although the timetable for this project has been universally condemned, we are being hooked on to it today. Why is there such a rush? We can stay here for a bit longer to consider the options of staying here permanently, of going ahead more slowly with Holyrood if some improvements are made or of going to another site. There is no rush. We want to get things right, because, although no Parliament lasts for eternity, this one may last for a very long time.
The downside is that there might be a delay, which will cost £500,000 a month, if we believe your office, Sir David, or £1 million a month, if we believe the First Minister. I would not like to choose between those two estimates. Although there will be some cost, it will be quite small. On the other hand, the cost of voting for the motion will be that we will never know whether we got things right or what the real options were that we turned down; we will be stuck with a proposal that has no room for major improvement and that will bring about major changes in cost.
It would be extraordinarily foolish to vote for Mr Dewar's motion. We have a choice today. We can live with a benevolent despotism-it is benevolent, because Mr Dewar is a decent sort of bloke, but it is a despotism nevertheless. One man says what happens and we all obediently follow him. Alternatively, we can have a mature, parliamentary democracy. The question is: are we men and women or are we sheep?
I move amendment S1M-52.1, to leave out all after "Parliament" and insert-
"(a) sets up a special committee consisting of the members of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) and six other members chosen by the SPCB to work during the summer recess on the matters set out in (b) and (c) below;
(b) instructs the special committee to commission a study by an independent organisation recommended by RIBA of the existing plans, realistic possibilities, costs and arguments for and against the potential sites for the Parliament at Holyrood, Calton Hill/Regent Road and the Mound, to be presented to the special committee before the end of the summer recess;
(c) empowers the special committee, if it is convinced that the Holyrood scheme clearly offers the best option, to instruct work on the scheme to proceed with any modifications agreed by the committee, and, if it believes that another site is preferable or that there is no clear preferred site, or that the Holyrood site scheme should be pursued at high quality and increased costs over those set out in the Presiding Officer's note to members of 9 June 1999, to present all the relevant information to the Parliament for a decision as early as possible after the summer recess;
(d) instructs the Holyrood Project Team to continue with any work, such as archaeological or site preparation works, which will be of value whatever the future of the site, but not to let any construction related contracts proceed until the special committee or the Parliament authorises it to do so;
(e) instructs the SPCB to negotiate an appropriate timetable with the Holyrood Project Team if the Holyrood site is chosen by the special committee."
I said at the beginning that I wear two hats-as Presiding Officer and as chairman of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body. As chairman of that body, I am anxious to hear from everybody. Many members wish to speak and so I propose to curtail speeches to three minutes. Indeed, as we proceed, if a member decides to move a motion to extend the debate by half an hour, I will be willing to accept that. However, we will see how we get on.
On a point of order, Mr Presiding Officer. I accept what you say about the length of speeches, because it is important that as many people as possible get a chance to speak. However, yesterday, some members were using their interventions to make quite long comments and other members like me, who had been waiting to speak all afternoon, were not able to do so. Will you make a comment about that kind of electronic queue-jumping?
I said yesterday that interventions have to be short and I did curtail one intervention. However, given that I have asked for very short speeches, I suggest that members limit interventions to give everyone the chance to say what they want about this important project.
I commend the First Minister on the passion of his speech. I have seldom, if ever, seen him so passionate. It is admirable that he has such passion for architecture, if indeed that is the cause. However, I suspect that the cause is a passion for getting his own way.
It is obviously necessary to pause at this stage in the project. I will reply immediately to the First Minister's question about why we need a whip on this matter. Had this debate taken place last week, there might not have been a need for it; but the majority of SNP members went to the presentation given by the design team and others and when they came back, they were utterly convinced that the terms of this amendment were right. There had to be a pause on this project.
We are not talking about cancelling this project, but pausing on it. There are three very strong reasons for doing that. The first reason is that the project has financial flaws. A Scottish Parliament
A second reason to pause is the concept of the building in almost every regard. I hope that Mr Harper will speak on the environmental issues, which are important and have been neglected. The question of traffic access has not been answered. We were confidently told at the briefing meetings that with 2 million visitors the increase in traffic would make no difference to that end of the High Street. That is nonsense and we must consider that matter again.
The issue of the chamber is essential. I will briefly quote from the report by Mr Miralles. Mr Miralles talks about the chamber as being somewhere where MSPs could embrace each other. I see little sign of that happening here. He complains about the tendency for Parliaments to seat members of the assembly facing a wall. Presiding Officer, you are not a wall and we sit like this so that you may control the debate. Mr Miralles also calls members in the chamber performers. Clearly, he has seen Mr Raffan at work, but most people here are not performers.
We should oppose this on the simple grounds of error in thinking. The building that we are talking about will not make us a Parliament. All the comments that we have heard so far suggest that we will miraculously become a Parliament in two years' time and that the problems we have with the new politics and the style of debate will change because we have a new building. That is not true. We must think about what we should be doing and how we, as men and women, should make ourselves a Parliament and not imagine that a building can do that for us. We must pause, consider the future and the costs, then come back in the autumn and decide where we go. We must not be rushed into this decision, because it could be the wrong decision.
I chose to make my first speech in this debate because, although I am proud to represent Coatbridge and Chryston here in this Parliament, I also want to be proud of the Parliament that we are shaping for the future. I support the First Minister's motion to move forward with the construction and completion of the building at Holyrood.
Scots are not fooled by the folly of a small number of people who would have us remain with the status quo-a status quo which excludes the people of my constituency from accessing me in a parliamentary environment; a status quo which goes no way towards providing the family-friendly environment that the people of Scotland want; a status quo which strengthens the notions of ivory towers and closed doors in our political processes.
I believe that the people of Scotland do wish to access their representatives in a parliamentary environment and do wish to see family-friendly policies emanate from Parliament and be embodied within it. They do want to see real openness and transparency in government first-hand.
We have the opportunity to achieve progress and establish the people's Parliament, not solely in our policy decisions on the people's priorities, but in the physical environment in which those decisions are made. We should establish a Parliament that provides access to all, regardless of differing abilities, and embraces the Government's priority of inclusion. We should establish a Parliament that seeks to attain environmental excellence that will be hailed as a beacon to others.
In the Parliament we have an unrivalled opportunity to display to the world the excellence that exists in Scottish business, for example, through an arena for Scottish trade and industry exhibits. We could utilise the Parliament building during recess for innovative schemes to encourage young people to take part in the political process and we could use it as a resource for community groups. The Parliament building should make provision for working mothers and fathers. If Safeway can provide creche facilities for parents while they shop, surely we can provide
These ideals are not possible in our temporary accommodation and a new search for a permanent home will not deliver any increase in quality or value for money. As we have heard, delaying or abandoning the process will have cost implications. Although I have sympathy with people who feel that we should use an old historic building, such buildings exist because of the vision and courage of someone in the past. We are making history with our Parliament: the building should be a sign of our times for future generations.
The Parliament building should accommodate our wishes, should make provision for inclusion, and should reflect the sentiments and views of the Scottish people. We have to accept that the measures that will be required to do that-if we are to build on solid foundations-do not come cheap. Clearly, the original construction cost estimates of 1997 have been exceeded to meet the demands for increased floor space and additional requirements. Is that really the main issue to consider when deciding where the permanent home of our new-found democracy should be based? It has taken 300 years for the Scottish people to have their Parliament returned to them. Their desire is for a Parliament that will reflect and address their needs and aspirations, and that will do so not on a temporary basis or with a make-do mentality.
The people of my constituency of Coatbridge and Chryston, and all the people of Scotland, want a Parliament that will encourage positive and progressive debates and decisions on the issues that affect their daily lives. I believe that they want that process to take place in a building that is fit to reflect the importance of those issues, a Parliament building that will bear the symbols of Scotland's heritage and the aspirations for Scotland's future.
We have a duty to Scotland and its people today, tomorrow and in the next century. That duty involves ensuring that Scotland's Parliament and the Scottish Parliament buildings are a permanent fixture of Scottish life for many generations and many centuries to come.
I speak in support of Mr Gorrie's amendment. I do so because I feel that today MSPs are on a test of trust with the Scottish people-the people in these galleries and the people out beyond. Those people will look keenly at our judgment on where our new Parliament should be and on how much it will cost. The hallmark of what we are our discussing should be
A Parliament such as the one we seek must have a location, with ancillary facilities, that is suitable for a modern forum of government. That is essential and indisputable. However, the question that cannot be answered-because there is neither sufficient information to do so nor acceptable information about other options-is simply this: does the current proposal for a Parliament building at Holyrood represent the best option?
As Mr Gorrie has indicated, the Scottish people were certainly denied full information about the costs at the time of the devolution referendum. At that time, the figure in the public mind was between £40 million and £50 million. Today, the final estimate is running at approximately £109 million. With a capital cost running at that level, it is unacceptable that MSPs-without any investigation of other options-should endorse such expenditure. If we do, many doctors, nurses, schoolteachers and policemen throughout Scotland will question the wisdom of that decision.
Mr Gorrie's amendment suggests a sensible and practical way forward. It does not seek to halt all progress, nor does it seek to rule out the current Holyrood proposal; but it rightly calls for the brakes to be put on, pending proper investigation of other options. I offer no comment on those options other than to say that they seem worthy of investigation. Until that investigation happens, I cannot see how MSPs can responsibly mandate the expenditure of significant sums of public money when they cannot justify why their decision is the best one.
By instinct, I am a protective soul, and while I shall draw short of accepting Mr Miralles's invitation to embrace the First Minister, I feel an obligation at least to look after him. Unless the
The result of today's debate will echo down throughout the history of building and architecture in Scotland for a century-a century that will look to the new building as an example of all that should be aimed for in public building. The building will have seen a century of use by parliamentarians. We have a public and a private responsibility to get it right.
I am speaking to that portion of the motion that calls for delay on one set of very important and compelling grounds. There is every possibility that the principal new building of the century will not live up to what should be expected of it due to imprecise specification, lack of clear direction and the recently whispered willingness to relax the building's energy standards to save money.
That would be the biggest imaginable waste of public money. Embodied energy, or lifetime energy use, is part of the cost of a building. Every pound spent now on energy conservation will be an investment that will pay back a significant proportion of the total cost of the building during its lifetime. We have a duty to make time for a thorough assessment of the energy use of this building and to improve the specifications. We must demand a building that will be an icon for the future and a yardstick of sustainability. In the present climate of opinion and Government's public commitments, which I shall come to, it would be bizarre to settle for anything less.
What has worried me so far about the planning of the project is the apparent secrecy that still surrounds it. The fact that it is a Crown project means that building warrant drawings that would allow us to calculate the lifetime costs of the building need not be produced. This building will be used by the public as well as by members. They have an interest. Public accessibility should mean public accountability. Where are the drawings?
No wind tunnel tests have been done yet despite the well-known windiness of Edinburgh, particularly round Arthur's Seat. Essentially we do not yet know whether the design is viable, although I confess that I like the exterior. If a
There seems to be no willingness to do everything possible to use Scottish hardwoods, despite the stored elm, sycamore and other hardwoods that would become available from several specialist sources in Scotland, given careful planning now. There is no commitment to the use of recycled materials such as warmcell, which is made from recycled newspaper. There is no excitement, no innovation and no creativity in this building so far.
I have consulted experts such as the Scottish Environmental Design Association, which group has written to Mr McLeish and is not satisfied with his replies. I am reliably informed by them that a confession was made at the inquiry this week that the design team is aiming for only good to excellent in the energy specifications.
I will not take any interventions. This building cannot be only good to excellent; it must be beyond excellent. It must be the best building that we can possibly produce. Time spent on improving energy efficiency will repay itself amply. It will almost certainly cost millions of pounds more in the long run to go ahead with the plan as it is. If we can spend £500 million on a block of offices for Westminster MPs and a couple of hundred million pounds on a supermarket, surely the Government will listen to a plea that more time be spent on considering the building, and even that more money be spent on it so that we can fulfil our international obligations, inspire the generation of architects to come, and give Scotland a building that it deserves.
The first Scottish Parliament for 300 years is an historic and memorable event. As befits such an event, we need a new, appropriate home.
The white paper on devolution stated:
"The building the Scottish Parliament occupies must be of such a quality, durability and civic importance as to reflect the Parliament's status and operational needs."
In Enric Miralles we have found an architect who can make those dreams a reality. Anyone who can sit here and say, hand on heart, that the facilities that we have now are satisfactory must surely be of questionable sanity.
I am the first to admit that our office accommodation is very acceptable in the short term, but I am only in that office for a few hours a week. What about the staff who work there all day,
One of the great opportunities when creating a great building is the chance to rectify all the things that are wrong with existing buildings. Is our current home environmentally friendly? I think not. Environmental issues will be a major consideration in the new building. Energy efficiency and environmentally conscious design principles will result in more economic construction costs, which is of prime importance, not least because it can also lead to reduced maintenance and energy consumption costs. Water will be used more economically and waste will be minimised and recycled. Natural lighting and ventilation via windows and a passive cooling system will ensure that everyone who uses the building is comfortable and will reduce the incidence of ailments such as sick building syndrome.
For me, however, of prime importance is the need to provide a building that is accessible to everyone. The design for the new Parliament is compliant with Disability Scotland's guidelines. Compliance covers not only access facilities, but signage, interior design, pedestrian and vehicular access and assistance for people who are hard of hearing, the visually impaired and the infirm.
As a brand-new Parliament whose members seek to formulate a new type of government, the new building must be an exemplary model of access for all, irrespective of disability. The Scottish Parliament last sat 300 years ago. How long do we want this one to last? To use my mother's cliché, "You only get what you pay for." If we do not invest now, how many years will it be until we are examining designs for another new Parliament? What would the cost be then?
All members know how frustrating it is to be here and not to be able to pass legislation because we have not yet taken on our full powers. What about the frustration of the staff who work here in cramped conditions, and of the public who are being disfranchised because we are not allowing them access? Let us waste no more time. Let us get down to this project now and get into our new building as quickly as possible.
My concern is not so much about the materials or cost of the building, but that we ensure that we have a Parliament that is open and accessible to all members of our society, no matter that they have a disability. It seems, however, that some
At Tuesday's meeting with the architect and Scottish Office officials, I raised the issue not of access within the Parliament, but of access to the Parliament site. The transport problems that will undoubtedly occur will have a disproportionate effect on people with a disability. We know from comments made by one of the Scottish Office officials that one of the ideas that is being considered to ensure that disabled people can get to the Parliament is a shuttle bus service. I am sorry, but that is an unacceptable standard to set for a new Parliament from the start.
The Parliament will have a secure area for dropping off VIPs, but there are no plans for an area near the Parliament to drop off disabled people or the elderly. I am sure that many members of this Parliament will agree that it is more important that disabled people can be dropped off at the Parliament than that the odd dignitary who may choose to visit us can be.
There are also concerns about the interior of the building. It will be a cambered chamber, like this one. The same access problems will exist as here. How does someone with a wheelchair go from this end of the Parliament to the other end of the Parliament, without having to go down to the front or round the back? On Tuesday, that question could not be answered.
The Presiding Officer's area will be elevated and will be accessed by stairs. At the heart of our Parliament, there will be an area that someone with a disability will be unable to access. When that point was raised, Scottish Office officials stated that they were aware of the problem and were looking into the possibility of an elevating platform. When I heard that suggestion, I must confess that the vision of the Blackpool organist coming up through the stage floor went through my mind.
Already we are considering adapting a building that should be built to the standard that anyone with a disability, whether they be the Presiding Officer, a member or a member of the public, can access any part of. The Parliament should be built to ensure that, during the next 200 years, every member of our society, no matter that they have a disability, can access the building and every part of the building. We are talking about a Parliament that may last for 200 years. What is two months if we ensure that we provide a Parliament that includes all members of our society?
I will be brief, as I know that many people wish to contribute to this debate. I support Mr Gorrie's amendment with the benefit of the experience of having builders in my home.
The eventual home of the Scottish Parliament is a decision for which we as parliamentarians will be held to account, not just from an architectural standpoint, but by those who will visit and watch what we do. I am willing to bet that this is the only time that most of us will ever make a decision on where this Parliament will be situated. Certainly, I do not have experience in the matter, but I would welcome the time to look at the situation anew.
I will leave aside the arguments about whether we were duped by the announcement of the initial cost price; whether it was £40 million or £50 million and whether it included things such as VAT, fees or demolition costs. I intend no slight to the then Secretary of State for Scotland who is now First Minister. He is not by nature a devious man. I felt for him when he said that he was drookit last night, but he could easily have taken a remedy-an umbrella.
Yesterday, I noticed the obvious addition to the chamber. Gone were the two box files for Mr Henry McLeish, from which it was easier to read his notes, and instead we had a solid wooden lectern, in like wood to the desks we occupy. The amount of fiddling to the microphones showed that it was clearly an unforeseen addition. That is the shape of things to come. There will be constant additions, amendments, little extras and forward planning for advances in technology in whichever building the Parliament makes its home. That all costs money-money which, as constituents will tell us, would be better spent on things other than a monument to anyone's ego. My own particular bid would be for the upgrade of the A77 between Malletsheugh and Fenwick, a notorious black spot that is rightly known as the killer road.
However, our present office accommodation is far from ideal. Is the road building outside our building a coincidence, or is it to hasten our departure? I have not had the delights of visiting the ministerial floor with its red carpet. This chamber, as has been said, would benefit from some alterations to improve access for the disabled and the cost of those alterations would be considerably less than the proposals for Holyrood. I am concerned about the financial aspects of this proposal. In this day and age who would not be?
I would like to be able to support the Holyrood project going ahead immediately. I probably have less concern about the Holyrood project than some other members, but enough to say that
We are not constructing a building that will stand for 10, 20 or 50 years; potentially, we are constructing a building that will stand for hundreds of years. We must make sure that we get it right.
In a previous existence not too far from here as a local councillor in the City of Edinburgh, I served on the transportation and planning committees. From the beginning, there was much concern among the people who serve Edinburgh about the Holyrood site. There was a definite feeling that we were bounced into accepting Holyrood. The vast majority of City of Edinburgh councillors thought that Calton hill was a better situation. As Donald Gorrie said, having a boulevard with a Parliament on Calton hill that is accessible in terms of transport and for people with disabilities is very attractive. It is unfortunate that that site is not the one that we accepted.
However, I am not totally against the idea of Holyrood. We are at an historic point in our nation's history. It is a time for us to be bold and adventurous, but also to get it right. I am not saying that Holyrood is the wrong site; I am saying that members of this Parliament have enough questions about the project for us to take stock. We should examine the costs and the materials, as well as accessibility and transport, to which I shall refer.
I am concerned about the inadequate transport impact assessment studies that we have seen. Like Mr Russell, I am concerned that the project team said that a Parliament could be built at Holyrood, which is next to a palace, the Dynamic Earth exhibition, the new offices of The Scotsman, new flats and other developments, which will attract 2 million people a year, but that that would not mean more cars at any of the junctions. I am sorry, but I sat on a transport committee for four years and in that time I managed to work out that if 2 million people were put into an area of half a square mile, there would be congestion at some junctions.
We do not have the full transport picture. I say to the First Minister and to the project team that this is an ideal opportunity for us to build a Parliament that befits what we do. We-the men and women of this chamber-are the Parliament. We could meet in a hut, if we did it in the right spirit and with the right soul, the right briefing, the right intelligence and the right passion in our bellies for our country-that is what is important. It is right that we construct a splendid building, wherever that happens to be, but it is also right that we use it to show symbolically that we are moving into a new century. One of the things about that new century is that we must put in place transport systems that work for the people of this city and for the people of Scotland.
One other point that I must make on behalf of the taxpayers of Edinburgh is that all members would give their eye-teeth to have the Parliament sited in their constituency. We should listen to Andrew Wilson and take the Parliament round the cities and towns of Scotland. We must not leave it to the taxpayers and the councillors of Edinburgh to find the funding to put in place the transport to get people to the Parliament, otherwise the Parliament will suffer.
I took the opportunity on Tuesday to be briefed by the architectural and client teams involved with the Holyrood project. I went to that briefing with an open mind and came away determined that the way forward would be to vote for the continuation of the project. That view is supported by a constituent of mine in this week's issue of the Kilmarnock Standard .
The briefing enlightened the attending MSPs about the reasons for the cost increase, which were identified as an increase in circulation space for the movement of people; the provision of appropriate accommodation and facilities for all those working in, or visiting, the Parliament; the cost of meeting fully the requirements of disability legislation; taking account of the best currently available building standards; and anticipating future improvements.
The amendment in the name of Donald Gorrie makes no reference to those important matters, nor does it address the financial penalties that may be incurred if it is approved. The accommodation that is currently available to Parliament is not wholly suitable. It is not barrier-free and has high security costs, because of the number of sites. The heating of separate buildings is not cost-efficient. The adaptations to date are short term and would require further expenditure to meet regulations, and the accommodation does not meet the needs of staff in the Parliament's employ.
The deliberations of a special committee would further delay the provision of a suitable Parliament building for Scotland for the next century and beyond. It is my view-and I hope that all members will agree-that if the Parliament is to meet the needs of the Scottish people, its facilities must be barrier-free. I accept that everything must be done to ensure that costs are controlled, but that should not exclude any group or individual from participating in Scotland's democracy.
Today we have the opportunity to move closer to delivering a barrier-free, family-friendly, inclusive
As the representative of the people of Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, I would naturally prefer the Parliament to be situated in Inverness. However, I am prepared to concede that that will not be possible without adequate transport links to Heathrow and the rest of the world.
I am sure that all members will join me in thanking the Church of Scotland for negotiating with the Scottish Office, which is also to be commended, to make this chamber available to the people of Scotland.
Two sets of issues are becoming confused in this debate: issues relating to the choice of site, and issues relating to the building and, in particular, the chamber. I want to speak out in defence of this chamber, because it is an excellent forum. Last week my colleague Mary Scanlon arranged a visit by a group of people from Inverness. Almost to a person, they expressed their approval for this chamber, because of the sense of history, the ambience, the atmosphere, the tradition and the sense of occasion that inform and-perhaps-raise the quality of our contributions to debates.
Three factors must be considered when we contemplate a move to another chamber: the needs of the press, the needs of the public and the needs of members. I understand that the press in this chamber can see virtually every member except, perhaps, one or two Conservative members; I make no comment as to whether that is an advantage or a disadvantage. I understand that they can see members' reactions and expressions during debates, and even members passing sweeties to one another. That is part of the democratic process.
The arguments about the lack of facilities are unrealistically exaggerated. The First Minister was not here to accept Mrs McIntosh's kind offer of an umbrella to prevent him from becoming drookit the next time that it rains, but I am sure that, if pushed, we can have a whip-round among SNP members to arrange one-in the spirit of non-partisan co-operation. I have never seen the High Street covered with 6 in of snow; sadly, we have not seen 6 in of snow on Cairn Gorm, where, I hope, the Cairn Gorm funicular railway will shortly be situated.
In its report on possible sites, Halcrow Fox and Associates Ltd said that of the four options, it favoured Calton hill. We know that the attitude of the First Minister was ABC-anywhere but Calton
I want to voice one thought that might be unwelcome to members of the Labour party who sit in this Parliament. I believe that any new Parliament building will hasten progress towards full independence for Scotland. Naturally, I welcome that. Perhaps, therefore, the intelligent Labour members-I am sure that they form the vast majority-will reflect that if we were to stay here, which is one of the options under Donald Gorrie's amendment, it might help slow down the separatist march, as Labour members would see it, towards independence.
In conclusion, I wish to echo your words, Sir David, about this Parliament being a kitten, which we want, without any genetic modification, to see transformed into a proud Scottish lion, independent and free.
Lyndsay McIntosh was perfectly correct in trying to focus our minds on the basic issue: cost. The Holyrood option clearly has to be considered, but it is worth bandying about a few of the figures, a term which I use advisedly. When the project was first mooted in 1997, various figures between £10 million and £40 million were quoted. I fully accept that those figures were never likely to be realistic. The figure of £50 million-plus VAT and fees, of course-was later quoted. I do not think that I am alone in thinking that the question of fees and VAT was mentioned sotto voce.
The product that we are likely to receive in the end has many pleasing aspects. Like many members, I would take issue with the design and style of the chamber-clearly something that will require to be examined again. I am sure that, in the end, a serious compromise can be reached.
I must return to the question of cost. Why, when the figure of £50 million plus fees plus VAT was mooted, was it considered that 16,000 sq m would have been adequate? Clearly, that would not have been adequate to achieve what we wanted-a Parliament that could house members and staff adequately. The appropriate space is now considered to be 23,000 sq m. Why was consideration not given to the essential corridor space? There are far too many unanswered questions, and the inescapable conclusion to which one is drawn is that the First Minister, whose enthusiasm for the project is entirely praiseworthy, acted in a somewhat impetuous
If we had looked at the matter in a more measured, leisurely manner, we would have found a more acceptable conclusion for the people of Scotland. They are wary of the question of costs, and are well aware, as are many of us, of the way in which capital projects can overrun. We do not want the existing figure of £109 million to be exceeded. Regrettably, we have to draw breath and examine the matter in a cogent and reasoned manner. What Mr Gorrie is suggesting should be commended. We are not saying that we will not go to Holyrood. We are saying that we should examine in detail the options and the costs-there would, of course, be costs were we not to go to Holyrood-and then make a clear, reasoned decision, going where we go, knowing what the costs are likely to be and assuring the people of Scotland that they will get value for money.
Today's speeches in support of Mr Gorrie's amendment have been disappointing. It is appropriate that we have the opportunity to discuss these matters, and I welcome it. However, Mr Gorrie was a bit disingenuous in some of his arguments, not least when he said that his proposal was "not anti-Holyrood". He went on to justify his position in two ways; it was clear that it was an anti-Holyrood proposal. First, he spoke in favour of the Calton hill proposal, which could have legitimacy only at the expense of Holyrood. Secondly, he justified his position by citing a paper from Mr James Simpson, which he circulated to all members this morning-Mr Simpson advocated New College as a potential site for the Parliament.
It is quite clear that Mr Gorrie's position is anti-Holyrood. I am happy to put my cards on the table and say that I am pro-Holyrood. It is a good proposal. It may not be the best site in Edinburgh, but there are very few sites in central Edinburgh, either new or old, which will not cause the traffic congestion that Mr Gorrie mentioned. We could site the Parliament at the Gyle, which would be handy because of the train station there, but it would not be appropriate. The setting of the Parliament is important.
I accept that cost is an issue, but it should not be the overriding issue. I listened to Bill Aitken's remarks. We are building a Parliament that we hope will be there for hundreds of years. I am not into the national virility symbol argument, but the new Parliament does have symbolic importance. Whether we get new politics remains to be seen, so I shall not use the term-but a new millennium and a new democracy in Scotland merit a new
I might horrify the First Minister by saying that I was very disappointed when, as Secretary of State for Scotland, he announced that we would move away from Calton hill. For me it had been the focus of years of campaigning for a Scottish Parliament. We prepared Calton hill in 1979 and campaigning was based around that building. So I was disappointed, but I have now come to the conclusion that wherever we talk about-Calton hill, New College or remaining here-we do not need an old building. For new politics, for the new democracy, we need a new building.
If Richard Lochhead suggests that, I accept it; so much the better. I am sure that there is no uniformity of view within the parties that will vote for the amendment and against the substantive motion. There is a large element of political opportunism-it is an opportunity to have a go at the First Minister and the Executive, which is unfortunate.
I believe that we will ultimately take the decision to settle at Holyrood, because it will be shown to be the best site in the circumstances, and there is no benefit in delaying that decision. I listened to Michael Matheson's speech; again, he spoke passionately about the needs of people with disabilities. That is a very important issue. It is one of the reasons why this building and the others that we are currently using are not suitable and why we should clear out of them at the first opportunity. I am therefore opposed to any delay that would cause us to remain here longer than necessary.
I fear that adopting the amendment would put us into a spiral, so that it would be not just a two-month delay but considerably longer than that. Although everyone has done well in preparing this building for us, it is not suitable in the long term; neither is the office accommodation. We need to move ahead today on the basis of the motion.
The issue is being discussed on party political lines today, which is sad. Any rejection of the Holyrood site appears as an attack on the Miralles design-that is not the case. I was born and brought up in Edinburgh; I remember well when the Scottish and Newcastle building was built and the chaos that that caused in that area of the High Street. I should be fascinated to know how many members have taken a walk down the High Street
The traffic impact study that has been made available to us appears to say nothing about Dynamic Earth-to which Margaret Smith referred-and nothing about the 2 million people who are expected to visit the Parliament. It claims that there will be no traffic problems. Anyone who comes down Abbey hill at half-past 8 in the morning, as I did today-under the bridge and to the bottom of the High Street-will see that there are major congestion problems. We should support the amendment to allow us to make proper decisions and to take into account what is necessary before we proceed with a new building.
The other day, I went with an open mind to see Mr Miralles and the project team. I asked them two questions, neither of which they could answer satisfactorily, although I thought that they were fairly simple questions at this stage, with work about to move into the construction phase. I asked how long the roof would last and when the first major refurbishment of the exterior walls was expected. I received no reply. They had no answers. Labour members who were there know that that was the case. I worry deeply because we are investing in a building that is supposed to last for many years, perhaps 100 years.
No, I will not give way.
That historic building should last and be a focus for the country, as the Sydney Opera House is a focus for the people of Australia and as the new Reichstag is a focus for the people of a united Germany. That is what we are aiming for.
It concerns me that we are taking this decision in impatience. If we get it wrong, the mistake will be there in bricks, mortar, sheet steel and plastic for us and for those who come after us to walk by or walk into each year for the next four years. It will be an indictment of our impatience if we proceed with the proposal without proper consideration. I urge all members who are not supporting the amendment to take a walk down St Mary's Street, or through the Cowgate and down Holyrood Road, to the bottom of the Royal Mile and back again, and then tell me whether the development will have a major impact on traffic.
I have great difficulty with this subject. As a Glasgow member, I
The First Minister told us that there would be a free vote among Labour members, but I think that we all anticipate that, at the end of the debate, the Labour members who vote against the motion-if any-will be fewer than can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The SNP, which is apparently to have a whipped vote on the issue, tells us that it is considering the matter from various perspectives, that there is nothing at all political about it, and that it is acting in the best interests of Scotland.
Those are the wrong ways in which to approach the matter. It is wrong that it should be presented to us as an Executive motion; we should have had a vote on a motion by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body. I speak as a member of that body, and regard my role as being something of a trustee for the Parliament, subject to taking a steer from the Parliament on a matter such as this.
I have considerable qualms about our present position. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Donald Dewar's original decision-and I have immense respect for Donald's artistic knowledge and feeling for this kind of thing, which go far beyond anything that I can offer the Parliament-we are faced with a fait accompli in a situation in which there is no stark decision to be made. I do not know the reason for the hurry. A letter from the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland has been circulated to members. It concludes:
"It would be prudent . . . when end-user (MSP) adjustments are rightly being sought to refine this design, to ensure that a realistic time scale and budget are established which recognise the high quality specification demanded of the project, and the inevitable adjustments which will be required during its realisation. Members of the architectural profession have felt for some time that both budget and time scale would need to be reviewed for a variety of reasons if these aims were to be met."
I take that letter quite seriously because the advice that it contains comes from an independent source. At the same time, I thought that Mike Watson made a valid point when he said that a two-month delay would not be enough to resolve the problems. We are faced with on-going costs and difficulties in proceeding with the project.
At the end of the day, the decision is one for Parliament, not for the Executive. I am trying to come to a view on a matter about which information is growing by the day. I do not have architectural knowledge, nor do I have a detailed method of assessing the financial issues, although
I do not like one or two aspects of the project. I am not satisfied with the 135 parking spaces and the justification that has been given for them-we are now supposed to be in a rather greener environment. I am not happy with the public access that is proposed for the new building. Here, there are 350 seats, which have been pretty much filled day after day since the commencement of the Parliament, and that is a good thing. I like this site, I like being in the heart of the city and it is appropriate that Parliament should be in the heart of the city. I am not convinced that, if we move down to Holyrood, the public will have the same feel for it. There are difficulties with the walking route and, as Margaret Smith observed, there are still unresolved accessibility difficulties. The traffic report that we received this morning effectively said that things are yet to be done, and an intensive and on-going study to ensure that accessibility measures are in place is not yet being carried out. We are not in a position to make decisions on the matter.
I will listen to the rest of the debate. I am not giving members my opinion at the moment, but I have considerable qualms about the way in which things are being done and the direction in which the project is going. It is important that we get things right. This is a major decision, with which we will have to live for a long time to come.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on the issue of the permanent home for the new, and first democratically elected, Scottish Parliament. Much debate has taken place during the past few years about the Parliament's location, and after that debate it has been decided that it will be located in Holyrood.
Fergus Ewing said that he would like the Parliament to be situated in his constituency, and indeed there were bids from people in various areas-one of them not too far from me-who lost out. The decision has been taken, and the First Minister outlined this morning just how he arrived at that decision. We will locate in Edinburgh and we will-I hope-locate in Holyrood.
I am proud and honoured to have been elected by the people of Cumbernauld and Kilsyth to represent them in this new Parliament. In the speeches that I made during my election campaign, I made it clear to the electorate that I supported the building of a new Parliament complex, not for the benefit of its members, but for the benefit of the people of Scotland.
We offered the voters a new beginning. In my
The people of Scotland did not vote for a "mak a fool aw" Parliament. That is how people in Kilsyth would describe the way in which we are going about things today and some of the suggestions for a solution that we can mak do with. They voted for a Parliament that was new because they wanted something better. They deserve, and we should provide, a Parliament suitable for the new millennium.
Enric Miralles and his team have designed a complex that we should all be proud of. Costs are important, and we should be aware that the public want value for money. However, they have been misled into believing that the costs are rocketing out of control. That is not the case, and I was pleased to hear Brian Taylor confirm to the listeners of Radio Scotland this morning that the figure of £90 million had been in the public domain since last year.
If members accepted the answer given by the Holyrood project team that the increased costs can be attributed, in the main, to changes and improvements in design specification, I believe that they would be accepting the facts.
The shape of the chamber has excited the minds of members, some positively and some negatively. The parliamentary complex has been designed with access at its heart, not as an afterthought and not as something that can be adapted at a later date, but as a building that will hold no barriers. I did not recognise the comments that Michael Matheson made about access in the new building. Nor did I recognise Lloyd Quinan's comments about answers that he allegedly did not receive about the costs of the building and the lifespan of the roofing and exterior walls.
The proposals before us would have Scotland leading the world, with a Parliament building that had open access for all people. It is not unthinkable to suggest that that building should be used for other functions, as one of my colleagues suggested earlier.
I have no intention of giving way. I am sure that Ms MacDonald will want to speak later; she can make her point of information in her own time.
The building will be constructed with taxpayers' money, and Scottish taxpayers should be able to use it. The new chamber is an exemplar. It caters for everyone: whether we have physical or
The points made by some members about the shape of the chamber show that those members are driven by self-interest. Their concern is not about what the building can do for the people of Scotland, but about what it can do for them, for their inflated egos, for their desire to display their debating skills and to be seen by the press.
The people of Scotland voted for something new; not for a talking shop, but for a Parliament of and for the people. Members must get their heads out of the sand, or down from the dizzy heights of publicity, and stop wasting taxpayers' money. The meter is running for every week and month of delay, and it is costing us money. Let us get the new building up and running. Let us get to work for the people who depend on us to improve the quality of their lives. Let us get down to the business that we were sent here to do. We must agree to the proposals and give Scotland a cluster of buildings-as the architect described them-of quality and dignity that will serve us well into the new millennium and beyond.
It is sad that, yet again, we are debating what should be a cross-party matter but has been reduced to either backing or opposing the Executive.
I instinctively agree with the case that Scotland's new Parliament should be in a new building that reflects modern Scotland. I like Señor Miralles's design-in fact, I adore Señor Miralles's design. [Laughter.] We will not pursue that.
I have no problem about drawing on the lessons of other countries, but I worry about the Executive's haste to proceed and its unwillingness properly to share decision-making on this matter. I have spent a large part of my professional career assisting communities to initiate and control construction projects. Voluntary groups in communities expect-and rightly demand-full information on which to base their decisions. The members of this Parliament have not been afforded the courtesy of that opportunity.
A press report this morning quoted an unnamed member of the Executive as saying that if the Parliament agreed to delay construction, it would cost £1 million. I have learned this morning that the costs under the penalty clauses might amount to £2 million. The more important question is what it will cost us to allow this project to go ahead ill-prepared. We are being asked to approve a project that will probably cost in excess of £100 million with less information than would be available to a local authority building a community
The information that we have been given is long on timetable but short on cost analysis. That suggests that more weight is being given to bringing the project in on time-and to prestige-than to getting it right in facility at appropriate cost. The papers circulated to us raised many questions, and I will submit them to the corporate body, whatever the outcome of this debate.
I will support the amendment. If it is passed, and Holyrood emerges from the process as the preferred option, it will be a better project, a better building and-more important-the decision will have been made by this Parliament.
I want to comment on Fergus Ewing's speech, which was one of the most interesting made today. Fergus advised us that the new Parliament would hasten Scottish independence, yet today he is advocating delay. What are the Scottish National party these days? Are they fainthearts rather than bravehearts?
The Conservatives' approach does not surprise me. What does surprise me about today's debate is the lack of ambition that we are hearing from the nationalists. The SNP wants Scotland to take a leap into the economic dark, but is not prepared to put its money where its mouth is and help establish a Parliament that is fit for the next millennium and the people of Scotland. Instead, it is prepared to support a proposal from Donald Gorrie for the sake of a couple of cheap headlines.
The Parliament has a clear choice between the vision of an exciting new building for Scotland that can take us forward into the next century, and the penny-pinching parochialism of Donald Gorrie. As Mike Watson commented earlier, Donald Gorrie's position is anti-Holyrood. To delay today is to delay forever, and the Parliament will never move forward.
Mike Russell advises us that the SNP is employing a party whip today because it is united in its position. If it is united, why is it bothering with a whip? MSPs from that party would vote automatically for its position. The reality, as Richard Lochhead and, I think, Linda Fabiani have told us, is that many of its members support the proposal and that the whip is needed to whip them into line.
The vision that has been put before us by Enric Miralles, which Donald Dewar's motion asks us to support, is a vision of a Parliament for Scotland-a Parliament that will be accessible to all of our people, to all of our communities and will allow them to engage with us. It will act as a focus for
As Mike Watson said, if we delay today, we will delay forever, and it will be the first of many delays. I appeal to the SNP members who support the Holyrood project to unite with us behind an inspired design that will give Scotland a Parliament building fit for the new democracy that we are taking forward to the next millennium.
The Scottish Conservatives accepted the verdict of the Scottish people when they voted for the Scottish Parliament-and a new building-in the 1997 referendum. However, at that time we were told that the cost of the building would be between £10 million and £40 million. The Scottish Conservatives argued that there would not be much change out of £100 million. We were ridiculed for making those statements, and told that we were scaremongering. Well, today it can be seen that we were right.
We also raised the possibility that other costs might be added on to the Parliament. We said that the cost of the ministerial team would be three times that of the Scottish ministers in 1997. The First Minister has excelled himself and has gone to four times that figure. We believed that the revenue costs could rise to £100 million-we were told that that was not possible. Donald Gorrie's comments today suggest that the Presiding Officer's department could cost £12 million. That must put us well on the way to reaching the £100 million revenue costs that we were forecasting back in 1997.
Some in this chamber might say, "That is typical of you Conservatives. You are obsessed with costs." We are obsessed with costs, but it is not our money that the Parliament is spending-it is taxpayers' money. We have got to get every bit of value out of the money that the Parliament spends. Like Lyndsay McIntosh, I would rather that some of the money was spent on upgrading the A77.
Tommy Sheridan made a passionate plea for Glasgow's housing yesterday. Perhaps some of the money could be spent on uprating housing. That would be good value for money, but spending this amount of money on a building because someone has decided on the Holyrood site and that the new building is necessary for Scotland's image is questionable.
We will support a new Parliament building, but we must consider every aspect of it. Donald Gorrie's motion gives us the opportunity to do that.
I cannot see why the target date of 2001 has to be held to so firmly. I hope that the building will last us for 100 or 150 years-perhaps 200 years-so let us get it right and give Scotland something to be proud of. We must ensure that every MSP can take pride in the decision that we make today.
I am very sympathetic to Mr Gorrie's concerns about members' visibility when they are speaking in debates. Mr Gorrie may like to know that, during his speech, I counted at least eight people in the segment of the chamber that he inhabits who had to turn round in their chairs and crane their necks to see him. The problem of visibility is not unique to any future chamber; we might like to consider it today.
No Mr Ewing, I am not taking interventions; I have just started.
Given the fact that the SNP has decided that its members cannot have independence of thought today, I thought that it was a bit rich for Mr Ewing to lecture us this morning on independence. SNP members should consider that.
I am delighted that we are having this debate, because it gives us the opportunity to show our confidence in the success of this Parliament and in the new Scotland that we will help to shape. When we consider the proposed design, we must take into account the needs of MSPs and their staff and the needs of the Parliament staff.
The Parliament also needs to be open and accessible to all. At the moment, visitors have to walk up and down the High Street to find the seven buildings that make up the Parliament and, while adaptations have been made to those buildings to provide disabled access, the distance that has to be travelled between the buildings makes accessibility very difficult. I am sure that that problem is being addressed in the proposals for the new building.
I have been impressed by the efforts of the Parliament staff who have adapted the buildings that we are using to provide us with a temporary home, but by no yardstick or criterion can this arrangement be anything other than temporary. We may have just about enough committee rooms for all our new committees, but the committees will be open to the public-presumably if there is any space left. There is nowhere for members to meet their constituents; nor is there a crèche in our family-friendly Parliament.
The design for the new building is bold, innovative and modern; the building will be both functional and a symbol of all that we want the
Members have stated, rightly, our duty to ensure that funds from the public purse are used wisely. I am sure that our colleagues on the corporate body-the people whom we have made responsible for the new building-will carry out that task diligently. Remaining here on the Mound would be a folly that future generations would not understand. As a Glaswegian, I am very fond of the tenement-that peculiarly Scottish form of housing-but do we really want to go down in history as the new Parliament that decided to hold its meetings, for the rest of its life, up a close? I do not think so.
At the beginning of the debate on where the Parliament should be sited, I, like many others, favoured the Calton hill site. However, things have moved on, decisions have been made and important milestones have been reached.
Perhaps the most important milestone is the perception, widely held in Scotland, that we are already located at Holyrood; that name, in wider Scotland, is already deeply rooted in the mindset as synonymous with the Scottish Parliament. Much of Scotland has accepted, rightly or wrongly, that Holyrood should be the site of the Parliament.
If the amendment wins today-and, rightly, it should-it will need to be explained carefully to the Scottish people. If the First Minister's motion is defeated, the position should be accepted as one of pragmatism, common sense, and, hopefully, in the end, consensus. Scotland deserves no less. Nobody can doubt that incorrect decisions have been hurriedly taken at crucial moments. Frankly, the whole process has been handled extremely badly in terms of public relations, design consultation, and finance. There is a perception that it has been a complete boorach.
There can be no doubt that serious and difficult questions remain to be answered about the way in which this project has been managed from the outset. The key decision takers must answer those questions. I dread to think what derision might have been visited on councillors if this had happened in a local authority. In my former life as a Scottish Office employee and as leader of Perth and Kinross Council, I was required to make proper account for my actions. The key decision-takers here should be no different.
I have considered this issue long and hard,
On balance, I am still for Holyrood, but I have to be certain that the outstanding concerns have been properly addressed. Scotland deserves no less. Donald Gorrie's amendment gives us the opportunity to secure the greatest level of support possible for Holyrood. Those who are committed to Holyrood should have nothing to fear from a further delay to ensure that others can be convinced. If it is the best site, its merits will shine through. Scotland needs a new Parliament building that is not hindered by the baggage of the past, is truly significant, and allows us to recognise ourselves for what we are.
I hope to create a debate that will rise to the eloquence and value of the words of Mike Russell and the young pretender, Duncan Hamilton. We need to create a Parliament that is fit for the language that they will deploy in future years-hopefully over at least one session This debate is about the kind of vision that we have for Scotland. It is about the kind of symbols we want our buildings to be. I have left a city where any debate on the creation of the unique building, the City Chambers, would have been as narrow and short-sighted as this debate has been in parts. The one unifying symbol of Glasgow is the City Chambers-whether one is inside it, or like my old adversary on many occasions, Tommy Sheridan, outside it. It strikes me that that debate about symbols is worth promoting.
I cannot imagine our European counterparts having such a narrow debate. I cannot imagine that the people of Barcelona, who have aspirations for their city and a concept of nationhood and identity, would have such a narrow debate. I cannot imagine the Parisians having this kind of narrow debate.
Unfortunately, the Scottish cringe has emerged once more in this chamber. People have claimed that they are interested only in small matters; honourable as such matters are, they could just as well be determined by the corporate body. The points of detail that members of other parties have raised are legitimate concerns, but members could easily have raised them through the proper process, rather than questioning the overall project.
We developed the new Hampden because we wanted the national stadium to stand for the whole of Scotland, rather than for two football clubs in Glasgow, that perhaps represented other-
Personally, I want to have the opportunity to recreate in the Sunday newspapers a column called Frankie goes to Holyrood-if we do not go there I will not be able to fill any column space.
As that column seemed to be inspired by my record collection, I will conclude with a point from the Waterboys, who had a great song that, unfortunately, seemed to be evident in today's debate. I say this to Mike Russell, as he believes in words of eloquence, and I hope that Duncan Hamilton aspires to reach the standard of speech that I have made today. You saw the crescent, Mike. We saw the whole of the moon.
Although I am a supporter of the second best site that is Holyrood, I am keen to give my support to Donald Gorrie's motion. I say that the site is second best because I feel that, although the First Minister commented on Donaldson's school, that site has been too easily dismissed.
It is important that, when we consider Holyrood, we take account of the impact on traffic. I was born and bred in Meadowbank and played most of my youth football-badly-in Holyrood park, so I am well acquainted with the environs. I also spent some time as a marketing consultant to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which might explain why, within the choices that are available, I favour the Parliament being located in Holyrood.
I also favour some prudence in how the project is carried out. I am not convinced of the merits of the design. When I first saw that it featured upturned boats, I felt that it had been designed, mistakenly, for a location in Leith. However, I might be converted. It is important that we bring transparency to the process and give the Parliament some say in how things progress, particularly as regards the important matter of the chamber.
I mentioned Donaldson's school. Were we to pass the amendment, I hope that it might be possible to investigate that site which, I should explain for the benefit of members who are not familiar with it, is a fine example of Jacobean-style architecture in Edinburgh's west end. It has many advantages, not least of which is its West Lothian sandstone, which might be important to members from that area. It is close to Haymarket station, which makes it the only proposed site that is near
The school is a majestic building and features a quadrangle in which the chamber could be located in a way that would bring the old together with the new, similar to what Germany has recently done with the Reichstag-although that was rather more expensive. Donaldson's has a connection with the Reichstag, of course: the Kaiser's zeppelin blew out the windows of the school in 1916. To that extent, there is a European link.
Not only the architecture, but the surroundings, are important. In the environs are curry houses, public houses and offies-where we could buy champagne to celebrate by-election victories. There is even a kilt hire shop just down the road for special occasions.
Donaldson's school has everything going for it and I recommend that we support Donald Gorrie's amendment so that we can reassess the location of the new Parliament building.
I agree with many Labour members who have said that cost is not the only factor. It most certainly is not.
In London, the Government has lavished taxpayers' money on Portcullis House, which is said to be the most expensive office building in Britain. It cost more than £200 million and was built for Westminster MPs-whatever they do nowadays.
Mr Blair has also achieved the extension to the Jubilee line, which is said to be the world's most expensive railway extension, costing more than £620 million. When we consider those figures, we realise that London is still getting it all. The Jubilee line extension leads to the world's most stupid project: the dome of doom at Greenwich. Taxpayers can stagger off the Jubilee line and face something else that will fleece them: the dome that is costing £720 million.
I have not finished my speech. I was just pointing out the sums that are
We have heard from Labour members about the seven different buildings and about the malignancy of the Edinburgh rain, which raineth upon the First Minister-and all the rest of us. Who forced us into having seven different buildings? The hurried original decision has cost us £7.5 million for just two years in the building, although the Government was offered the Strathclyde Regional Council building for two years for only £3 million. I see that Frank McAveety is leaving-do not go away, Frankie, you know about that one. Labour members are not quite the innocent people they seem.
Hurry and rapidity has been the problem all along. The Holyrood building-said to be the most important in Scotland's recent history-was ordered with the rapidity with which one might order a wee greenhouse from B&Q. I know people who have put far more thought into the preparation of a site for a wee greenhouse. The Holyrood site is wrong, it is far too small, but let us all give it a chance by supporting the amendment and by considering what, on balance, comes out best. The design of the roofs is wrong. They are far too flat and they are not tilted enough to bear the weight of a really heavy snow in the Scottish winter. The debating chamber is a disaster. It is suitable only for a ferocious debate on flower arranging.
Sometimes, in a democracy, we need confrontation. We are all here to fight our own corner. My corner is Glasgow and I appeal to other Glasgow MSPs to fight this plan, too.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Presiding Officer. I rise to support Donald Gorrie's reasonable and sensible amendment. There have been some passionate performances today, not least from my friend Mr Russell, but I do not want to compete with him on this occasion.
We must consider the issue of the Parliament building rationally. The First Minister's speech raised more questions than it answered. He said that a decision on the site had to be taken. Why? He decided that a decision had to be taken. He is the one who initiated the project and it was he who has rushed it. He was right when he said that the Parliament should make a decision on the building. We should reach that decision in a considered and methodical way.
We must wait to see how the Parliament evolves over at least four or five years. That makes sense. We have only just set up and named the members of committees; those are the initial 16 committees, but there may be more sub-committees. That kind of thing dictates the type of facilities that we will need. We should see how the Parliament evolves over at least four or five years before we make a final decision on a permanent building. The Australians were in provisional accommodation for 60 years. I do not recommend that we take that long, but that we can reasonably make do with this excellent chamber for eight years.
I share Mr Gorrie's concern about the location of the Parliament. I would not describe it as being "in a hole", but it is certainly down in a hollow, or dip. One of the remarkable things about the cluster of buildings that we occupy at the moment is that we are right in the life of the city. Mr Salmond and others might agree that it is much better than Westminster in that respect. That is another argument for Calton hill, which is also more accessible than the other end of the Royal Mile.
No, I do not have time.
The First Minister made a crucial point about the design when he said that the floor space had increased by 44 per cent since Mr Miralles's original design. Any architect who has followed the development of the design will say that Miralles's original design has changed radically. That, too, raises concerns.
On the quality of the building, Mr Quinan mentioned its lifespan. I understood that the project team said that the lifespan was 100 years. That does not seem very long to me when one considers that some of the buildings that will surround it have lasted for more than 500 years.
I am concerned about the quality of the materials that will be used, and about the apparent lack of natural stone. The cost is escalating. Parliamentarians are notorious for the cost of their buildings. The new members' building at Westminster is a case in point-the bronze cladding alone will cost £50 million-and the Sam Rayburn building on Capitol hill in Washington DC came in at something like 500 per cent over budget. We are not exactly good at keeping buildings within budget.
We are sending out the wrong signal today. Our priority should be not ourselves, but the people of Scotland. A lot of passionate speeches were made from the Labour benches during the debate on the legislative programme yesterday, and I agreed with them. Surely we should be housing Scotland's pupils first-before we house Scotland's politicians. Our priority should be to catch up with the enormous backlog of school building maintenance. Politicians can make do with a flat desk and a phone. It is not the building that counts, but the people in it.
I now call Margo MacDonald to begin the winding-up speeches. I apologise to the eight members who were still hoping to speak, but I think that we have done well. You have seven minutes, Ms MacDonald.
I will attempt to summarise the debate and I will try hard to disregard John McAllion's friendly advice that we should all just keep quiet in our opposition. I do not mean to keep quiet, not because-I say this to Mr Watson-I am being opportunist, but because I was elected by people in this area.
Just like Cathie Craigie, the member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, I feel a sense of civic responsibility and public responsibility. I have direct contact with the people who meet me going down the High Street-I do not mind meeting Edinburgh folk going down the High Street-and who say, "I hope you're going to do something about this. What are we spending all this money for?" Then they detail all the things that they would choose to spend money on before spending it on a Parliament.
So far, whether we like it or not, we have not necessarily made the best case for making the Parliament the priority for public spending. I make no apology for asking for a delay, as I think that we would use that delay constructively. We need
I see Cathie Craigie shaking her head. She said that people in her constituency voted for the Parliament. The question that I wanted to ask her was whether her constituents voted for a £90 million Parliament or for a £50 million Parliament. The people who voted for me did not vote for a Parliament where the costs appear to be escalating outwith control.
I think that that is true, but it is also true that neither her constituents nor mine make a habit of reading Hansard . [Laughter.] However, I will move on.
Several factors influenced this amendment. There is the concern that the Holyrood site is not the most suitable. I know that we are past the time when the then Scottish secretary was advised against choosing other than Calton hill. I accept that time has moved on, that the General Post Office building is not available and that other considerations will have to be taken into account. The amendment asks for those other considerations to be taken into account.
In the time that has elapsed, we have also found that the four-acre site at Holyrood, which was judged to be adequate, is probably not adequate. When any of the local authority people in this chamber were building big, they would usually have a wee bit of land for contingency expansion, but no contingency expansion has been built into this grand design.
However, there is a site that has not yet been built on; I think that it has been procured by Teague Homes (Scotland) Ltd. If we use the time that the amendment asks for productively, perhaps we could revisit that decision. Do the builders need all that land? Could we do a bit of business with them? We need some land for expansion purposes, as the site has already expanded from 16,000 sq m to 23,000 sq m. I am not arguing about that-we may well need the extra support staff to cope with the expansion. However, before the people-who pay for everything-see how the Parliament benefits the quality of decision making in Scotland, they will ask "What do you need all those staff for?"
I appeal directly to the First Minister for time to sell our idea to the people who elected us. There
There is another important point that members did not raise, perhaps because Robin Harper has a specialist interest in these matters. When I first expressed an interest in this issue, I was contacted-before the election-by many architects, two or three of whom advised me that no wind-tunnel test had been done. At least, we have not seen any results of a wind-tunnel test. Perhaps when Mr McLeish sums up, he can tell us whether such a test has been carried out and, if not, whether there are plans to have one. We also have to ask what would happen if the plans were to fail that test.
Frank MacAveety suggested that the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body could do everything that I am asking for. However, if the site is not big enough and if an independent assessor's estimate shows that extra land is needed, will the SPCB be entitled to go ahead with its plans? We have been told that the Executive has full responsibility for the configuration of roads around the site. Who will be responsible for the recalibration-which is referred to in documents that I have-that the site will probably need? The amendment seeks time for us to find answers to such questions.
Traffic is the big concern in Edinburgh. Too many people are trying to get to work from Newington or by using London Road. Most members may not be familiar with Edinburgh's traffic problems, which are becoming intolerable. Those problems are operating against the city's best interests and the question is too serious to leave to the SPCB to decide in our interest. The interests are much wider than that.
When members come to vote, they should remember that we are not saying that Holyrood should not go ahead, but that too many questions remain unanswered. We plead for time to find adequate answers to those questions and to find a building for this Parliament of which we can be proud.
I welcome this debate on Holyrood and I recognise the fact that members have articulated
There are a number of very good reasons why the Parliament's present accommodation is unsuitable and why we need to make a decision and proceed with the new plan relatively quickly. Members have mentioned the quality of this debating chamber. I think that this debating chamber is good for members; people are pleased with it. It has an atmosphere of its own.
This building is unsatisfactory in terms of access for disabled people, however. It would be difficult for any member who was disabled to use this chamber and building. If we want to be inclusive and build a Parliament for Scotland that everybody can participate in, we should move the accessibility agenda forward as quickly as possible.
The Parliament is not a matter only for parliamentarians. As a member of the corporate body, I am aware of the unsatisfactory working conditions of many of the people who work for the Parliament. In the switchboard area, in the kitchens and in rooms in the office building, people are working in unsatisfactory circumstances that prevent them from doing their jobs as effectively as I-and they-would wish. Their circumstances should be addressed as well as ours. That is one reason why we should consider the project rather than the political furore that surrounds it. If we want an efficient and effective Parliament, which the people working for it can be proud of, we must proceed to a new building and new arrangements as soon as possible.
I was interested in a number of points that were made in the debate. Some members said that they were in favour of Holyrood but wanted a delay to get more information. In the past week, the corporate body has, since it took over responsibility for the Holyrood project, made a great deal of information available about the proposals for the Parliament building; it will continue to do so if the motion is agreed to.
There will be a clear, interactive process of deliberation and debate about the design of the building. That process will involve all members of the Parliament and, I hope, a lot of other people, including Parliament employees. Many details and arrangements within the footprint of the building have yet to be finalised. Even if the decision is made today, which I hope it will be, there will be many opportunities for people to participate in and contribute to the decision-making process.
On a point of order. It was said that Mr McNulty was speaking on behalf of the corporate body. Has the corporate body taken a view on the matter? It seems from Mr McNulty's speech that he has. Is he speaking on behalf of himself or the corporate body?
The corporate body will respond to whatever the decision of this Parliament is at the end of the debate. Mr McNulty is responding to the points raised in the debate.
I make it clear that whatever the Parliament decides today-whether it decides to go ahead with the project or to support Mr Gorrie's amendment-the corporate body will, within the terms and remit of its responsibility, carry out the broad wishes of the Parliament. However, the corporate body has responsibilities to Parliament; it has responsibilities to the staff and to members. Strong arguments have emerged in the debate and why we should make a decision as quickly as possible about the future circumstances of the Parliament.
If we proceed with the proposal, the corporate body will attempt to consult as broadly as possible. There are problems associated with our staying in the present circumstances. The office building has a series of internal problems-for example, there are problems with asbestos-which will cause difficulties if we are there for any length of time.
Providing accommodation for committees is a particular problem in the office building. We intend to make a series of commitments today to establish 16 committees: it is difficult to see how those committees could be accommodated effectively, given the range of public access commitments-contained in all the parties' manifestos-that the Parliament has made.
The corporate body will seek to operate within the terms of the decisions of the Parliament, but a series of issues indicate that we have to make a decision on the Parliament building as quickly as possible. Those issues have arisen as a result of the considerations that have been presented by the design team, the Executive and others. If we are obliged to delay, that will cost the corporate body and the Parliament a significant amount of money. That should not be ignored. The corporate body is required to look at the financial circumstances and implications of any delay.
This has been a good debate, and I echo Des McNulty's comments that it is important for the Parliament to discuss
Before I wind up, I would like to respond to Margo MacDonald's question on wind-tunnel tests, as I am sure that the whole of Scotland is waiting for an answer. I am informed that those tests are in hand but, with my usual courtesy, I will send Margo a note with more details.
I think that Margo is just being greedy now-I have been generous in outlining the fact that there will be wind-tunnel tests. Let us hang on for the outcome of those and a host of other technical tests that are taking place.
This debate has been characterised by a lot of passion. People complain about the lack of passion among politicians, but we are passionate. Today, the First Minister gave not only a political commitment, but a passionate commitment to advance this project. That commitment was not for Donald Dewar, but for the people of Scotland.
I said that we had a big decision to make today. A lot of sound practical questions have been raised about the Parliament, to which I will return. However, there has been a slight element of politics as well. I am sure that people in all parties-some of whom are now being whipped-will be approaching Mr Gorrie's amendment in one of two ways. Some people will be attracted to the notion that by having a delay we will be able to examine some of the practical issues. However, others will support the amendment because they want us to remove ourselves from Holyrood. Those people want to return to old shibboleths such as the old Royal High School.
I am being constructive: let us cut through the issues and be crystal clear on what the amendment is about. If this debate is to be practical, I think that I have some of the answers to the problems. However, if the exercise-and let us be honest about this-is about removing ourselves from Holyrood and looking at alternative sites, we are talking about delaying discussions not for a short time, but for a prolonged period. At the end of the delay, we will not know whether that delay was on the grounds of costs and other practicalities or on the grounds of politics.
If Fergus does not mind, I would rather move on. I always give way, but there are two or three practical issues about which I want to speak.
A number of important practical points have been made about transport, the environment and special needs. I believe that the details in the material on all those issues will go some way towards allaying members' fears.
It is obviously critical that there is wheelchair access on the floor of the new chamber. There are no members in wheelchairs now, but if we are, as we say, an inclusive Parliament, we must build for every contingency. That will be done.
Robin Harper is massively wrong about the environment issues. I will send him all the material that I have. The new Parliament will rightly be one of the most environmentally sensitive buildings that we have ever produced in this country. The details will be forthcoming.
I cannot give way, Robin; I want to proceed. On transport, we have used the expertise of consultants; we have been the repository of much expert opinion.
Members may want to discuss such issues and that is the point of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body. It is an all-party body. We will consult the SNP, the Conservatives and, of course, the Liberals and the other parties. Surely we do not need a committee. Members are genuinely concerned about the issues, but do they imagine for a minute that the technicians, the Scottish Office staff and Mr Miralles's team are sitting twiddling their thumbs day in and day out? From wind-tunnel tests through to the rest, this is on-going work.
Why do we not use the existing machinery that this Parliament has set up? We vested our interests as a parliamentary body in a group that is chaired by the Presiding Officer and that includes Des McNulty and other colleagues. Do not members trust them? Are we really saying that we want a two-month delay so that we can bypass the existing procedure? I do not think that we are. Let us have faith in our colleagues, whom we have charged with looking after matters that are responsibility of this proud Parliament.
I have heard comments about finance. From day one, I have been a value-for-money politician. I do not want to spend a penny more than is necessary to ensure a quality environment at Holyrood that the Scottish people, not parliamentarians, can be proud of. The SPCB has given us an opportunity to discuss the financial details and to ensure that we have an extensive overview of what is happening. I suggest to some Conservatives that
The building is scheduled for completion in 2001. The timetable is another area in which the SPCB and this Parliament will want to have a role. We have an excellent chamber here, but should we not have an excellent chamber in the new Holyrood Parliament? Do members think that we will go to all this expense just to downgrade the quality of our chamber when we move to Holyrood? Of course we will not. The SPCB is the custodian of our collective interest in this area. Why should not we-from wheelchair access on-ensure that we have the kind of debating chamber that we 129 members want? We are not talking about what Mr Miralles wants-he is doing an excellent job but, as the people who will work in that Parliament, we can have an influence.
My simple plea to all members is that they do not think about their party. This is not a party issue. This is about a working Parliament for the people of Scotland-something that they and we can be proud of. A Parliament is a working environment. We are not being paid money to come and look at architecture. We want the best, but I suggest that we should not set up any other machinery.
Members want to address these real, practical issues-we can easily let the SPCB look at them. We have access through those members of our parties who are in the SPCB, but we also have direct access to the issues. There has been a lot of distortion about the practical issues. We have the machinery to translate issues of finance, design of the chamber, transport, environment and access into the Parliament that we want. The Scottish people elected us to take that decision, and if we agree to the motion today, we can get on with the job.
This is also an opportunity for us to raise our horizons. I came into politics with aspirations for myself-as we all have-but also with aspirations for Scotland. That is why I came back to sit in this Parliament along with colleagues on the nationalist benches and with people such as Donald Dewar.
This is about pride. We are right to say that we want this Parliament to be a shop window for the world. Colleagues have said that it is more than a Parliament. It is a place where we can exhibit Scotland. It is a place where people can come. Let us be proud of what we are doing and let us get on with it.
We are also talking about place. Donald Gorrie
There is also the question of permanence. This is not, as someone said, a Parliament for next week or for the week after, but a Parliament for the next millennium.
Continuing with the Ps, this Parliament is about prosperity. We have a great capital city and a great country. The Parliament will be not only a place where parliamentarians or constituents can come and see us, but a shop window for the world.
I know that many members are whipped-I regret that-but I ask people such as Andrew Wilson, who has gone public about Holyrood, to say, "Yes, let's invest in the SPCB and it can look at the practical issues." We will be able to march forward with the Scottish people and have pride in what we are doing. I have that pride and so should we all.