National Galleries of Scotland Bill: Preliminary Stage

– in the Scottish Parliament at 9:30 am on 27 February 2003.

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Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament 9:30, 27 February 2003

We come to the debate on motion S1M-3935, on the National Galleries of Scotland Bill. I call Rhona Brankin to speak to and move the motion on behalf of the National Galleries of Scotland Bill Committee.

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour 10:10, 27 February 2003

As members will know, the National Galleries of Scotland Bill is the second private bill to be considered by the Scottish Parliament. The bill was introduced on 28 October 2002 by its promoters, the trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland.

I present the National Galleries of Scotland Bill Committee report to the Parliament today as convener of the committee, on behalf of the members of the committee, and not as the member in charge of the bill. Private bills are introduced by a promoter, who can be an individual, a company or a group of people who wish to obtain powers or benefits in excess of the general law. Private bills are not introduced by a member of the Scottish Parliament, as is normally the case, and as such cannot have a member in charge.

It might be helpful to the Parliament if I take a few moments to outline the process of consideration of the bill to date and the procedure that will follow if the Parliament agrees to the general principles today. Following the introduction of a private bill, any person who feels that their interests would be adversely affected by the bill can object to it. They have 60 days in which to do so, which is known as the objection period. The objection period for the National Galleries of Scotland Bill ran from 29 October and no objections were received.

Photo of Richard Simpson Richard Simpson Labour

On that subject, will the member comment on whether she feels that a fee of £20 for lodging such an objection is appropriate?

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour

I do not believe that the fee would necessarily stand in people's way, but the Parliament will have to reflect on that in due course.

The National Galleries of Scotland Bill Committee was established in December and consists of five members, none of whom lives in, or represents, the constituency that is directly affected by the bill and none of whom has any connection with the promoters of the bill. Before I turn to the detail of our report, I record my thanks to the committee. The procedures were new to the members and I thank them for their work and assistance on the bill to date.

Preliminary stage consideration of the bill began when the committee was established in December. The committee's role at preliminary stage is to report to Parliament on two issues: the general principles of the bill and whether the bill should proceed as a private bill. The committee could also give a preliminary view on objections, but we had no objections to consider.

The committee took evidence on the general principles of the bill earlier this month at a meeting in Edinburgh. Prior to that meeting, we visited the National Gallery of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy buildings to see the site of the works that the bill relates to. I take this opportunity to thank the promoters for their time in showing us around the site. I also thank all those who came to the meeting to give evidence to the committee.

We published our preliminary stage report on Friday and today's debate provides the Parliament with an opportunity to consider our recommendations. If the Parliament agrees to the general principles of the bill today, the bill will move on to consideration stage. Consideration stage is similar to stage 2 of a public bill, but it is in two parts. First, further evidence can be heard from the promoters and, secondly, the committee will consider any amendments to the bill. The final stage of a private bill is broadly similar to stage 3 of a public bill. It takes place at a meeting of the Parliament and begins with the consideration of any amendments to the bill, followed by a debate on the passing of the bill.

Although the bill must be one of the shortest to come before the Scottish Parliament, it is nevertheless considered to be an essential part of the Playfair project. The Playfair project is the overall name for the galleries improvement project, in which the foundations of the Royal Scottish Academy will be stabilised, the RSA will be restored and a link below ground from the RSA to the National Gallery of Scotland will be created. The project began in the late 1990s and received planning permission and listed-building consent from the City of Edinburgh Council in spring last year.

The land that the bill relates to is a rectangular strip adjacent to the Mound on the east side of Princes Street gardens. The promoters wish to build a new entrance to the galleries on that strip of land. Most members who use the Playfair steps will walk past the land, but few will probably notice it. It currently has the Spanish civil war memorial located on it and until recently had an air monitoring station. If the bill is approved, the war memorial will be moved further along the bank, underneath the steps up to Market Street.

Until August last year, the land was held by the council for the common good, as part of Princes Street gardens. In order to dispose of land held for the common good, a court order is required. One of the conditions of such a court order can be that the land is substituted for another piece of land. In this case, the council swapped the land for a piece of land on the Mound in front of New College, which the promoters owned. The transfer of ownership of the land from the council to the promoters was granted by the sheriff in Edinburgh in August last year.

The bill is small and focused. It does two things: it removes the piece of land from Princes Street gardens and it disapplies section 22 of the schedule to the City of Edinburgh District Council Order Confirmation Act 1991. Section 22 prohibits any type of building in Princes Street gardens, except those specified in the act, such as gardeners' lodges and bandstands.

The promoters contend that the bill has to remove the land from the gardens, because simply transferring the ownership of the land from the council to the promoters does not remove the land from the gardens—it would still be part of the gardens even though the ownership had changed. The promoters also have to disapply the restriction in section 22 of the schedule to the 1991 act. Until that section is disapplied, they cannot build on the land that they now own.

Our committee was in what will probably turn out to be an unusual position for a private bill committee in that no objections were lodged to the bill. To enable us to scrutinise properly the general principles of the bill, we invited interested parties and groups with heritage experience to give evidence to the committee. At our meeting at the start of the month, the people who gave evidence raised some interesting issues, which I will take some time to go through.

The Cockburn Association raised two concerns. The first was the effectiveness of the statutory protection of the gardens from detrimental development. However, the committee heard evidence from the council and the Scottish Civic Trust, which both thought that the 1991 act had been effective in preserving the character of the gardens.

The Cockburn Association's second concern related to the fact that the promoters were seeking permission from the Parliament to disapply section 22 of the schedule to the 1991 act midway through the Playfair project. The association felt that the promoters should have sought that permission before commencing work on the project as a whole. The association was concerned about the message that the bill could send out to future developers that they, too, could start their projects before coming to the Parliament to seek statutory permission, perhaps viewing the Parliament application as little more than a rubber-stamping exercise.

During our site visit we noted that no work had yet taken place on the walls or area subject to the restrictions of the 1991 act and, in their evidence, the promoters explained that contingency measures are in place should the bill fall. The bill relates to only a very small part of the Playfair project and does not confer authority for the project as a whole. As I said, planning permission and listed-building consent have already been granted, so there was no requirement for the promoters to come to the Parliament before the overall project started.

The bill does not set a precedent for future developers. Each project will be dealt with on its merits and it will be up to developers to seek the appropriate consents at the appropriate times. It must be noted that, if the promoters of the bill had started to build on the land before coming to the Parliament or without the bill being passed, they would have been in breach of the terms of the 1991 act.

The Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland and the Scottish Civic Trust in their joint submission and evidence raised concerns that the extension of the galleries into the gardens might commercialise the character of the gardens. However, the promoters confirmed in evidence that they would take measures to prevent the commercial nature of the project from impinging on the gardens. For example, at night, the light levels from the new part of the galleries will be lowered and will be consistent with those from the other floodlit buildings around the gardens. Tables from the restaurant will not be situated in the gardens.

The primary concern of the witnesses who spoke to the committee was to ensure that the Parliament, in agreeing to the bill, did not open the floodgates to other developments in the gardens or set a precedent for future building in the gardens. The committee agrees with the bill's promoters, the City of Edinburgh Council and the minister that the bill is a one-off and that any other project to build in Princes Street gardens would have to be scrutinised by the competent authority at the time and judged on its merits. The bill is tightly drafted and relates only to a small piece of land next to the Mound. It will not set a precedent for future building in the gardens.

If the Parliament is minded to agree to the general principles today, the bill will move to consideration stage. The committee will meet in March to hear from the promoters again and to consider any amendments to the bill. Thereafter, the bill will move into final stage consideration at a meeting of the Parliament. On behalf of the committee, I ask the Parliament to approve the bill's general principles.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees to the general principles of the National Galleries of Scotland Bill and that the Bill should proceed as a private Bill.

Photo of Mike Watson Mike Watson Labour 10:21, 27 February 2003

The Executive welcomes and supports the private bill and I am pleased to see from the committee's report that the committee supports the bill, too. I thank Rhona Brankin, who is the committee's convener, and her colleagues John Young, Maureen Macmillan, Alasdair Morgan and Margaret Smith for their consideration of the bill.

Rhona Brankin referred to the work that the National Galleries of Scotland are undertaking with the Playfair project. It is fairly well known that the Royal Scottish Academy's stabilisation works are completed and that the internal refurbishment is nearing completion. The RSA is on course to open in August this year, to coincide with the Edinburgh festival. It will open with a flourish with the Monet exhibition, which I am sure will be a huge attraction. The link building will provide a series of facilities for the RSA and the National Gallery of Scotland, including dedicated education and information technology areas, as well as restaurant facilities.

It is important to say, in response to some concerns, that the work in Princes Street gardens cannot begin until the bill is passed. The National Galleries have taken the work on the link as far as it can be taken until royal assent is given. The project managers expect to gain access to the site in Princes Street gardens at the end of March, when they will put up hoardings, undertake the enabling work and begin intensive site investigation within the new site boundaries. Of course, no substantial building work will take place until the bill has been given royal assent. As would be expected, the National Galleries have contingency plans should the bill not be passed, but it is not suggested that that might happen.

The RSA and National Gallery buildings date back to the mid-19th century and have over many years as a tourist attraction given much enjoyment to many people from Edinburgh, from Scotland as a whole and from much further afield. Facilities needed to be modernised and upgraded and the Playfair project is designed to improve and extend the galleries.

The Executive has contributed £10 million towards the overall cost, the Heritage Lottery Fund has provided £7 million and the National Galleries are raising the remainder, which is about £12 million, from several sources.

The RSA building is of great architectural significance and Princes Street gardens are an important and popular venue. The National Galleries have always been conscious of the need to make the architecture involved sympathetic to the surroundings.

A relatively small strip of land is involved—it measures about 320 sq m—but the Playfair project will enable the National Galleries to widen access to the collections and to educational facilities by providing about 2,500 sq m of additional facilities. Part of the complex will be a lecture theatre to promote further the arts and culture and to contribute to greater cultural awareness in the community—that is one of the aims of the national cultural strategy, which was launched two years ago. As part of that, we are trying to promote Scotland's image overseas. The national galleries, which are already world-class institutions, will be further enhanced by the work that is being undertaken.

When completed, the project will enhance the National Galleries' extensive educational programmes, which are under the tutelage of Roberta Doyle. The programmes are part of the galleries' outreach work and their attempts to increase the people of Scotland's participation and involvement in the treasures that are to be found in the galleries. I also wear a tourism hat and, as I said, the project will benefit tourism.

The foresight of the National Galleries of Scotland will provide a tremendous resource for people to enjoy, for the exhibiting of art even more effectively and for the conservation of art. It will also provide improved facilities to display permanent and temporary exhibitions. Many members have enjoyed those exhibitions and that experience will be further enhanced. I look forward to the bill's being passed and I reiterate the Executive's support for it.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party 10:26, 27 February 2003

Our capital city of Edinburgh has, arguably, one of the most magnificent townscapes of any European capital. That townscape is a combination of the natural, as in Arthur's Seat; the natural with some man-made protuberances, such as Edinburgh castle; the man-made built environment of the old and new towns; and what might be called the man-made natural environment of Princes Street gardens. We must be cautious about anything that alters that townscape. I am glad, and I agree with the committee, that the development will not be taken as a precedent.

We should note that other developments in the gardens did not set precedents and mostly enhanced our capital's appearance. Those developments include the Scott monument, the Playfair buildings—the Royal Scottish Academy and the National Gallery of Scotland—and Waverley station and the lines that lead into it. Although railways are not necessarily things of beauty for everyone, Edinburgh has at its heart a railway station, which makes many other cities envious, and the station is largely in sympathy with the townscape.

It is interesting to note that, in 1890, Waverley station suffered from severe overcrowding—that remains the case today—after the Forth rail bridge was opened. Passengers would wait for hours for trains that could not enter the station. On one day in the summer of 1890, trains full of passengers stopped at every signal between Waverley and Dalmeny and could not enter Waverley station because of a lack of platforms. In comparison, ScotRail's performance today seems pretty good.

Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat

Did Alasdair Morgan clear that statement with the SNP's transport spokesperson?

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

It is all relative. Having sat on a train for a considerable time yesterday between Waverley and Dalmeny, I note that such delays continue.

The solution of enlarging Waverley station to its current size and building the extra tunnels that exist today was hugely controversial. The development was considered a desecration of Princes Street gardens, but it was approved. I hope that most of us would say that, on balance, the development was of great benefit to Edinburgh. We should not be afraid of approving proposals for the gardens on their merits, even if they deal with only 319 sq m.

I have one concern, which relates not to the bill but to a matter that arose in evidence on the bill. As the convener of the National Galleries of Scotland Bill Committee said, the bill will disapply section 22 of the schedule to the City of Edinburgh District Council Order Confirmation Act 1991 for the Playfair project. As the convener said, section 22 prohibits the construction of buildings in the gardens, except those of certain types, which are

"Lodges for gardeners and keepers, hothouses and conservatories, monuments, bandstands, public conveniences, police boxes and buildings for housing apparatus for the supply of electricity or gas."

When Jim McKay of the City of Edinburgh Council gave evidence to the committee, he said of the council:

"we adhere strictly to the 1991 act. For instance, a proposal was agreed that a kiosk be erected in east Princes Street gardens, immediately to the east of the RSA. That kiosk was designed in the shape of a bandstand, which is permissible under the 1991 act."—[Official Report, National Galleries of Scotland Bill Committee, 3 February 2003;

c 17.]

It seems to me that a kiosk is not a bandstand, even if it is built in the shape of a bandstand. Anyone who walks past the kiosk will notice that one would be hard pushed to get a band inside it. I have certainly never seen a band inside it—indeed, if that happened, it would be much to the consternation of the kiosk proprietor. It is not a particularly happy situation for the City of Edinburgh Council to play fast and loose with the 1991 act for its own purposes.

One of the committee's duties was to consider that point when it was raised in evidence. I am not sure who is responsible for enforcing the 1991 act, but others who are listening to the recording or looking at the Official Report of the debate might want to take some action in respect of that case.

That aside, I welcome the bill that is in front of the Parliament today. It is an essential part of what will be a magnificent addition to the cultural fabric of Edinburgh and, indeed, the whole of Scotland.

Photo of Brian Monteith Brian Monteith Conservative 10:31, 27 February 2003

On behalf of the Conservatives, I am pleased to welcome the bill. As a member of the Education, Culture and Sport Committee, I have taken a keen interest in the bill and have read the Official Reports of the committee meetings.

It is particularly important that we recognise the impact that the buildings on the Mound create in Edinburgh's townscape; many members said that in their speeches. Those buildings are famous all over the world from shortbread tins, postcards and all sorts of photographs. We owe a debt to William Henry Playfair for designing those buildings and giving them to Edinburgh and the Scottish nation. Playfair was one of Scotland's greatest architects. It would have been fitting if the Parliament been sited in the Donaldson's school building, but sadly that was not to be, even though it would have been a more appropriate choice.

It is important that the bill is seen in the context of yesterday's news about Titian's "Venus" being acquired by the National Galleries of Scotland in an agreement with the late Duke of Sutherland's estate. As the minister said, there is absolutely no doubt that the National Gallery of Scotland is a world-class gallery. We owe a debt of gratitude to Sir Timothy Clifford, Michael Clarke and their team for their work over the years to get the galleries into that position. They have driven up visitor numbers as a result of some terrific exhibitions and great acquisitions. The Playfair project is ambitious and will take the growth of the gallery further.

Quite properly, concern has been expressed about the project with regard to its intrusion, if we can call it that, into Princes Street gardens. Indeed, in respect of the provision of toilets for the gallery, one could call the project Edinburgh's own Clochemerle. The Official Report of the committee's evidence taking makes it clear that committee members pressed the promoters of the bill about those difficulties.

The promoters were asked whether it would be possible for the design to be changed to accommodate the extra facilities for visitors without intrusion into the gardens. The answer was that, although it could be done, that would restrict the use of daylight and the space available to gallery visitors by about a third. Those are important considerations. A number of members said that the project will not set a precedent. I accept the assurances that we have been given in that respect and I believe that the bill is worthy of support.

It should be noted that the development started even before the bill came before the Parliament. The National Galleries of Scotland already have a footprint on the Mound. As a result, they were able to start the building works on the Mound, but, as has been explained, the development has not progressed into the area that is the subject of the bill.

Those concerns are quite different from others that have been expressed by many people, including myself, about the proposed subterranean shopping mall in east Princes Street gardens, which the City of Edinburgh Council through its development arm, the EDI Group, is keen to see. I have no doubt that, were any works to begin on that development, a bill would have to come before the Parliament before a sod could be cut.

I agree with the committee that the project does not set a dangerous precedent. The bill is necessary to allow the gallery to grow in a way that helps to keep Scotland's cultural heritage at the forefront. I look forward to the Playfair project being completed and the gallery going from strength to strength. That will mean that we will be able to see works such as Rutherford's "Fountain of Salmacis" and Gabriel's "Last Supper" along with the Titians and the Turners.

Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat 10:36, 27 February 2003

I welcome the opportunity to speak in the debate as the Liberal Democrat member of National Galleries of Scotland Bill Committee. Because of family circumstances, I have not done as much work on the bill as my colleagues on the committee did, and I thank them.

The committee agrees that a statutory power is required by the promoter, the National Galleries of Scotland, to remove a small piece of land from Princes Street gardens. The promoter also requires statutory authority to supply a restriction on the construction of buildings in the gardens.

All of us who live or work in the city agree that Princes Street gardens are a unique landscape. I know that the word "unique" is overused, but I can say, having travelled around the world, that it applies in this case. It is beholden on us all to ensure that any work that impinges on the gardens is done only because we have given the project the fullest and best scrutiny to ensure that the landscape is not affected. The project must be for the positive common good of the people not only of Edinburgh, but of Scotland and of the many thousands of visitors who come to the gardens every year.

Alasdair Morgan said, rightly, that Edinburgh is a city with a long tradition not only of conserving the best in its landscape and cityscape but of moving with the times, albeit that it moves more slowly than other cities. When we see a real need for an improvement that will achieve a benefit for the common good of the people of the city and the wider country, we should seize it.

I am pleased to support the efforts to complete the Playfair project, which will improve the National Gallery of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy, both of which have a long tradition of presenting and conserving art, not only to and for the people of Edinburgh and Scotland, but internationally. Mention has been made of that today, most notably by Brian Monteith and the minister.

If we are serious about improving our cultural life, we should be supportive of the promoter's attempts to deliver a world-class exhibition facility. Crucially, the project will improve access for disabled visitors to the galleries. We must appreciate that the National Galleries of Scotland are competing not only for the time of the people in Edinburgh, but with world-class facilities elsewhere in the world.

Other members have touched on the main concerns about the project. Those include the fact that work had gone ahead before statutory approval was granted and the spilling out of commercial activity into the gardens, which the committee was assured will not happen.

Most important, concerns were raised in evidence by the Cockburn Association, the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, the Scottish Civic Trust and the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland that the project would set a precedent for future building in the gardens. However, the City of Edinburgh Council made it clear that the project is a one-off. Planning legislation makes it clear that the council would examine any other applications on their own merit; all of us have the proposed Princes Street galleries plans in mind. Such applications would have to go to the council, and because the plan is being promoted partially by EDI—an arm's length council company—it would also be called in by the Executive.

We are all keen to ensure that any development that impinges on the gardens is sympathetic to their unique world-famous location, and enhances the attractiveness not only of the galleries, but of the city as a whole. I am happy to give my support to the bill.

Photo of Maureen Macmillan Maureen Macmillan Labour 10:40, 27 February 2003

It is difficult to know what to add to what has been said. There were some initial concerns at the start of the planning process that any lifting of restrictions on development in Princess Street gardens would create a precedent for something less desirable than an entrance to the National Gallery of Scotland. However, those fears have been allayed to the satisfaction of the committee. We have before us a project that will enhance the gardens and the city of Edinburgh.

As other members have said, the National Gallery of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy are magnificent landmarks in the city, but they are in need of repair and modernisation. The underground facilities that are being created—a restaurant, a lecture theatre, an information centre and more exhibition space—will be enhanced by an entrance from the gardens. The new entrance will encourage greater numbers of different people to visit the galleries—people who might not yet have braved the magnificent Grecian porticos at the foot of the Mound.

I remember being totally overawed the first time that I entered the Royal Scottish Academy building. That was in the early 1960s, when I was a student and my husband-to-be was a law apprentice in the firm of solicitors, Morton Fraser, which was secretary to the Society of Scottish Artists. Before the exhibition, the apprentices had to carry the entries, some of which were heavy, across the floor, while the judges looked at each one for about three seconds, and dismissed most with a flick of the eye. Because of my husband-to-be's sterling work, we were invited to the first night of the exhibition. I remember thinking that the RSA was the poshest place that I had ever been to. I regret to say that I do not remember any of the pictures, but I remember one point in the evening when I was standing next to a renowned artist, the late Anne Redpath. I can remember exactly what she was wearing: a black dress and a colourful shawl. That obviously made a greater impression on me than anything hanging on the walls.

It is important that art is accessible, not only physically, in terms of wheelchair and other users, but culturally. The proposals to have the entrance to the gallery from Princes Street gardens will make a great difference to the numbers of people, and, I hope, to the class of people—if I may use that phrase—who come to see the pictures. I hope that the numbers will grow and grow.

Photo of Lord James Selkirk Lord James Selkirk Conservative 10:43, 27 February 2003

I should mention that I have been a patron of the National Gallery of Scotland—my wife is a patron currently. Local MSPs were not allowed to serve on the National Galleries of Scotland Bill Committee under new procedures, but that does not mean that local MSPs cannot support the project, which we believe to be very much in Edinburgh's interest and that of Scotland.

The national galleries are some of the best in the world, and under the inspirational leadership of Tim Clifford, supported by Michael Clarke, a considerable number of unknown masterpieces have been discovered. The Conservatives believe that creating 2,500 sq m of space with ready access will make a tremendous difference to Scotland's art and culture, and to those who appreciate the great treasures of the nation. It will also make a tremendous difference for education.

The galleries give enormous stimulation to children. I remember some years ago hearing Tim Clifford, in his enthusiasm, describe one picture as defying all criticism but being beyond all praise. When somebody can impart such enthusiasm to young people through the medium of great art, which is being made much more widely accessible, great treasures of the nation will be more greatly appreciated. The works will be appreciated not just by tourists and citizens, but by young people who want to take part in the expression of great art and contribute through their own work.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

Technically, the members who opened the debate have the right to make a winding-up speech, but if they want to speak they must be brief. Does Margaret Smith, Mr Monteith or Mr Morgan want to add any comments?

Photo of Mike Watson Mike Watson Labour 10:45, 27 February 2003

I should like to reinforce some of the comments of others. It is important that the issue of refurbishment is fully appreciated, and the speeches that I have heard suggest that it is. There will be obvious benefits to a wide range of groups that will make increased use of the galleries—for example, schools, students studying art, tourists from home or abroad, and, let us not forget, Auld Reekie's citizens themselves, who have this magnificent facility on their doorstep. I reiterate the congratulations to Tim Clifford and Michael Clarke for their foresight in the plans that they have overseen.

Parts of this debate form a link with this afternoon's debate on the European year of disabled people, in which Margaret Curran and I will participate. There is a clear sports, arts and cultural input to both debates, and that is why we are talking about the benefits of accessibility to the new facilities, which will primarily be from Princes Street gardens. That is important, as it will enable greater numbers to enjoy what the National Gallery of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy have to offer.

There is also the commercial aspect of the project—I thought that Alasdair Morgan would mention that, as he did when the committee questioned my colleague Elaine Murray. The question whether commercial facilities should be provided is important to the modern visitor's experience. Four days ago, I was fortunate enough to visit the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. The facilities and galleries there bear comparison with anywhere in the world. I want the national galleries in Scotland to be able to bear similar comparison. The National Museum of Scotland, for example, has the new Tower restaurant—many members will have experienced it—and we should consider having such facilities elsewhere. The current facilities of the national galleries hardly do them justice and the new restaurant facilities will be important.

The Executive supports the bill. I hope that it makes speedy progress through the parliamentary stages and that it receives royal assent.

Photo of John Young John Young Conservative 10:48, 27 February 2003

How does one follow that? We have heard some brilliant speeches in the past half an hour. I thank everyone who spoke, including the committee's convener who, as usual, gave a lucid presentation.

The subsequent speeches were also interesting. We heard Mike Watson telling us where all the money was to come from; I welcome all the various millions of pounds. I found Alasdair Morgan's speech entertaining and informative. He referred to the fact that we were waiting for trains to get into Waverley in the 1890s, and that we are still waiting more than 100 years later. He also mentioned a kiosk that was designed as a bandstand. If only we could bring back the people who, in thinking that up, displayed brilliance at getting around rules and regulations and get them into Parliament. Brian Monteith talked about shortbread tins, postcards, Titian's "Venus" and Clochemerle. It was a colourful speech that was nevertheless full of necessary information.

Margaret Smith mentioned disabled visitors and very correctly pointed out that the bill was not to be taken as a precedent. Maureen Macmillan talked about Anne Redpath's wardrobe, among other things, and Lord James Douglas-Hamilton quoted Timothy Clifford's statement about a particular work of art defying all criticism but being beyond all praise. Sir Timothy is wasting his time down at the galleries; we should get him into the Parliament. After all, he sounds exactly like a politician.

As convener of the committee, Rhona Brankin deserves every thanks. She conducted the proceedings in a proper manner and kept us all in order, as she usually does. I think that being a former schoolteacher must have helped her in that respect. All the other committee members and officials were also helpful.

I will not mention all the organisations that submitted written evidence. However, I should point out that we heard from five major parties and various other consultations were carried out. Of course, the Deputy Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, Elaine Murray, appeared before the committee and was helpful.

It is interesting to note that a detailed pamphlet entitled "Information for objectors to private bills" was approved. Although that seems an unusual step, it shows that we are being very democratic.

We all agree that, although a bill to remove land from the gardens is necessary in this case, it is not to be taken as a precedent. The City of Edinburgh District Council Order Confirmation Act 1991 provides adequate protection and the bill's promoter has made adequate contingency plans.

I think that Brian Monteith just whispered in my ear that I should mention the issue of the £20 fee, which was also raised by Dr Richard Simpson. Some anonymous person has sent me a note about how the fee came about. It seems that I must be party to the measure, because the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body approved it some time ago. Apparently, the fee was set under powers in the standing orders and is identical to the fee that is charged at Westminster under the equivalent procedure. All fees and procedures are under constant review, which probably means that the fee will be increased at some point. One must also remember that a fee is set not just for monetary reasons; it might stop facetious objections, which can happen in such matters.

I thank all members who took part in this informative debate, which has been one of the best that I have heard in the Parliament. It is just a shame that we did not have a larger audience of MSPs. I thank everyone who has been involved in this matter and wish them all success, as I am sure the Parliament does.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

I invite the author of the anonymous note to explain later to Mr Young how the whole process works.