– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:33 pm on 8th March 2006.

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Photo of George Reid George Reid None 2:33 pm, 8th March 2006

Before business, I would like to make a brief statement. We meet today at the Hub, not in our home at Holyrood. Since a strut came loose last Thursday, we have concentrated on a number of issues: putting public safety first; ensuring a full programme of parliamentary business; appointing independent structural engineering consultants; and providing such information as we have.

Our problem is that, as yet, we have no information on cause or remedy—we cannot give you what we do not have. However, I think that I speak for all of us in the chamber today when I say that our deep sense of frustration is tempered with our determination to get to the cause, and to the remedy, at the earliest opportunity. The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body has therefore written to Arup instructing it to produce a report by the end of business today. The onus is on Arup: it is up to the experts to tell us what went wrong and how to fix it. We will issue a further statement later today, once we have seen that report.

In the meantime, our business continues. Scotland's democratic process is certainly bigger than a building.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Can we hear a full statement soon from your good self or a representative of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, so that we may have the opportunity to ask questions about the circumstances surrounding the collapse of the roof beam in the chamber last Thursday? Many of the people whom we represent wonder what on earth is going on and how something like that could happen in a building for which they paid £431 million. Why were no alternative arrangements made for us to vote last Thursday, instead of our voting this afternoon on matters that were debated almost a week ago? Those are just some of the questions that must be answered. I ask for a statement soon from you or a representative of the corporate body, because this fiasco is in danger of bringing our Parliament into disrepute.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

Since I took over as Presiding Officer I have made it clear that I will be transparent about what is going on. The fullest information will be provided to members. Members will of course also have the opportunity to question SPCB members at the next SPCB question time, but I promise the fullest information.

As for the second question, alternative voting arrangements have always been in place, but when we move away from electronic voting, we must have roll-call votes, so I must take verbal responses and work my way from Brian Adam right through to Allan Wilson. A single roll-call vote takes 12 minutes and we have another two minutes after that to verify the vote and report back. We had six votes to take last week. I gave the Parliamentary Bureau my view that, in the circumstances—there was already enough trouble in the building that day—the sensible option was to have a clear vote today. Bureau members unanimously accepted that.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

Further to Mr Canavan's point of order, Presiding Officer. I apologise for making this point and I appreciate that you are not yet in any position to say how much all the disruption will cost or who will pay, if any greater cost is to be incurred. I simply ask you to assure us that the cost of everything will be much more transparent than the cost of the original construction of the Parliament building was.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

I give you that guarantee.