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The Earl of Balfour: My Lords, I am concerned about the amendment. First, if Scotland is to have its own new purpose built parliament where will the money come from? In that respect, I was relieved when the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, moved Amendment No. 33 because I understood that the setting up of the parliament would be paid for out of Exchequer grants from Westminster rather than out of the Scottish grant. That gave me some comfort, but I was a little concerned when my noble friend Lord Mackay said that he believes that anything to do with the parliament will come out of the Scottish grant.
My concern is that any new building should be traditional and not, for example, like the St. James' Centre in Edinburgh. I have always believed that that is not in keeping with George Street, Princes Street or Queen Street and that when it comes to local authority planning there are double standards. That upsets me a great deal.
I believe that wherever the parliament is established it must have suitable parking facilities. As a Member of your Lordships' House for some years, it has been my experience that we do not keep normal hours and I would not necessarily want to keep any other hours. Any Member, from a Minister to a Back-Bencher such as myself, who is involved in a Bill needs a fair amount of the morning to carry out research. Therefore, parliament cannot sit at ordinary times and many people will need to use their cars when attending the parliament in Scotland. Unlike London, Edinburgh does not have a first-class public service. Although I do not know Glasgow too well, I do not believe that the service can be as good as it is in London.
Finally, if the Government are planning a new purpose built parliament, will they consider establishing it in Perth? Perth really is at the centre of Scotland. There is almost nowhere, from Dumfries to Wick, that cannot be reached in about two hours by motorcar. That is one of the great advantages of Perth. I realise that civil servants involved in the parliament would have to travel from Edinburgh, which would be their base, but I believe that the suggestion is worth making at this stage. I ask the Government to take it on board. I will not say that the amendment is the kind that I would support in a Division, but it has raised important points.
Lord Lyell: My Lords, I have been in the centre of Edinburgh only twice during the past 13 months, but I find St. Andrew's House akin to the maze at Hampton Court when one is attempting to find one's way around let alone to the Royal High School. Will there be parking for the future MSPs?
Will the Minister confirm that Perth was the capital of Scotland until 1437 when the King was murdered? The court moved to Edinburgh to escape the warring clans, such as those of my noble neighbour Lord Mackie and myself. Indeed, one had to cross not one but two rivers, the Tay and the Forth. That is why the entire court and the administration of Scotland moved to Edinburgh in the 15th century. I believe that now is the time to reverse that.
The Earl of Perth: My Lords, I feel that I must take part in the debate since I have the honour to bear the name Perth. It is right that until the middle of the 15th century St. Johnstone, as it was in those days, and Edinburgh vied as the capital. Sometimes the court was at one place and sometimes it was at the other. I can promise the Government that if they considered Perth seriously I know that it can provide just the site at the Horse Cross. It is an admirable place near the Perth museum, which is perhaps appropriate. I do not wish to pursue the matter further, except to say that the parliament would be most welcome.
Lord Sewel: My Lords, we learn something new every day. Finally, we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, that he is so committed to the devolution project that for the past several decades he has refrained from passing through the picket line outside the Royal High School. That is good news.
I liked the argument about Perth. Of course, if one is looking around Scotland, no city can offer as much delight and delectation to Scottish parliamentarians as can Perth. I am interested in the argument that it should be the site of the new parliament because it is in the centre of Scotland. On the same argument, I take it that we shall shortly be moving to Meriden, which is the centre of England. I do not think we can decide this matter on the basis of geographical centrality, however attractive that may be.
There was criticism of why we had just announced the proposal to review the location of the parliament. We were asked if we had just woken up to the problem, as it were. The answer is simple. The government who were in office until 1st May and who had been in office for the previous 18 years had not been particularly concerned to establish whether the Royal High School was a suitable location for a Scottish parliament. They had a slightly different view of what should happen to Scotland in constitutional terms. Some 20 years ago the Royal High School was considered to be suitable but times move on. There have been changes and the condition of the building has significantly changed. I must make it absolutely clear that at this stage we are not ruling out the Royal High School. However, we believe we should take a broader view and take into account a broader range of options before reaching a decision to ensure that a new parliament for Scotland can be housed and can operate from a suitable building that is appropriate for a modern,
I make one serious point--not that the others have not been serious--in the context of the Royal High School. We all know that the nature of public life has changed significantly over the past two decades, and not always for the best. An issue which now has a higher profile than formerly is that of security. Those who know the location of the Royal High School will recognise that it poses significant problems for security. It may be possible to overcome those problems. As I say, we have not ruled out the site. We want to consider the whole range of options. Twenty years ago I do not think that we would have had in the forefront of our minds the need to protect the security of those who perform their day-to-day business on the site of the parliament and the fact that a wide-ranging group of people might visit it from time to time. For those reasons I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
The Earl of Balfour: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, will he bear in mind the problem of parking? Many of us, if we were members of the parliament, would still need to travel to Edinburgh by car.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am grateful to those noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, who I believe described the amendment as daft--I am not sure whether that was the word he used, but it is a fair precis of it--but said that the argument had some merit. I am grateful to him for saying that because it was to get the argument on the record that I tabled the amendment in the form I did.
The Minister rather puzzled me when he suggested that this Parliament might move to Meriden because that is the centre of England. I wonder whether the Government have some further plans to turn this Parliament into the parliament of England. Perhaps the West Lothian question is a little deeper than even I thought it was.
I take the point about security and the former Royal High School. As regards the measures that I assume will be discussed on Thursday, I am not certain that the Scottish parliament will debate the kind of issues which result in security being as big a problem as it is for this Parliament. However, I appreciate that there may be a security problem. I could mischievously say that if all these difficulties exist there is a perfectly good parliament for Scotland here on the banks of the Thames as part and parcel
However, the authorities here have managed to adapt a 100 year-old building imaginatively and well to the needs and the work of a modern parliament. That has been achieved with the addition of buildings outside Parliament which are used as Members' offices. I suggest to the Minister--this is meant to be constructive--that a discussion with those who have adapted this building may be useful in terms of developing ideas about the location of the Scottish parliament. I notice that the Minister completely ignored the question of Old St. Andrew's House. However, if I were in his shoes, I might not want to send a message to my officials that I was about to turf them out of their rather nice offices and move them to rather poorer, modern offices. As the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, said, this is a serious issue. I hope that the Government will consider it in much greater detail than they have to date. Above all, I hope they will consider the point I made that perhaps we should leave this decision to the people who will sit in the new parliament, if that comes about.
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