Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: Indeed, my Lords; I would even agree with that myself!

12 Nov 1997 : Column 217

Perhaps the facilities should be minimal and rely on the local commercial provision. I would hope that the parliament, committed to consensus politics, will adopt, from this House, the use of the long-table principle and avoid eating by political party. The prospect has to be that, if about 5,000 people work in this building in Westminster, then I suppose that 1,000 will work in the Scottish parliament buildings.

My final points are about the parliament and its symbols. First, I hope that the Scottish version of the UK coat of arms--yes, my Lords, that is the one with the motto Nemo me impune lacessit (two lions rampant with three leopards and a harp)--will be used throughout the parliament and on all its legislation. Of course, it is already used by the Scottish Office.

I also hope that the officers of the parliament will have the historic names attached to the new titles. This would be similar in style to the Leader of the House of Lords, who is also known as the Lord Privy Seal, a historic title. So, the presiding officer would have the title of Lord High Chancellor appended in brackets to his title. The first Minister, whose modern title might well be the Convenor, should have appended the title of Lord High Commissioner. So, too, might the ministerial titles of Principal Secretary and Chief Principal Secretary.

Moreover, as I have already said, I hope that the members will be referred to as, for example, the Commissioner for Clackmannanshire--or, more correctly, Ochil. Those historic links should act as an aide memoire that this is not a parliament in the mould of the Westminster Parliament, but a new creation drawing strongly on its own historic parliamentary traditions. I wish Donald Dewar and his team well in this venture. We owe them a great deal. I hope that this issue of the site can be resolved soon so that we can get on with designing the parliament to meet the needs of the people; the first of which must be to make it accessible, both physically and politically, to the electorate and its interest groups.

7.33 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon: My Lords, the importance of the decisions as to where to site the new Scottish parliament, and what form of design it should take, cannot be underestimated. Therefore, my noble friend Lady Carnegy is to be congratulated upon initiating tonight's debate. The noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, referred to the "usual suspects" being on the list of speakers. I am not sure that that is entirely correct as some of those usual suspects are missing. In particular, when one looks at the Benches behind the Minister, one notices not only that there are no speakers but also that there are no listeners. It is a matter of some regret that those who have promoted a devolved parliament with, one has to say, a measure of eloquence and a considerable measure of success, have not found it possible to be with us tonight to give us the benefit of their view; and, indeed, to give the Minister the benefit of their support. One can only wonder why they are not present. However, in the hope that this might be a

12 Nov 1997 : Column 218

constructive debate, I shall refrain from speculating as to why they are not with us. But, as I said, it is a matter of some regret.

As the parliamentary Answers last week made clear, the Government are currently considering three options. They are to be congratulated on their decision to consult widely on those options. I have seen some of the preliminary papers and clearly much more detailed work needs to be done. However, the wish to consult with other political parties and other interested parties is to be welcomed.

If a decision were to be taken as to location and design, I understand that it would not be possible to have the building complete and fully operational by the date when it is anticipated that the new Scottish parliament will start its work. For that reason, some temporary accommodation will be necessary and that will need to be fitted out to allow for a parliamentary chamber, committee rooms and all the ancillary offices required by a parliamentary assembly. I hope that the Minister will be in a position to confirm in his reply that that is likely to be the situation. If it is, I venture to suggest that another option ought to be considered; namely, to wait until the parliament is up and running before any final decisions are taken, certainly so far as concerns the overall design of the building.

Much was made during the referendum campaign--and understandably so--of how this would be a new form of parliamentary assembly which would evolve new techniques for dealing with parliamentary business. That theme has already been mentioned by the noble Earl. If that is correct, it seems to me that there would be great value in waiting to see what those procedures are, how the committee structure evolves and what role non-members of the parliament are to have in the work of committees. There are also less important matters, such as whether members will wish to dine together or separately to be considered. Indeed, various aspects of the functioning of the building ought to be put into the design and construction of the new building that will be required.

I say a "new building" because in my view it is impossible--and regrettably so--to alter the old Royal High School building and make it into a suitable parliamentary chamber. I worked in that building for about four years in the early 1980s as an advocate depute. Noble Lords will recall that, in anticipation of an assembly coming into being at the end of the 1970s, the building was purchased by the then government and fitted out to a very high standard for the proposed assembly. In the event, it was not required and, having lain vacant for a while, the Crown Office, the Lord Advocate's department in Scotland, occupied it. In a way it was a pleasant building in which to work. It had wonderful car parking facilities, to which even the lowliest members of staff had access, especially on a Saturday morning when they wished to shop in Princes Street. However, it was quite obviously unsuitable. Many of the rooms are very large, while others are very small. Without completely destroying the character of the building, both internally and externally, I see no way in which it could be used, however regrettable that may be to those who are committed to the success of a

12 Nov 1997 : Column 219

devolved parliament. Accordingly, a new building is required. Drawing on my experience regarding how long it takes to design, construct and bring into operation new courts of law, it is easy to understand how that cannot be achieved by early in the year 2000.

I hope therefore that if my understanding of the position is correct, the Government will at least give some consideration to this fourth option of deferring any final decision until the parliament has been elected. That is not to suggest that work should cease. Clearly much work could be done in the interim on issues of land ownership, planning and the traffic management of the various designs that are being submitted. But, ultimately, I believe it is for the members of the new parliament to decide what building they wish to occupy and in particular what design it should have. Normally if people are buying a house or moving into new offices, it is they who take the important decisions rather than others on their behalf. I suggest that there might be some prudence in following such a course notwithstanding the importance of the decisions which lie ahead.

7.40 p.m.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, in the debate on the Motion that the referendum Bill should pass in July, I poured scorn on the idea that any new building was going to be ready by January 2000, and I am amused to discover that now I am not alone in holding that view. But four months on, I am wondering whether there is really any necessity to have the building ready for January 2000. After all, the devolution Bill, which we were told last summer was drafted and all ready to start in another place in October--hence the rush to hold the referendum--has apparently not even finished being drafted yet, let alone started its journey through Parliament. At this rate it will have to be put off until next Session, unless this one is prolonged possibly into 1999.

At that time, last summer, many possible sites were being canvassed, and now we appear to be down to three possibilities. The trouble is that we do not have enough information. We are told that the Haymarket could be developed for £26 million, by January 2000, with a glass building. I cannot help wondering what the quality of the building would be, if it can be run up so quickly and cheaply. What would it be like to work in a glass building? Rather like working in a goldfish bowl, I suspect. Most of the glass buildings I see are remarkably characterless, and I should not like our parliament to be just like another multinational corporation's headquarters. I think that the unattractive surroundings of the Morrison Street car park are a considerable drawback. No doubt with time, they could be acquired, bulldozed and redeveloped, but is the cost of doing that included in the £26 million? Where are the cars at present using the car park to go? Where will the cars of members of the Scottish parliament and staff go? An underground car park would seem to be the answer, but--as, I think the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, pointed out--the railway runs through a tunnel underneath the site, and quite apart from the annoyance that the noise of the trains would cause to the members

12 Nov 1997 : Column 220

of parliament and those others working there, that could make the creation of a car park difficult, and there could be a security problem in a car park shared with the public. Again, was the cost of a car park included in the £26 million? Admittedly it is central, but that is the only advantage I can see, not being sold on the idea of a modern building.

Turning to the Leith site, again I ask what was included in the £30 million? What sort and quality of building was contemplated? Was the acquisition and demolition of all the seedy tenements round about included? Was the construction of a new road, and possibly a rail link with the Waverley Station included? I suspect not. And we have to consider how long all that would take, as well as the cost.

The Calton Hill site is undeniably the most expensive on the face of it, at £40 million. Again we need to know what we are getting for that £40 million. What we already have, as the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, has said, is a very fine building by Thomas Hamilton, with a fine dignified debating chamber. I think this is more important than might at first appear. If the buildings and debating chamber of our parliament do not have dignity and some degree of gravitas, the conduct of its members will be likely to leave much to be desired. Surroundings do make a difference to people's conduct, just as formal dress leads to better conduct. If Members of another place were allowed to wear jeans, sweatshirts and trainers, they would be brawling all over the place like a lot of playground layabouts.

But then we are told that there is inadequate room for the public or the press. I wonder whether nowadays that is as important as it used to be. After all the public need not attend a debate now to hear what is going on, it can all be televised. The public only need access for amusement, and that could be rationed. I wonder whether the press could not work by video link, possibly even from another building, such as St. Andrew's House or even further afield. What kind of link with St. Andrew's House is envisaged? What car parking facilities are envisaged?

I know the motor car is no longer politically correct, and that it is hoped that everyone is going to arrive by public transport or on foot. Most of the staff, who will be local residents, probably will, but quite a lot of MSPs will not. They will use their cars to come from their constituencies on Monday, with their luggage, and to go back to them on Thursday or Friday. They may need them for parliamentary business during the week too. You really must allow for that. Taxis are not easy in Edinburgh. You can easily queue for one for 20 minutes or half an hour at Waverley Station and the same applies at the airport, where the organisation is abysmal, and you stand in the rain too.

No site is ever going to be ideal, but I certainly come down heavily on the side of Calton Hill and the High School. If we were doing this 200 years ago, and the services of those two greatest of British architects, Robert and James Adam, were available, it would be quite a different matter. Then I should plump possibly for the Haymarket site. But they are not, and I doubt whether there is an architect in the world today whom

12 Nov 1997 : Column 221

I should consider capable of designing a suitable, dignified building. Last, but by no means least, it appears to be the option which the people of Scotland favour, and I think that some attention should be paid to their wishes.

7.47 p.m.

Lord Selkirk of Douglas: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, is to be warmly congratulated on raising this issue. If I may, I wish to support the conclusion of the noble Lady who has just spoken in favour of Calton Hill. I was for some 25 years an elected representative in Edinburgh and I believe that the people of Edinburgh have a strong preference for Calton Hill for three reasons.

First, Calton Hill is at the heart of Scotland's capital and there is excellent access to it. Not only are the central railway station and central bus station extremely close, but before long there will be a guided busway from the airport to St. Andrew's Square. The citizens of Edinburgh want to have a parliament which is readily accessible to people from all over Scotland and elsewhere. No other site can compare with Calton Hill in terms of ready access.

Secondly, Calton Hill is the obvious city centre site with the magnificent backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, the cupola of St. Giles Cathedral, the Royal Mile, the City Council and Holyrood Palace, as well as the National Gallery and the Princes Street Gardens. Much of the city centre near Calton Hill is a world heritage site. Calton Hill itself is a dramatic site. It can be seen from every direction in Edinburgh. It has been described as,

    "an upthrust of volcanic rock rich in national symbolism at the heart of the capital".

We have already heard about the unfinished parthenon standing as a memorial to those who gave their lives in the Napoleonic wars. As for the monument to Nelson nearby, the view from the top of it is one of the most impressive in Europe. The Scottish Office itself at St. Andrew's House with its huge bronze doors with Scottish saints engraved upon them looks like a place to which men and women would wish to come to make representations and to obtain redress of grievances. Calton Hill has the atmosphere and the aura associated with national affairs and as one would expect Edinburgh Council supports a parliament on this site. Here is a site in the Athens of the north to which the people of Scotland can journey with ease and in which they could have great pride.

Thirdly, the proposals of the EDI Group, the development and investment group owned by the city council, has identified an effective solution to the problem. Its proposals would link Calton Hill and St. Andrew's House and would create a debating chamber behind St. Andrew's House with a panoramic view of Arthur's Seat and Holyrood Palace, right up to the castle. The plan would have parking arrangements on site and appropriate media provision, accompanied by facilities for the best use of information technology.

St. Andrew's House is a splendid, Grade A listed building, with a capacity to adapt to Scotland's needs. Adjacent to it is the governor's house of the old Calton Prison. It could be converted into a Speaker's residence.

12 Nov 1997 : Column 222

The Royal High School, although not part of the parliament plan, is an important building, and there is no doubt that it could, and would, be adapted to other related uses associated with the needs of the public.

Also, there are many vacant buildings in Waterloo Place, including the GPO building. A positive decision to locate the parliament in Calton Hill would mean that those wonderful buildings would have significant and relevant roles during the next century.

I understand that the proposals put forward are well within the White Paper budget of £40 million. I venture to suggest that the Scots are looking for quality, but also expect value for money.

I hope that the Government will press ahead with the design and feasibility study in relation to Calton Hill, to meet the required specification and operational needs of the parliament and the traffic and environmental needs.

So far as the site is concerned, in terms of Scotland's history and image abroad, there is one compelling and extremely awe-inspiring site which looks the part of a Scots parliament. That site is in the city centre--it is Calton Hill.

7.52 p.m.

The Earl of Kintore: My Lords, I come from Aberdeen; I am afraid, therefore, that I can add very little to the excellent knowledge of Edinburgh displayed by the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk.

I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, for initiating the debate this evening. In preparing for the debate, I sought the views of a number of people, including my dentist, who is an Aberdonian, trained in Edinburgh. He was firmly of the view that the parliament should be in the former Royal High School because of the public money already spent on its adaptation. In answer to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, he went on to say that, if the building is too small, then the number of members of the parliament should be reduced. When I was next able to speak, I suggested that although a reduction in members was still politically possible, it was, equally, highly unlikely.

A parliament building must register in the consciousness of its citizens. They must be able to have a memory of the place. I suggest that most people in the United Kingdom are aware of this Parliament; and the people of Scotland will be aware of their own parliament, provided it is housed within a building which has day-to-day visibility as an obvious parliament. That is why I suggest that, of the three options, Calton Hill appears the best. It was certainly favoured by everyone to whom I spoke last weekend.

One query that arose, and which I was unable to answer, related to the problem of security. I think most noble Lords were first made aware of this at the Report stage of the referendum Bill on 22nd July 1997, when the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, said:

    "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".--[Official Report, 22/7/97; col.1368.]

12 Nov 1997 : Column 223

Provided that it does not comprise security, is it in order to inquire where the threat to security is coming from, and whether much the same threat would apply to both of the other locations?

The convenience of members in getting to the parliament is important. On a good day it takes me just over three hours to cover the 500-plus miles from my home in Aberdeenshire to your Lordships' House by car, plane and Underground. But if travelling by car, even from parts of Aberdeenshire, one would be well short of Edinburgh for the same travelling time. Members of the parliament living in the remoter areas would have many hours to travel. A solution for those, say, needing to drive for more than four-and-a-half hours, could be to use a helicopter. That would not apply to that many members; and if the helicopter could also be used for public service, for example as an air ambulance or in support of the police and mountain rescue at weekends and during recesses, the cost might not be as high as at first appears. I hope that the Minister does not regard that suggestion as pie in the sky, but more as MSPs in the sky, and a perfectly reasonable method of getting to parliament in the 21st century.

In conclusion, let us be characteristically frugal and house the parliament within existing buildings, possibly linking, by an overhead bridge, old St. Andrew's House to the old high school. New buildings are always over budget and late on completion; and they take time to achieve the character which a parliament building requires and deserves.

7.57 p.m.

Lord Rowallan: My Lords, I must declare a minor interest in this debate in so far as I have already declared that I hope one day to be a candidate. It is an uphill struggle to be a candidate for this particular parliament--especially, I fear, when one sits on this side of the House. Nevertheless, I have declared that as my intention. It is sad that many of those who should be taking part in a debate to decide the seat of the new parliament are not present. The absence of Members on the other side of the Chamber has already been mentioned. I seem to remember the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, stating strongly that this would be a marvellous occasion for women. It is sad that we have not had the benefit of hearing the noble Baroness's views on what should be done.

This debate is divided into two parts--historical considerations, which immediately take us from Stirling to Edinburgh, Perth, and to a lesser extent Dumbarton; and ease of access, with Glasgow and Edinburgh being the two most accessible places in Scotland. The name that occurs on both sides is Edinburgh. I believe that we all now accept that that is probably where the parliament will be. And that is where it should be, because it is the capital of Scotland--much as Glasgow would suit me a great deal better, living, as I do, in Ayrshire.

All three suggested sites--Leith, Calton Hill and Haymarket--as we heard, have pluses and minuses. To me, Leith has no pluses at all. It is out of the way, there are no direct rail connections, and it is a backwood.

12 Nov 1997 : Column 224

I cannot see any future there at all unless people want to travel there by boat--not the form of transport that one normally thinks of!

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page