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Lord Sewel: My Lords, if Leith is so unattractive, will the noble Lord explain why the Scottish Conservative Party has its headquarters there?

Lord Rowallan: My Lords, I cannot answer that; I have no intimate knowledge. No doubt it will be answered from my Front Bench, whose Members will be very much involved in that decision.

Calton Hill exists and, as the noble Earl, Lord Kintore, pointed out, has already had a great deal of money spent on it. It must therefore be considered. However, it is very expensive to change; and getting a car into the centre of Edinburgh is becoming more and more difficult. The Haymarket has a great deal going for it, but much against it, as we heard during the course of the debate.

I seriously wonder whether the best answer is to go for a complete greenfield site and a completely new location--near Ingleston, for example, or somewhere such as that, where there is a ring-road and links to the M.8 and M.9. There should be a spur on the railway to the airport, and everything could come together there very nicely.

My noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Drumadoon says that we should wait to decide how and where until the Parliament is to sit. I believe that that would be a mistake. We must show the people of Scotland that we are moving towards the parliament which the people of Scotland have indicated that they want.

As I said in an earlier debate, the parliament will start sitting at about the time of the millennium. Would this not be a good project into which to put the millennium money? Would this not be a perfect opportunity for the new Labour Government, with its vision of a Britain with parliaments of different natures throughout the country, to build a monument to the Scottish people, a future for the Scottish people, a chamber built specifically for the use of the most modern parliament in Great Britain, probably the most modern parliament in the world today? I believe that that is something worth considering. There are plenty of sites to be considered. Surely it is not beyond the wit of man to find an architect to design a building of which we could be proud?

8.01 p.m.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, I have enjoyed the debate and congratulate my neighbour, the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, for introducing it. It is very nice to see the Tory party taking a real interest in the Scottish Parliament, or at any rate in the site for it.

I was delighted to see a comment in the newspaper by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, that the Parliament will last a long time and £1 million or £2 million of capital expenditure should not stop it being placed in the right position, both historically and as regards access. That is a real conversion, which I am delighted to see. I welcome him to the ranks of supporters.

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Perhaps the Minister will speak to his Back Benchers. There is not one present. It must be quite shaming for him.

As regards the site for the Parliament, I agree with the criticism of Leith. Leith is a wonderful place. There are bits of rocks at the pier of Leith. I dare say that Sir Patrick Spens "sailed from there to Noraway" across the foam. But it is not an attractive place, I am afraid, in spite of the fact that the Tory Party headquarters are there. The building would be on a derelict site, mainly owned, I understand, by the port authority. It would be a difficult place to get to. It is true that there are one or two good restaurants, but the attraction stops there.

Haymarket is not a bad alternative. It is near the Scottish Liberal Democrats' office, which I have no doubt would be extremely helpful.

However, there is no question but that everyone favours the historic site of Calton Hill. I am surprised that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, is against it, having worked there. He said that it was a very pleasant place in which to work. I believe that that is an argument which far outweighs the one about such things as large rooms and small rooms. As with a house, if you like the place in which you work, it is better to work there than in a highly efficient building on which you look with dislike.

When the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, said that surroundings were important to the quality of debate, I thought of the Chamber of the House of Commons along the corridor: the surroundings there do not always influence the quality of debate all that much.

There is no doubt that the historic site of Calton Hill has a lot to recommend it, being in the centre of Edinburgh. The noble Lord, Lord Selkirk, knows it well from his period in office. He put the matter eloquently and with a great deal of knowledge. It is all there; and it is there, undoubtedly, that we should be.

There is no doubt that a greenfield site is cheaper. The noble Earl, Lord Kintore, and others have said that money had been spent already. There is nothing more expensive than altering an old building. A new building is much cheaper, as I know perfectly well. My wife and I recently bought a house and altered it considerably and we know that that was more expensive than building a new one. However, in this case the expense would definitely be worth it. It is right and proper that history should be considered. We shall be providing a centre for a new type of parliament. I am full of hope that we might devise something unique.

I have heard that a large number of directors of Scottish businesses are thinking of standing for the parliament. In the past I have found that people are busy and when you ask them to be a candidate they say, "I approve of your policy, but I have no time; I must develop my career".

Calton Hill is an attractive building. If we can provide proper facilities--including, for example, a good dining-room for members and their friends--I believe that it could house a parliament of which the people of Scotland could be proud.

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8.07 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am sure that all those who have taken part in the debate and who have stayed to listen are grateful to my noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour for introducing this important subject. I cannot resist the temptation--a temptation not resisted by one or two previous speakers--to note that the debate has been engaged in by the Liberal Democrats, the Cross-Benchers and the Conservatives. Until the Minister speaks, not a single Labour Back-Bench Member of your Lordships' House will have taken part. Indeed, not a single one is present to listen to the debate. Many of the Government's Back-Bench friends have been outspoken in their advocacy of a Scottish Parliament. I should have thought that they would want to engage in a debate about this important decision. I do not intend this to turn into a party political point, because it is not: it is about where we site the parliament, a parliament to which all the parties will send members, a parliament for the people of Scotland. It is a shame that, for example, the co-chairman of the Constitutional Convention on the Labour side, who normally graces us with her presence and her opinions on these matters, has chosen to do neither. Unlike my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, I cannot resist being uncharitable enough to wonder if they have not been given instructions as to the line to take. Perhaps their bleepers have not gone off and they are therefore totally unable to get up and make a speech. That said, I shall leave the point aside. I hope that the people of Scotland will notice that the Labour Party do not seem to wish to engage in this debate.

I was surprised, as I think many others were, when the new Government indicated that Calton Hill would not necessarily be the site of the Scottish parliament. After 20 years in which the party opposite has advocated a Scottish parliament and given us all to believe that it would be based in Calton Hill, it seems a little odd that suddenly, once they have achieved power and started to think about putting it into effect, they say that that may not be the case. As my noble friend Lady Carnegy said, people have looked on Calton Hill and the old Royal High School as the potential site for this parliament since 1978. News bulletins in Scotland have used the facade of Calton Hill as part of their introduction. As my noble friend said, from 1992 a vigil took place 24 hours a day outside the old Royal High School in favour of having a Scottish parliament. So it seems a little odd that it has taken the Government 20 years to decide that this site is not suitable after all. I find that very hard to believe.

I agree with one of my noble friends who said that perhaps this ought to be left to the Scottish parliament itself. After all, this is what devolution is about, I kept being told, and I should have thought that there was an argument for saying "We will prepare the plans, we will ask for the various suggestions to be worked out but the decision at the end of the day ought to be taken by the people who will be entrusted with the government of Scotland for the years to come." That seems to me to be perfectly reasonable because whenever a decision is taken by the Government now, unless it is to use the

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existing debating Chamber and facilities, they will not have a building ready for 1999, spring of, when I suspect the elections will be held. Dare I say, it will probably not be ready until well into the year 2000 or 2001 so, for a year or two's delay, I should like to hear the Minister explain why this decision ought not to be left to the Scottish parliament itself.

We are told in Chapter 10 of the White Paper, at 10.6, what is wrong with the Calton Hill site and I shall deal with one or two of those issues. The noble Lord, the Earl of Kintore, mentioned security. I must say that I take air or refreshments on the terraces of this Parliament in the summer time and I cannot see that the security in Calton Hill will be any different from the security here: we are certainly overlooked by busy bridges and by people opposite. I do not believe that it would be impossible to move the public fences on the Calton Hill back from the immediate environment of the Royal High School in order to deal with the problem, if indeed there is one. Perhaps more flippantly, I wonder who they think they are when they think there will be a terrific danger to their security.

My noble friend Baroness Carnegy gave a clear exposition, as did my noble friend Lord Selkirk, of the historical importance of this particular site. There it is: it stands in a very prominent place, the second most prominent site in Edinburgh after the castle, seen by everybody--and I am not even talking about the views out the way, I am talking about the people looking up. They will see their parliament on its hill, and I think that is very important. I suspect that unless you are sailing about the docks in Leith you will not see a parliament based at Leith. But you are going to see it in Edinburgh. It is an important place. It has St. Andrew's House adjacent to it. I worked in St. Andrew's House for some five-and-a-half years as a Minister. It is an excellent building, an excellent example of the architecture of the 1930s. I am satisfied that it would make perfectly good accommodation for Scottish Members of Parliament and their staffs. Perhaps the officials at the Scottish Office do not want to move out of St. Andrew's House and that is one of the reasons why the Government have been persuaded to think again about this issue.

Access is one point that I want to deal with, because I do think it is very important. I visited Edinburgh last Friday. I walked to the City Chambers from Waverley Station because I had to meet somebody there. I then had to go to Leith. The Conservative Party headquarters are at Leith partly because it was a good economic bargain but I have to say that the one thing which was not taken into account was transport. On my way to Leith the taxi driver said quite quickly, "The traffic down here to Leith is diabolical, sir." So that, I think, is a good point. It would not be a convenient site for members drawn from all parts of Scotland. That is a serious defect which the Government will have to address when looking at Leith. It is a motor driven site, whereas for most of Scotland, most people would not dream of going to a site at Calton Hill other than by railway, which is hugely convenient and no hassle. Leith will be difficult to get to and will involve driving through Edinburgh. That is a city in which, whether for good or ill, the local authority wants to reduce car use. Frankly, they will not be helped to reduce car use

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if the parliament is built at Leith. So I am sure, all other things being equal, that the Calton site is by far the best site.

Cost may be a problem for the Government. I can see that that is one of the difficulties the noble Lord, the Minister, is going to flag up. I am not sure whether it would be worth saying to somebody "What can you do for £40 million?" and then making the decision of whether the advantages of being sited in central Edinburgh are worth the disadvantages of what you might lose if you only have £40 million to spend. We have to look carefully at that. Of course I understand that the Government will say that they do not have a vast amount of money to throw at this. We did warn them, I have to say, during the referendum, that setting up this parliament was going to cost them money. They cannot now walk away from it and somehow pretend that it will not cost them any money. It has to be done properly and correctly. It seems to me that under that £40 million price tag we ought to be able to get a good enough building in Calton Hill to do the job properly for Scotland--for all parts of Scotland.

I have nothing against Leith, although I notice that in their little pictures they have sited "Britannia" in the dock. I have to say that Glasgow will have something to say about that when they register this proposition. I favour the "Britannia" going to the river of her birth rather than being docked in the port of Leith. That is another matter but we must think about history: Leith's historical importance in Scotland is great but nothing like that of Edinburgh. Those of us who do not come from Edinburgh and frankly have little affinity with it, view it as the capital city. I, for my part, and I think an awful lot of people--and the noble Minister has heard the clear message from their Lordships this evening--feel that this parliament ought to be in the capital city. That means in the centre of Edinburgh and not on the edges.

8.17 p.m.

Lord Sewel: My Lords, I start by congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, on giving us the opportunity to discuss this important issue and, of course, the various different views that have been drawn out during the course of our debate. I am reminded of the old adage in politics that one's opponents sit opposite you and one's enemies sit behind you. For most of the evening, I have had no enemies.

It is also customary in a debate such as this to say that one has found it interesting. This evening that would be a gross understatement. I have been sitting here in utter amazement. It has been, in a way, a surreal debate. From time to time I have pinched myself to make sure that I am still in touch with reality. Two months ago the party opposite were warning us that a Scottish Parliament was a threat to the Union, the end of civilisation as we knew it, and not even worth a marquee on the meadows. Now it is to be an adornment, an adornment that is to be cherished: put the price to one side, with no restraint at all.

I, of course, welcome the constructive and positive approach being taken by members of the party opposite

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and do so in the spirit of inclusiveness and consensual decision-making. And that is proper. In all seriousness, I recognise that the party opposite has reflected on the decisive endorsement of the proposals made by the people of Scotland and are now reacting, quite rightly and quite properly, in a positive and constructive way, and I wish to pay tribute to that. But in some ways it makes the conversion on the road to Damascus appear as a long considered and deliberate decision. I want to be as generous as possible and not to be churlish, but members of the party opposite would have greater credentials in arguing their point if they showed a little humility with regard to getting it wrong to start out with. They should let a little time pass before they present themselves as the guardians of the Scottish parliamentary heritage. But now I welcome them to the project. It is good to have them on board.

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