Is this the ugliest public building you’ve ever seen? Considering this is – or should be – a national statement, isn’t Scotland entitled to something a little more splendid? Just a personal view, but from the front it looks rather like one of those sad, run-down, hotels built in the 1960s or 70s. Internally, the stylish unfinished concrete and polished plywood décor reminded me of a shopping centre, constructed in the wake of bomb damage, that my hometown couldn’t wait to get rid of forty years’ ago. Given the otherwise elegant architecture and stunning vistas Edinburgh offers, I confess to being a little surprised that this thing even got on to the shortlist.
And as it’s across the road from Holyrood Palace, you’d think they’d give Her Majesty something a little more inspiring to gaze at over her morning cuppa when she visits, wouldn’t you?
But the Scottish Parliament building has won prizes, so what do I know? At least it isn’t boring, certainly not on the inside – the whole thing oozes irregular-shapes – but this, and the gaps between structures and the finishes used, must make it a maintenance nightmare. The architect was a Catalan and Chinese granite was used in the construction – because of course Scotland possesses neither qualified architects nor any granite worth mentioning. The construction cost was a staggering £414.4 million – ten times over budget – and it was three years’ late. That, I’m afraid, suggests either an exceptional degree of bungling incompetence, or criminal mismanagement of public money. Apparently, the building had a raft of defects – about £49,000 worth according to one report in 2013. As of the year ended 31st March 2012, running costs (including members’ salaries) were £72.4 million.
Every now and again, you come across Scots who are rather cross about all of this. Perhaps spitting mad would be more accurate. I daresay other Britons are mildly concerned too. It would be tempting, at this juncture, to rabbit on a bit about more justifiable ways of spending taxpayers’ hard-earned pay - education, care for the sick and elderly and other minor social responsibilities, for example; but of course I won’t. It isn’t all bad, though; the debating chamber is a hemicycle (semicircle), designed to encourage non-adversarial discussion – unlike the mother of parliaments at Westminster. That’s alright then.
In any event, whilst you probably wouldn’t want to go out of your way to visit the Scottish Parliament, entry is free and you might want to pop in out of interest – perhaps if you can drag yourself away from watching snails dodge the traffic. In the interests of balance, I should close by saying that I met someone just the other day – an Englishman as a matter of fact (though of Welsh descent) – who thinks that the Scottish Parliament Building is the Bees’ Knees.
Visit the Scottish Parliament website for more information.