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Further delays to push Scottish Assembly costs past £500m

The escalating cost of RMJM and Enric Miralles' Scottish Assembly building is likely to exceed the £500 million mark, experts are warning.

The latest prediction comes just a week after the Scottish Parliament's presiding officer, George Reid, admitted that the project - which was originally costed at just £10 million - faces up to eight more months of delays.

Last week the client's project boss, Sarah Davidson, and Paul Bryce, secretary to the parliament, refused to rule out that the cost would reach £500 million when interrogated by the Parliamentary Accounts Committee. The latest official figure is £430 million.

Independent MSP Margo Macdonald told the AJ this week that she expected costs to rise further.

'They [the Scottish Parliamentary authorities] are softening us up - you can tell there is more bad news on the way, ' she said. 'They still haven't finished all the design work, so there is no way of telling what the final cost will be.'

Veteran Holyrood watcher David Black agreed.

He said: 'Ther's a lot of unresolved stuff for the architects, the contractors and the parliament to sort out. The presiding office say there will be no completion before July 2004, but privately they admit that it is unlikely to be fully open before 2005, and that will represent a large cost increase.'

A spokesman for the parliament insisted that the most recent cost estimate of £400 million would be met.

However, in a letter to the parliament's Finance Committee last week, presiding officer George Reid outlined the further eight months of delays.

He admitted that more construction problems had emerged in the glass atrium and stairwell planned for the back of the debating chamber.

But Reid also said progress had been made in negotiating a cap on consultants' fees, including the architect RMJM. He said up to £4.6 million would be saved on any future construction costs.

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