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Price wise


Expect the row about building costs to reach a crescendo as the latest estimates on the Scottish parliament building edge towards the £400 million mark, compared with the alleged original estimate of £40 million. I say alleged, since this mendacious figure was the one used by the late Donald Dewar to get his way in the first place and commission a new building, rather than refurbish Calton House. He is not around to tell us just exactly what he thought he was going to get for £40 million, but it is unlikely to have included the giant administrative office complex which accompanies the parliamentary chamber. That is the problem with so-called estimates of building cost. It usually gets blamed on the architect, but as with the Hopkins Portcullis House, price increases are generally the result of rational decision by others. For example, in the case of both, there was the price to be paid for massive inbuilt security, way beyond the norm. In Scotland, as in London, changed and increased requirements from MPs had to be taken on board. It is about time that a standard guide to 'what buildings really cost' is produced, so the public is not seduced into thinking that you can get a parliamentary complex for the price of a B&Q warehouse. As the cost sage Paul Morrell put it, quoting a new book by a Danish researcher, achievement of public building projects currently comes about as the result of systematic lying.

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