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Truth 'first casualty of devolution' as secret Holyrood costs revealed

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Scottish politician Fergus Ewing has unearthed documents that he claims 'prove categorically' that the public was kept in the dark about the true cost of the Holyrood project - including a hidden £10 million for landscaping.

Speaking before the publication of the longawaited Fraser Report yesterday (15 September), the Scottish National Party MSP said he had unearthed new evidence to show parliament had been misled about key cost information.

He claims that the late Donald Dewar, Scotland's first minister at the time of devolution, failed to announce that costs were set to increase, even though he had been told the £50 million budget would have to rise in a memo from a top civil servant in March 1999. Crucially, he claims Dewar chose to keep this information to himself, even though the Scottish elections were about to take place.

After scouring a raft of documents, Ewing also discovered that the landscaping costs had risen by up to £5 million in the space of just one week during May 1999. He found that in a memo dated 19 May, the estimated figure for the work was between £5 million and £10 million, and on the next, dated 26 May, it is fixed at £10 million. Though Dewar and MSP Jack McConnell knew about landscaping costs, this information was never made known to either the public or opposition MSPs.

'Truth was the first casualty of devolution, ' Ewing said. 'It looks as though the decision to withhold the landscaping figure was deliberate, as no other explanation seems credible.

'Deliberate because both Dewar and McConnell noted that the figures 'should be explained', but no explanations were given, ' he added.

l Lord Fraser was expected to publish his report into the Holyrood debacle as the AJ went to press.

It was understood that the two main architects on the scheme, RMJM and Enric Miralles' firm, EMBT, would be criticised for their ongoing disputes over the life of the project.

It was also thought that the Scottish Office's retired chief architect, Bill Armstrong, would be criticised, along with Dewar and the Scottish Office civil servants and ministers responsible for the original architectural competition.

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