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Scottish Parliament security extension lands final go-ahead

Lee Boyd’s controversial new security facility for the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood is set to start on site next month

The £6.48 million addition to the Enric Miralles’ and RMJM’s 2005 Stirling Prize-winning building was previously criticised by architects and Edinburgh City’s design leader Riccardo Marini.

Yesterday, Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) took a final decision to proceed with the project following a construction tender exercise and taking security and legal advice. The scheme won planning in January.

In a statement, the SPCB said it had a duty to care for the 400,000 people who visit Holyrood each year.

Construction is set to begin next month and complete by summer 2013.

In a letter to members of the Scottish Parliament, Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick said: ‘It is incumbent upon us to take the right decision on behalf of those whose safety is our responsibility.’

Ruairidh Moir of the Campaign Group to Preserve the Architectural Integrity of the Scottish Parliament Buildings said: ‘We’ve been trying for months to lodge a petition to the relevant committee in parliament against this extension but its unfortunately been delayed for reasons such as the parliaments online petitions system was inoperable for a time.

‘This proposal will severely hamper visitors experience in visiting parliament, the integral route to the chamber leads under the concrete under-croft is now short-circuited and the framed vista from Cannongate towards Salisbury Crags is interrupted by this rude insertion.

‘The reasons given for the annex is to protect the public from suicide bombers, however its placement is directly in the roadside blast zone which actually creates a “sitting duck” situation with public entering the parliament.

‘This regrettable action will cost £6.48million and yet the public have not be consulted once about the design team selection or the design development.  That is not transparent and hence we have a rotten compromise of a building due to attach itself to a Stirling-prize winning building like a parasite.’

He added: ‘We will stage a protest outside the building to raise awareness that the current building we enjoy is about to be ruined for the foreseeable future.  This new entrance will also hamper peoples ability to protest outside the building also.’

John Kinsley, project architect for RMJM on the original parliament scheme, said: ‘To say I’m extremely disappointed to see this going ahead would be a massive understatement. I don’t think it’s good enough for a democratically elected government to shelter behind some unspecified security advisor and say “it needs to go ahead” when several members of the original design team, who know the building and the parameters to which it was designed better than anyone have said that we disagree.’

He added: ‘We have challenged the parliament to explain properly why they think the extension is justified, but they won’t reply. What next? Put the whole thing in a lead lined box?’

John Ramsay, who was second in command of the project and responsible for coordinating design input from the police and Home Office, said: ‘It would be significantly more effective to give the security services £6.5 million - all this does is protect one building that is already one of the most secure in the country - and does nothing for the hundreds of other potential targets in Edinburgh. Anyone queuing outside this thing could still be murdered by a suicide bomber, or a car bomb.’

 

Read Tricia Marwick’s full letter

I am writing to update you on the decision taken earlier today by the SPCB in relation to the proposal for an external security facility (ESF).

Following the completion of a construction tender exercise and on the basis of clear and consistent security and legal advice, the SPCB has unanimously agreed its intention to award a contract to construct an external security facility.

Since the outset of this process which began in 2007 with a security review, the SPCB has followed the same prudent, staged approach to taking decisions on this important issue.  Throughout that period, there has been a singularly clear message from our security advisers – namely that in light of current threats, it is highly advisable to construct an external security facility. 

Let me stress that this is not a decision the SPCB has taken lightly, especially in the current economic climate, but the legal advice to us is equally clear.  We have a duty of care to all MSPs, staff, contractors and to the 400,000 members of the public who come through our doors each year, and in law we must take all steps ‘reasonably practicable’ to safeguard their wellbeing.

It is incumbent upon us to take the right decision on behalf of those whose safety is our responsibility.

The project will go ahead on the basis of a fixed design with a fixed cost.  Construction will start in early October and we expect the new facility to be completed and operational by the end of summer 2013.  The project has been designed to ensure that parliamentary business will not be disrupted and that the public will continue to have access to the complex. 

The total cost of the project, including VAT, fees and fit out, will be £6.48m.  The cost will be met from within the Parliament’s existing resources, by postponing other projects and spreading the cost across two financial years, ensuring there will be no additional demands made on the public purse. 

In taking forward this project, the SPCB is absolutely committed to continuing a process of openness, transparency and accountability.  We have therefore set up a web page that will contain latest information and images – also attached with this letter – and there will be regular cost and construction progress updates to the SPCB which will be shared with Members and made publicly available.

I enclose for your information this morning’s SPCB paper which sets out further information on the timescale for the build, the projected total cost of the project and the governance structure which is being put in place. 

As I have indicated, this was not a decision the SPCB took lightly and we are grateful for the support we have received throughout the process both from party leaders and from Members across all parties here at Holyrood.

Tricia Marwick

 

 

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