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Anger as Scots projects shun home-grown talent

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Leading Scottish architects have claimed that home-grown talent is still being overlooked for many major projects north of the border.

Since devolution seven years ago, only five of the 13 most important building projects in the country have been awarded to practices in Scotland, and a lack of confidence in Scottish firms and a failing competitions system is being blamed.

Edinburgh's Richard Murphy - the only architect from outside London to appear in the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale (see pages 6-7) - believes the odds are stacked against the Scots. 'I have no doubt that when you attend interviews there is a cringe factor, a mentality that Scottish architects are not up to the job, and that's very disheartening, ' he said.

'I've often thought the only way to get patronage in Edinburgh is to open a London office.

'There used to be eight or nine competitions every year, but I can't think of any at the moment.

We don't get the opportunities to have showdowns with London architects. By letting the competitions department wither, the RIAS has shot itself in the foot, ' Murphy added.

Charlie Sutherland of Sutherland Hussey, which was shortlisted for last year's Stirling Prize, agreed: 'We look at the OJEC notices every day and feel that we are wasting our time.

It's demoralising. The RIAS has a rigid competition system - they should be giving emphasis to design ability rather than criteria such as office size.

'The irony is, when we left college it was not feasible to hang around in Scotland. Then we saw a glimmer of hope and we moved back - now it's harder than ever to get the big projects, ' Sutherland added.

However, Brian Moore, director of competition organiser RIAS Consultancy, hit back. 'Of the last 43 competitive interviews and design competitions in Scotland, 40 have gone to Scottish practices.

There's a lot of critical comment but things have improved. Hopefully, the small, vocal minority who don't think so won't drown out the others.'

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