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Scottish leader launches Holyrood legal probe

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Scotland's first minister, Jack McConnell, has announced a full legal investigation into the escalating cost of RMJM's new parliament building at Holyrood in Edinburgh.

He has ordered the country's former Lord Advocate, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, to find out why the project cost has rocketed from an original estimate of £27 million to recent figures of £375 million. Scotland's auditor general, Robert Black, will also carry out an investigation into the 'financial probity' of the parliament building project.

Only last week the parliament's presiding officer, George Reid, read the RMJM-led project team the riot act, extracting a commitment from all the scheme's consultants to put a cap on their fees (AJ 12.3.03).

Unveiling plans for the two inquiries, McConnell wrote to Reid explaining his decision. 'It should at a minimum include a review of decision-making, both prior to and subsequent to the hand-over of the project [to the parliament's authorities], including the selection of the site and the design, ' the letter says.

'The purpose should be to produce a clear record of the events and a set of recommendations for future large-scale public construction projects.

'People in Scotland rightly expect answers to all their questions about the way in which the cost to the public purse has escalated, and the decisions and actions which have contributed towards the position in which we find ourselves, 'McConnell added in his letter.

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