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Scottish parliament on the brink

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The architects of the new Scottish Parliament have hit back at criticisms of rising costs which this week threatened to derail the project.

Brian Stewart, the managing director of rmjm, the practice working in a joint venture with Enric Miralles on the Holyrood project, broke his silence last week and attacked politicians and heritage bodies for obstructing progress. Stewart's outburst preceded yesterday's vote by the assembly on whether to continue with the project which will now cost £230 million instead of the original estimate of £89 million. The outcome of the vote was on a knife-edge as the aj went to press.

Stewart said that msps are deliberately ignoring the progress already made on construction. 'I'm convinced their objections are political and they simply don't want to acknowledge that progress on the building is already well advanced,' he said.

He also criticised scaremongering over mounting costs and predicted that the building would hit its latest £108 million target for construction cost if the brief was frozen and politicians abandoned their determination to procure key materials from Scotland rather than cheaper sources abroad.

Turning his sights on conservationists, he attacked a group of architectural historians based at Edinburgh University who have criticised refurbishment plans for the seventeenth-century Queensbury House, also on the site.

The row erupted last week after the publication of an independent report into costs by former Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland president, John Spencely. He called for design changes to shave 20 per cent from the building's cost and advised the assembly to persist with the Holyrood plans or risk incurring a £30 million loss. The report also proposed that Enric Miralles should move to Edinburgh rather than making regular flights from his Barcelona base. rmjm rejected this proposal.

The furore is taking its toll on the morale of the design team and Stewart hinted that the architects might pull out if their current designs are abandoned or radically altered by politicians. He said rmjm is keen to see the building completed but said that the negative publicity surrounding the project was 'impacting on the business' and he described the project as a 'poisoned chalice'.

The Richard Rogers Partnership has hit back at criticisms over the cost of its Welsh Assembly building in Cardiff. In response to last month's decision to put the building on hold amid fears of rising costs, rrp said its has cut the construction costs per square metre by 15 per cent, despite creating 33 per cent extra floor space.

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