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Scottish Parliament warning: cost cap compromises quality

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The parliamentary watchdog monitoring the construction of the Scottish Parliament building in Holyrood, Edinburgh, is to request a bigger budget in May to meet design specifications.

Holyrood Progress Group vice-convenor Linda Fabiani warned that adherence to the current £195 million budget cap would result in a quality compromise on what will be 'Scotland's most significant building in centuries'.

Fabiani said the request would be put to the 'parliamentary corporate body' as part of a cost estimation report currently being prepared.

'We have now reached the point of construction where it has become very clear that if we are going to stick to £195 million we will have to look seriously at the specifications, ' Fabiani said. 'It would be a huge mistake to compromise the design and the quality.'

She said the outset of the Enric Mirallesdesigned project was marred by a rash of false construction cost speculation. 'I think that legacy has unfortunately stuck with us, ' Fabiani said.Original cost estimations by an independent assessor ranged from £195 million to £230 million, she said.

However, Fabiani added that a pre-design proposal of £50 million for construction had seriously influenced budget considerations for the job which is now being run by RMJM.

Chief architect of the Scottish Executive John Gibbons said unexpected inflation in building costs had seen construction struggle to remain within budget, especially as the building is now to be twice the size of the original proposal.

'With a budget that is capped one has to be very careful to deliver the best quality for the building, ' Gibbons said. 'We are trying to manage it so that quality is not compromised. It is a real problem but we are not without hope that we can keep it under control.'

Gibbons said the Edinburgh construction market was over-heating and prices had risen in what had become a competitive marketplace with an abundance of work for contractors.

Fabiani said the project currently faced a £4 million cost over-run, with design specifications under review in private areas of the building.

She said work was about to start on the Assembly Chamber and that it would be a 'serious mistake' to call for a similar review in public areas of the building.

'I think in the longer term the Scottish people will see that this is the most important building we have had built in centuries and that they will want the best quality, ' Fabiani said.

The building is due to be complete by December 2002, with a fit-out complete six months later.

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