So Gavin Stamp thinks the competition for the new Scottish parliament is 'cock-eyed, mad and sinister', according to your news report (aj 30.4.98). How are we supposed to take this? As a joke from an expatriate Englishman who now has pretensions to being more Scottish than the Scots? As the embittered howl of a man who clearly thinks he should have been on the jury? Or as a piece of after-dinner badinage designed to, temporarily, set the cat among the timorous Scottish pigeons?
Either way, his comments were as ill-judged as they were fiercely delivered. His comparison with Finland, Austria and Hungary seems as arbitrary as their geographical proximity. The Germans, to take a more relevant example closer to home, seem to have had no difficulty in commissioning Sir Norman Foster to remodel the Reichstag in advance of a formal decision to move the Parliament of the reunited Germany from Bonn. Does this mean the building will be inappropriate? Surely not. Stamp's proposition implies that the Scots have suddenly discovered democracy and that the idea of parliamentary democracy will come as a surprise to them. This is, of course, nonsense.
The one area where I would agree with him is over the rather autocratic nature of Donald Dewar's approach to the whole enterprise. Some dispute over the site was inevitable, but could have been handled more tactfully and with greater consultation. What leaves one baffled is why the rias, which I assume was consulted over the competition, is not playing a key part in its organisation. To ignore a genuine Scottish institution (not imported from London), sends out all the wrong signals.