Tag Archives: scottish parliament

Scottish Parliament – a STUNNING design!

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Forgive the “STUNNING” shout, it was simply to get your attention (it was either that or a hateful string of multiple exclamation marks!!!)

l haven’t yet got over the visit I made to the Scottish Parliament building last week. I mean the inside, not the outside (we have all seen the outside, if only in photos). The outside is amazing enough, especially when viewed from on high, from the nearby Salisbury Crags. But the inside! The debating chamber! Words (almost) fail me!

By Debating Chamber I don’t mean the bums-on-seats bit in the photo above, the place where all the arguing is done (though that bit is impressive enough with its modern electronics), I mean the roof. Because when I went into the chamber I was looking up, not down.

Perhaps I should explain. I am a writer. I am a geologist. I am also a Chartered Engineer (not a structural engineer, my maths was never good enough for me to be one of those). So perhaps, because I would not know where to begin to design and construct some of the amazing things such as the new Queensferry Crossing, the London Wheel or The Eden Project’s glasshouses  (though I could do their foundations), I marvel at the abilities of those that can.

So… look up, not down! (Something we should all do? Look at the sky, not down at our feet?)

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Click on the pictures to get bigger versions – but they still won’t give you the impressions I had from seeing the real thing. Someone (Enric Miralles? And of course his architect wife Bernadetta) designed these impressive structures. If you have any real knowledge of maths and physics then you will understand how awesome the calcs must be for a roof design such as this.

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I am embarrassed to admit that despite living 20 miles away from the building (and having lived in Edinburgh for four years before that), I have never been inside the parliament. During its construction the Scottish Government (Labour at the time) got a lot of stick for cost overruns, they were awesome (not the government, the overruns). I know that the cost overrun would not have surprised those involved in construction. The MD of a large national construction company once said to me “None of us can bid realistic prices. If we did, it would scare people so much that nothing would ever be built”. Is that interesting, or what?

If I have held your attention so far then you might be interested to know that the Scottish Parliament building cost £0.4 billion (£414,000,000). To put that in perspective, the Edinburgh trams cost over twice as much, almost £1 billion (£976,000,000).

Ho hum, said Pooh…


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Hen Party*

Two of the Whitmuir Free Range chickens will make history this Friday as the first farm animals to be allowed into the Scottish Parliament building. They will be attending the Scottish Eco-schools Conference. No doubt Lily will wonder where they have gone (I mentioned some time ago that she attempted to round up several piglets. She also has a go at the chickens occasionally, but rounding them up isn’t easy because she can’t fly).

The event is, appropriately, being held in the Members’ Restaurant.

*It’s who they would vote for


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Edinburgh Trams

Or not…

The tram project looks horribly dead to me, especially the tram on show in Princes Street which stands silent and unlit, unheated and unattended. If a tram could die, this is what it would look like.

Over the years I have been involved with some large construction projects, two or three of which would dwarf the Edinburgh Tram Project. What always puzzles me is that it seems to come as a surprise to everyone involved (except the contractor, presumably) that major projects often end up costing several times the initial estimate – ten times in the case of the Scottish Parliament building*. The MD of a UK national construction company once told me that all contractors bid well under what they believe the project will cost because ‘if the true cost was admitted beforehand, large engineering jobs would never get off the ground’. He said that all companies did that and bidding was a case of the least costly (technically sound but still unrealistically low priced) bid getting the work. He also told me that one construction company in particular (still around and NOT one of those involved with the tram project), employed more people in their claims department than in their engineering department, their job being to explore for loopholes in the contract so they could actually pull a contract round into profitability.

Cynical? Me? I’m only repeating what I was told by a leading contractor, far more experienced than myself. Since then, the whole method of bidding for contracts has changed of course, so that these kinds of problems can be avoided. And if you believe that…

*which I personally believe to be stunningly beautiful, especially when seen from the nearby Salisbury Crags (Holyrood House – the Queen’s residence – is on the right in this picture)

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