which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first,
and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish
it, all that behold it begin to mock him,
This man began to build, and was not able to finish.
distant parable from a distant land and time speaks eloquently
to me today as I consider the debacle that is known in these parts
as the Holyrood Parliament Project.
Background of it all
those who don’t know, Scotland now has a devolved parliament from
Westminster which began to work out its own socialist mandate
last year. This parliament has the power to legislate in education,
health and crime amongst other things but the decisions of macroeconomics,
defence and foreign policy still reside in London.
even has tax raising powers up to three pence in the pound, which
it fortunately has had the sense not to impose upon the population
(so far). As it happened, I missed the national referendum on
whether to allow this extra layer of socialism to be imposed on
us; but as sure as the proverbial Scotsman wears nothing under
his kilt, I would have voted naw! (A local colloquialism
for no!). As it happens, a fit of nationalism let them
in and I blame Mel Gibson for this because he made Braveheart
too near to the vote.
Mistake that began it all
after this initial euphoria, the question of where to house this
assemblage of statists arose. Being a race of canny folk, it was
naturally suggested that a lot of pennies could be saved by just
refurbishing one of Edinburgh’s grand old buildings – such as
the old Scottish Office on Calton Hill. I think the Scottish Executive
must have spent too much time in England, for they jettisoned
the prudence of their forefathers and decided to build a brand
new building as a fitting symbol of this proud new parliament.
the English say, Balderdash!
therein the die was cast for a project that has become a laughing
stock as costs have spiralled in the true manner of a project
conceived in the womb of statist arrogance. The two numbers you
need to know at this stage are the initial cost estimate of £40
million and the current estimate of £230 million with the emphasis
on the word current, for this farce has a long way to go
stuck their wet finger into the ill wind that produced that initial
guesstimate, must be hiding under a rock somewhere. Actually,
come to think of it, it may have been our own First Minister,
Henry McLeish, who originally derided suggestions that the cost
may balloon to over £90 million.
the English say, Poppycock!
speak with some levity and unashamed plagiarism in telling you
the five phases of a Statist project:
euphoria and optimism
for the guilty
of the innocent
my reckoning, phase 2 has now been reviewed and signed off as
the media bloodhounds sniff along the sorry trail of phase 3.
Not surprisingly, no one is currently admitting guilt, and the
innocent look decidedly pink around the gills.
Egotism of it all
as a digression, let us briefly review some examples of architectural
extensions of political egos from recent and ancient history.
Romans had no trouble in erecting their grand designs in tax-free
Rome; all it required was a handy slave population and foreign
tax revenues paid in building materials such as the best marble.
Fortunately, the Scottish executive does not have the option of
enslaving one third of Central Scotland to get the job finished
in time and under budget. That they have employed the nearest
thing to slave labour, though, I will mention later.
was also further informed that the socialist philanderer and well-known
monster, Leonid Breshnev, once announced a visit to the communist
party chief of some region. Breshnev’s ego obviously matched his
considerable girth in that the local chief set about erecting
a magnificent marble mansion to accommodate the great man during
his time there. Whether Breshnev actually occupied it, I cannot
very recently in our own backyard, the outgoing foreign secretary,
Robin Cook, was allowed the personal and continued use of the
foreign secretary’s official London residence just off the Pall
Mall. There was absolutely no political function in granting this
very expensive property, it was purely a sweetener to cushion
the "trauma" of being dumped from the British Cabinet
and gratifying an ego which has a well-known taste for the high
different from the Robin Cook of the 1980s who was seen with the
communist-backed CND and their marches. A taste of political power
and architectural opulence corrupts indeed.
for a goodly helping of egotism with a dash of religious piety,
one need look no further than former president of the Ivory Coast,
Houphouët-Boigny, and his jungle cathedral in Yamoussoukro.
Built at an estimated cost of 150 million dollars over three years
using 1,500 workers, it is still claimed to be the tallest Catholic
basilica in the world.
dome is 100 metres in diameter and weighs nearly 100,000 tonnes.
With the giant portico and colonnade, the central basilica swallowed
a year’s production of French white concrete. The pews, which
seat 7,000, are individually air-conditioned. They are made from
kotibe, a local hardwood that was sent to Italy to be shaped.
altar stands under a giant gilt canopy whose columns conceal 14
massive loudspeakers. Over it hangs a two-metre-tall cross made
from 50 kilograms of gold. Surrounding the basilica are 36 stained
glass windows more than 30 metres high, a greater area of glass
than in France’s Chartres Cathedral.
am both impressed and disgusted at the same time by the actions
of this Statist par excellence and I am surprised that the Pope
flew in to consecrate this folly in 1990. Apparently, Mass is
now only said once a week as locals head off to the other cathedral
is claimed that Houphouët-Boigny funded the whole project
from his private cocoa wealth. That is a lot of chocolate bars,
just as the cost of the Scottish parliament is a lot of haggises.
I leave it as an exercise to the reader to calculate how many
haggises based on the current cost of the Holyrood project would
keep the Scottish population alive and for how many parliamentary
Disaster of it all
we go back to the project itself, behold with incredulity this
timetable of despair:
to use existing buildings rejected in January 1998 in favour
of a new site by Holyrood Palace (on a base of volcanic rock)
with an initial cost estimate of £10 million to £40 million
to be completed in Autumn 2001 (now 2003).
servant, Barbara Doig appointed project director.
is sidelined and replaced by Alan Ezzi after four months.
His previous attempt at coordinating the building of the new
Edinburgh Royal Infirmary was described as a "catalogue
of disasters" by a top-ranking UNISON union official.
of project upwardly revised to £109 million in June 1999.
the beginning of 2000, it is realise that the last figure
did not take into account VAT (£28 million) and management
fees (£26 million).
intervene to prevent the demolition of a 17th century
mansion on the construction site. Incorporating it into the
design adds £11 million to the cost.
arises over the luxury of the architect’s "think bubbles"
costing £2.2 million. These are self-contained cockpits jutting
out of each politician’s office wall allowing for times of
"meditation" and "reflection" whilst overlooking
the beauty of the Salisbury Crags.
cost of building capped to £195 million in April 2000.
of the biggest setbacks, when the architect of the building,
Enric Miralles, dies aged 45 years on 4th July
audit report condemns secretary of Scottish Executive for
failing to keep a check on rising costs.
project committee is criticised for using imported Oak instead
of the much cheaper and indigenous Douglas Fir, despite experts
saying that the latter is more suitable for the Scottish climate.
was also revealed that the Oak was being shaped by Thai workers
on sweatshop wages of 30p per hour. Looks like the slave workforce
of Imperial Rome is not quite dead!
Black publishes damning book called All
the First Minister’s Men – The Truth behind Holyrood
in May 2001, which concludes that the final cost will exceed
Charles is reported to have described the building as an "ugly,
project manager, Alan Ezzi, resigns over unspecified disagreements
on 19th June 2001 - just 7 months into the job.
cost of building capped to £230 million in June 2001.
that the 53-year old outgoing manager was a civil service
bureaucrat with experience of only one strained major construction
project, the Holyrood Progress Committee appoints a 29-year
old manageress who was a civil service bureaucrat with no
experience of major construction projects.
to the last point, one can either assume that the committee is
lacking something in the common sense department or (more realistically),
no person in the private sector with relevant experience in major
construction management would now risk their reputation and blood
pressure on this now discredited operation.
Incompetence of it all
may also be noted in this respect that the previous project manager
was salaried at about £65,000. This is a poor wage for a multi-million
pound project such as Holyrood and the best manager who can come
in a prevent a £100m project becoming a £230m project is literally
worth their weight in gold and worthy of the large six figure
salaries plus bonuses which are more common in the private sector.
By paying peanuts, they have got more peanuts than the monkeys
in Edinburgh Zoo.
be quite frank, it is astonishing that a project of this magnitude
did not have proper forecasts for costs based on projected inflation
and materials for various phases of its lifetime. It is a mystery
to me why those who tendered contracts were not asked for and
held to proposed costs. In the unlikely event that this happened
in the private sector, heads would have rolled as shareholders
and lending institutions rose in united anger – if they had even
allowed the project to start at all.
such a thing is expected of a private individual when he receives
quotes for the construction of a domestic house, then how much
more is it expected of public projects and not the blank cheque
scenario being played out before us today? But where there is
lack of accountability, there is sluggishness and presumption.
conclusion of it all
is indeed a most fitting realisation of the Galilean’s parable
and a sober reminder of the squander and unaccountability that
go hand in hand with Statist projects since time immemorial.
implied in a previous article that God is not a statist, and going
by the current shower of providential blows raining down on this
beleaguered project, He is obviously not blessing this shambles.
one may argue the point theologically about that, but it gave
me half an excuse to choose the title for this article.
the meantime, I will continue to sit back and watch the slapstick
entertainment, and if they are lacking ideas for some more good
stunts, may I suggest they watch the Laurel and Hardy film: Busy
the English say: Jolly good show!