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Conducted by The Rt Hon The Lord Fraser of Carmyllie QC
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A selection of some landmark dates in the life of the Holyrood project.

May 1997: The UK General Election returned a Labour Government committed to holding a referendum on Devolved Government in Scotland.

September 1997: In the referendum held on 11 September almost 75 per cent of those voting agreed that there should be a Scottish Parliament.  This result made it necessary to identify a permanent home for the forthcoming Parliament.

The devolution White Paper estimated that the cost of constructing a new building for the Parliament would be between £10m and £40m.  This estimate was made prior to the identification of a location or a design.

Several locations in Edinburgh were considered for the new Parliament site including the former Royal High School, where the Parliament would have sat had devolution gone ahead in 1979 although it was noted that the old Royal High School building had 'serious disadvantages' of limited space and poor public accessibility.

Sites for the construction of a new Parliament building were looked at in Leith and Haymarket.  The option of converting St Andrew's House, which was occupied by The Scottish Office, was also considered.

All were rejected.  The chosen site at Holyrood was announced by the Secretary of State in January 1998.

The four-acre Holyrood site lay at the foot of Edinburgh's historic Royal Mile next to the Royal Palace of Holyrood House and Holyrood Park. The site had a long history as part of the medieval Old Town.  In early 1998 it was occupied by a Scottish & Newcastle brewery.

The design and construction process for the proposed Holyrood Parliament was started on 26 January 1998 with the launch of a design competition in the international architectural press.

In the same month, the Secretary of State, Donald Dewar, announced the membership of the Panel to select the Design Team for the Parliament building. The Panel was chaired by the Secretary of State. Other members were:

Joan O’Connor: architect, member of RIBA, former President of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland.

Professor Andy McMillan: Formerly Director of the Mackintosh School of Architecture, former partner in the Glasgow practice of Gillespie, Kidd and Coia.

Kirsty Wark: Journalist, BBC Presenter, hon. fellow of the RIAS.

John Gibbons: Chief Architect at the Scottish Office and Director of the Construction and Building Control Group.

Robert Gordon: Head of Scottish Office Constitution Group – the unit set up following the election to implement the Government’s proposals for a Scottish Parliament.

The Selection Panel considered the 70 expressions of interest received from architects from around the world and at a meeting in March 1998 drew up a shortlist of 12 design teams. Those twelve teams were invited to a competitive interview, following which (on 7 May 1998) the shortlist was reduced to five:-

Glass Murray Architects/Denton Corker Marshall International (Glasgow/ Melbourne)
Richard Meier & Partners/ Keppie Design Associated Architects (New York/ Glasgow)
Enric Miralles y Moya (Barcelona)
Rafael Vinoly Architects (New York)
Michael Wilford and Partners (London)

July 1998: The Spanish architectural practice led by Enric Miralles, wife Benedetta Tagliabue, in partnership with Edinburgh-based RMJM, was chosen to design the new Parliament building.

Enric Miralles set up his practice in Barcelona in 1984. He won many architectural prizes and competitions throughout Europe including the Madrid City prize in 1993, the National Prize of Spanish Architecture in 1995 and the Golden Lion at the Biennial of Venice in 1996. He was an invited Professor at several universities in North and South America and Europe. His designs included the Olympic Archery Pavilions, Vall D’Hebron, Barcelona, the Civic Centre of Hostalets, Spain, the sports halls in Alicante and Huesca and the new town hall for Utrecht, Holland.

At that stage it was estimated that the cost of construction could be contained at £55m plus VAT, fees and extras.

January 1999: Bovis Lend Lease were appointed as Construction Managers for the project.

April 1999: Pre-construction work started to prepare the site in readiness for construction to start in the summer.

May 1999: On 13 May the Scottish Parliament elected Donald Dewar as First Minister of Scotland.

1 June 1999: Project was transferred to the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body, headed by the Scottish Parliament’s first Presiding Officer, Sir David Steel.

17 June 1999: Parliamentary debate on the building project.  Costs estimated by the First Minister at £109m including VAT, fees and fit-out. 

July 1999: Opening Ceremony of the Scottish Parliament in its temporary accommodation in the premises of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

February 2000: Corporate Body commissioned an investigation by independent architect John Spencely.

5 April 2000: Parliamentary debate on the project concludes that work should continue at the Holyrood site.  Cost of completed project estimated at £195m. 

April 2000: Donald Dewar was diagnosed with heart problems and, in May, he underwent surgery to replace a leaking heart valve.

June 2000: Work started on construction of the building.

July 2000: Following a short illness, architect Enric Miralles died and his widow, Benedetta Tagliabue, took over as one of the lead architects.

September 2000: Auditor General presented a report to Parliament containing a number of recommendations to improve the management of the Holyrood project.

October 2000: Work started on the Assembly and Committee Tower buildings.

October 2000: The death was announced of Scotland’s first ever First Minister Donald Dewar.  Mr Dewar died as the result of a brain haemorrhage on 11 October at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh following a fall.

October 2000: Henry McLeish was elected as First Minister.

December 2000: Parliament’s Audit Committee publishes a highly critical report on the management of the Holyrood project.

January 2001: Completion of the main superstructure of the MSPs’ office accommodation.  Later the Scottish Parliament building was topped out.

June 2001: Project director Alan Ezzi quit and was replaced by Sarah Davidson.

November 2001: Jack McConnell was elected First Minister by the Scottish Parliament on 22 November 2001 following the resignation of Henry McLeish.

May 2003: Second Scottish Parliamentary elections.  A Labour/Lib Dem coalition continued to form the Executive.

May 2003: On 8 May George Reid was appointed Presiding Officer.

May 2003: Announcement that there would be an inquiry into the Holyrood building project.

June 2003: The First Minister Jack McConnell in his letter to the Presiding Officer George Reid calling for the Inquiry wrote: “I believe that the investigation must provide the answers to the legitimate concerns that the public and MSPs alike have regarding the costs and construction of the new building.  It must be independent of both the Scottish Parliament and of the Scottish Executive, and it must examine the whole of the lifespan of the project."

June 2003: Lord Peter Fraser of Carmyllie QC appointed to carry out an independent Inquiry.

July 2003: Lord Fraser outlined the form the Inquiry will take at a press conference in Edinburgh as building work continued yards away on the Holyrood site.

July 2003: Presiding Officer produces the first of his monthly reports on progress.  The final cost of the Parliament is estimated at £373.9m.


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