Scottish Region members inside the new Scottish Parliament Building.
© John G. Fender 2011
The Scottish Region visited the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh and was given a tour of the building by Sarah Boyack, MSP. The building is one of the most distinctive landmarks in Edinburgh and was designed by the Barcelona based architectural practice led by Enric Miralles and his wife, Benedetta Tagliabue.
The building makes use of materials from al over Scotland including Kenmay Granite from Aberdeenshire, Caithness stone and oak sourced from around the country. The Parliamentary complex consists of four main towers, the media tower Queensberry House and the MSP's building, all linked by a covered walkway, with it's very distinctive ceiling. The debating chamber is the heart of the building and is located over the main entrance.
Leading the party through the complex, Sarah Boyack explained the function of each area and pointed out some of the "quirky" features of the building. Using a detailed model of the complex, she pointed out the various main structures and how they fit into the overall site area.
The Parliament site was once occupied by the former Abbey Brewery and incorporated Queensberry House, part of which dates from 1667. This listed building was completely refurbished during the building of the Parliament. It was the home of the second Duke of Queensberry and in 1803 became a hospital, before being taken over as an army barracks, then it became a "House of Refuge". In 1945 the building again became a hospital before being closed in 1996 when the building was acquired by Scottish & Newcastle Breweries who by this time owned the rest of the site. Today the building is used by the Presiding Officers and houses other staff.
Moving to the MSP's building, members were able to see the rooms that are used and Ms. Boyack showed the party round her room, pointing out the various features, including the build in "storage wall" made of oak and sycamore wood. A distinctive feature of the rooms are the "contemplative" space, or "pods" a small seated area built into the room adjacent to the window. The building was constructed using pre-cast concrete units that were joined together and each of these units forms an office. Various materials are used on the exterior of the building including granite from South Africa alongside more locally sourced stone.
Returning from the MSP's building through the covered walkway, the party next visited the main debating chamber. At the entrance to the Debating Chamber, Ms. Boyack pointed out the stone lintel set in the wall above one of the doors. This lintel is from the original Scottish Parliament building and had been preserved at Arniston House in Midlothian. When the new Parliament was being build, the Dundas-Becker family, owners of Arniston House, donated it to the Parliament.
The main Debating Chamber is a bright airy space, with it's very distinctive roof. There are no supporting columns within the chamber and members were able to see the oak beams that make up the roof. The MSP's seating is arranged in a semicircle around the main podium where the Presiding Officer sits and the chairs and desks were designed by Enric Miralles and are made of oak and sycamore. Ms. Boyack explained the way seats are allocated.
Apart from the front bench MSP's, individual MSP's do not have their own seat, but sit within the seating blocks for the various parties making up the Parliament. The various procedures for debates were also outlined and she pointed out the various other features of the debating chamber including the TV cameras, press area and public gallery, which is larger than in many other parliaments. Next on the tour was one of the Committee Rooms. Much of the work of the Parliament is carried out by Committees who scrutinise bills in detail before the bill will be debated by the full Parliament.
The Scottish Region would like to thank Sarah Boyack, MSP for hosting the visit and giving the members the guided tour of the building and also to her assistant, Ross Gilligan. The Scottish Parliament is open to the public most days with no admission fees. Guided tours are available. Full details can be found on the Scottish Parliament Website.
Report by John Fender.
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