Scottish Parliament

(Pàrlamaid na h-Alba)

Windows, Scottish Parliament
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Windows, Scottish Parliament

Located in central Edinburgh, the Scottish Parliament (Gael: Pàrlamaid na h-Alba) comprises an eclectic mix of buildings lying between the Canongate and Holyrood Road, opposite the Palace of Holyrood House. This controversial location, on the site of a former brewery, was selected by Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar in 1998 and construction of an even more controversial building began the following year. The complex was designed by the late Spanish architect Enric Miralles and his partner Benedetta Tagliabue, in conjunction with Edinburgh firm Robert Matthew Johnson-Marshall (RMJM). It was opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II on the 9th October 2004 and the building won the prestigious Stirling Prize for architecture in 2005. The Parliament became the centre of a long-running political row having exceeded its budget of £40 million by more than ten times, a situation which brought an official inquiry in 2004.

A theme of boat-shaped buildings starts with the Debating Chamber, on the east side of the complex, and continues through the towers and garden lobby.

The Debating Chamber incorporates a semi-circular bank of seats facing the Presiding Officer and provides the forum for verbal jousts between the 129 MSPs. Galleries for the public, press and guests also provide views over Salisbury Crags. The building includes an education centre, exhibition area, restaurant and shop. Five tower buildings lie around the Debating Chamber and house media facilities, committee rooms and offices for government ministers and support staff. MSP offices lie at the west end of the site and feature vaulted ceilings and unique projecting windows, incorporating 'contemplative space', which are said to have been inspired by the famous painting The Rev. Walker skating on Duddingston Loch by Sir Henry Raeburn (1756 - 1823). Kemnay granite and Caithness stone feature in several of the buildings.

More traditional are the administration offices in Queensberry House, once home to the Dukes of Queensberry, and supporting offices on the Canongate located behind existing facades. A garden lobby, which provides an informal meeting space, links the buildings and features unique leaf-shaped roof lights. Complex landscaping connects the Parliament to Holyrood Park.

The Scottish Parliament had its origins in the 12th Century but had no fixed meeting place before 1641. Parliament House, behind St. Giles Kirk, provided a base until it was suspended following the Act of Union (1707). Thereafter, Scotland's distinctive legal system continued, but legislation and other affairs were dealt with in London. This British parliament included 72 Scottish members by 1885, but was still dominated by the landed gentry. However, no less than eleven British Prime Ministers have been Scottish or from Scottish families; namely John Stuart (3rd Earl of Bute, 1713-92), George Hamilton-Gordon (4th Earl of Aberdeen, 1784 - 1860), William Gladstone (1809 - 98), Archibald Primrose (5th Earl of Rosebery, 1847 - 1929), Arthur Balfour (1848 - 1930), Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1836 - 1908), Andrew Bonar-Law (1858 - 1923), Ramsay MacDonald (1866 - 1937), Alec Douglas-Home (1903-95), Tony Blair (b. 1953) and Gordon Brown (b. 1951).

The Blair, government elected in 1997, made devolution and a new Parliament for Scotland a priority, following a Royal Commission Report in 1973, a failed referendum in 1974 and the recommendations of the Scottish Constitutional Convention in 1989. For five years after its re-institution in 1999, the Scottish Parliament sat in temporary premises located around Edinburgh's Lawnmarket at the top of the Royal Mile. The debating chamber was located in the Church of Scotland Assembly Hall at the top of the Mound Member's offices were created in the old Lothian Region office building on George IV Bridge, with committee rooms and a visitor's centre opposite, in the old Midlothian Council Chambers.

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