Scots say a Scot must build new parliament building

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The Independent Online
Scottish architects have urged the Government to commission a home-grown building as home of the new Edinburgh parliament building - the most prestigious and symbolic edifice to be built in the country for at least a hundred years.

They threw down the gauntlet to Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar after he announced plans for a design competition following his admission that Edinburgh's Old Royal High School, long identified as the home of the new legislature, was too small.

The significance of such a building which will epitomise the new-found independence of their nation has not been lost on the country's designers. "This is a chance to see democracy in action. Let's go for it," said Allan Murray, whose young practice designed the Peterhead Maritime Heritage Museum, voted the best Scottish building of 1996. "We must be able to come up with something that's powerful, dramatic, and signifies this new beginning for Scotland."

The new building is likely to cost up to pounds 50m - paid for by all British taxpayers - and the job is likely to be worth at least pounds 2.5m to the winning architect.

Although doubts have already been expressed about the project, with the Scottish National Party complaining that such sums should not be spent on a new building but on public services, dozens of architects have been bombarding their professional institution, the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, with calls expressing interest. And what they most definitely do not want to see is the selection of an architect limited to big-name Sassenach practices such as those of Richard Rogers and Norman Foster.

"I'd like to think that there'd be a serious hearing for Scottish architecture in the selection process," said Andy McCroray of Building Design Partnership. "There is a tendency to rush to London and presume that is the design Mecca, which certainly offends a lot of Scottish practices."

Mr Dewar has called for a worldwide competition to design a building "fit for the Millennium and beyond". Several sites are being considered after the decision not to go ahead with the original plan to house the parliament in the Old Royal High School, which was judged to have inadequate facilities.

A decision will not be made until after September's referendum, which is expected to support a Scottish parliament.

David Rock, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, said the competition to design the parliament should be international. "We should be looking far and wide, rather than deciding it should be a Scottish architect because we are looking for the best," he said. "After all, the Germans got Sir Norman Foster for the Reichstag. Other countries are not inhibited about going outside."

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