Scottish parliament in search of a seat

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The Independent Online
SCOTLAND'S first parliament for nearly 300 years could spend the first two years of its life in Glasgow before moving to a permanent home in Edinburgh.

The new parliament comes into being in 2000 after elections next year, but its site at Holyrood in Edinburgh will not be ready until late in 2001.

The three buildings now under consideration are Strathclyde House, former home of the regional council in central Glasgow, and two other sites in Edinburgh; the Church of Scotland general assembly hall and the the old Royal High School at Calton Hill.

Lord Steel, the former Liberal Party leader, said the proposed buildings were unbecoming to the dignity of the new parliament. "To use an ex-council chamber outside the capital and borrow premises from the church cannot be the right start and I would say that MPs know the limitations of the Calton Hill," he said.

George Reid, the SNP spokesman on constitutional affairs, said he believed Calton Hill should be the temporary home. The church building was "impossible" in terms of office space and parking, and the Glasgow site was no more than a "sudden notion" by Donald Dewar, Secretary of State for Scotland. And he said the proposal to use the old council building "downgrades our national legislature by linking it to a defunct local authority".

A Scottish Office spokesman said the three temporary sites would all need some adaptation as none had enough office accommodation. The cost of the Strathclyde building would be pounds 3m, pounds 4m for the General Assembly Hall and pounds 5m for the old Royal School, most of which would be rental charges. Mr Dewar is expected to announce his decision by Easter.

The situation in Wales is similarly uncertain.

With little more than a year to go before the first meeting of the Welsh Assembly, the Welsh Office has yet to make up its mind where the assembly should be sited.

A spokesman for the Welsh Office said yesterday that Ron Davies, the Secretary of State for Wales, was expected to make his decision in the next couple of weeks.

"The choice is now between three or four sites in Cardiff and the Guild Hall in Swansea," the spokesman added.