Suddenly, Edinburgh has it all

The opening of the Scottish Parliament will bring a welcome injection of new faces, talent, gossip and money, writes

THE JOLLY JUDGE bar in James' Court, a narrow alley off Edinburgh's Royal Mile, is expecting a change this summer in its usual drinkers, tourists, bankers and the occasional red-nosed lawyer.

Proximity to the law courts gave the bar its name. But even closer, no more than 50 yards away, is the back of the Church of Scotland Assembly Hall.

From this severe sandstone edifice the Judge's new customers will be drawn - not clerics but a breed even more given to gossip and intrigue.

From next month, the Assembly Hall will be temporary home to Scotland's first parliament in 293 years. And with that comes a new sub-culture for Edinburgh: legislators, journalists and lobbyists congregating in the nearest watering holes.

The boost to business at the Judge is a small example of how life is going to change in the city after the elections on 6 May.

Edinburgh, with its big vista, civic grandeur, palace and castle has always looked like a capital city, but without a parliament and political milieu it has lacked a heart.

Government offices, ruled by the Scottish Secretary, bankers, academics and an introverted legal establishment have given the place an air of serious purpose. Now comes an invigorating shot of democracy and all the rumbustious extra-curricular life that goes with it.

Home Rule will bring an additional 200 civil servants; public relations and lobby companies are multiplying and most newspapers have strengthened their political teams, with 40 to 50 extra journalists.

Increased diplomatic activity is also adding to the feel of full-blown capital city in the making. Ireland has recently opened a consulate - other European countries are well established - and the European Parliament has opened an office, as it has done in Barcelona, "capital" of devolved Catalonia.

Not that the fathers of Home Rule want to replicate Westminster in Edinburgh. Canon Kenyon Wright, one of the leading lights of the Scottish Constitutional Convention which 10 years ago paved the way for devolution, hopes the parliament will be "less party-dominated, more consensual and genuinely share power with the people".

The election name-calling dismays the 66-year-old clergyman, but the fact that he can stand as an independent candidate with a fair chance of winning a seat points up the fact that Scotland's democracy will be something different.

For a start, no party is likely to have overall control of the Home Rule government. Replacing the Westminster winner-take-all with a system of proportional representation will give smaller parties, including Greens and hard-Left socialists, or even individuals like Canon Wright, seats in the horseshoe-shaped chamber (supposedly a less confrontational geometry).

One of the biggest differences from Westminster will be Edinburgh's "family- friendly" hours, with no bleary-eyed, late-night legislating and, it is hoped, fewer broken marriages. Working hours will be 9.30am to 5.30pm with Mondays free for travelling, and knocking off early on Fridays.

Most MSPs will come from central Scotland and should be able to sleep in their own beds each evening. The easier hours were cited as one reason for paying MSPs pounds 5,000 less than members of the Commons - a basic pounds 40,000 a year.

But the arrangements are not family-friendly enough for the Highlands and Islands Alliance, whose MSPs still face weekly exile from home and the remote communities which elect them.

The Alliance has proposed "job share" MSPs. Electoral officials have been sceptical but on Friday the Alliance claimed a breakthrough when a nomination paper with two names in place of one was accepted as valid.

Six days after the election the first MSPs will be sworn in and elect a presiding officer, the equivalent of the Speaker. Lord (David) Steel is the front runner.

Then on 1 July, the Queen will officially open the parliament.

There will be no Westminster-style state opening flummery. The Queen will not wear robes and there will be no playing-card figures walking backwards with white sticks. "Dignified but modern" is the desired effect, with MSPs, civic leaders and hundreds of youngsters in procession from Parliament House - in name only since the 1707 Treaty of Union - to the Assembly Hall.

Political and constitutional rows apart, the biggest potential controversy on the horizon is over the parliament's future home.

Close by Holyrood Palace, the old offices of the Scottish and Newcastle brewery are being demolished to make way for the "upturned boats" building designed by Catalan architect Enric Miralles. But there are doubts whether the project will be finished by the target date of September 2001, or within its budget of pounds 50m.

Some pounds 7m has been spent fitting out the Assembly Hall as a temporary chamber and converting offices. But would-be MSPs are not complaining yet, and any delay which keeps the political circus at the top end of the Royal Mile will certainly be welcome at the Jolly Judge.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
News
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
news
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
News
i100
News
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (C#, ASP.NET Developer, SQL, MVC, WPF, Real-Time F

£40000 - £48000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Devel...

C# Swift Payment Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC, Authorize.N

£45000 - £60000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Swift...

Front-End Developer (JavaScript, HTML5, CSS3, C#, GUI)

£55000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End Deve...

Graduate C# Developer (.NET, WPF, SQL, Agile, C++) - London

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Graduate C# De...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?