The Scottish Parliament Building (Scottish Gaelic: Pàrlamaid na h-Alba, Scots: Scots Pairlament Biggin) is the home of the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, within the UNESCO World Heritage Site in central Edinburgh. Construction of the building commenced in June 1999 and the Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) held their first debate in the new building on 7 September 2004. The formal opening by Queen Elizabeth took place on 9 October 2004. Enric Miralles, the Catalan architect who designed the building, died before its completion.
From 1999 until the opening of the new building in 2004, committee rooms and the debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament were housed in the General Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland located on The Mound in Edinburgh. The access to this facility was via a new glazed porch, discreetly placed in the SW corner of Mylne's Court off the Lawnmarket in the midst of some of the University of Edinburgh 's Hall of Residences. All traces of this porch were eradicated, and the west wall where it stood returned to a blank wall, immediately after the new parliament opened. Office and administrative accommodation in support of the Parliament were provided in buildings leased from the City of Edinburgh Council. The new Scottish Parliament Building brought together these different elements into one purpose-built parliamentary complex, housing 129 MSPs and more than 1,000 staff and civil servants.
From the outset, the building and its construction have been controversial. The choices of location, architect, design, use of non-indigenous materials (granite from China instead of Scotland), and construction company were all criticised by politicians, the media and the Scottish public. Scheduled to open in 2001, it did so in 2004, more than three years late with an estimated final cost of £414 million, many times higher than initial estimates of between £10m and £40m. A major public inquiry into the handling of the construction, chaired by the former Lord Advocate, Peter Fraser, was established in 2003. The inquiry concluded in September 2004 and criticised the management of the whole project from the realisation of cost increases down to the way in which major design changes were implemented. Despite these criticisms and a mixed public reaction, the building was welcomed by architectural academics and critics. The building aims to conceive a poetic union between the Scottish landscape, its people, its culture, and the city of Edinburgh. This approach won the parliament building numerous awards including the 2005 Stirling Prize and has been described as "a tour de force of arts and crafts and quality without parallel in the last 100 years of British architecture".
Comprising an area of 1.6 ha (4 acres), with a perimeter of 480 m (1570 ft), the Scottish Parliament building is located 1 km (0.6 mi) east of Edinburgh city centre on the edge of the Old Town. The large site previously housed the headquarters of the Scottish and Newcastle brewery which were demolished to make way for the building. The boundary of the site is marked by the Canongate stretch of the Royal Mile on its northern side, Horse Wynd on its eastern side, where the public entrance to the building is, and Reid's Close on its western side. Reid's Close connects the Canongate and Holyrood Road on the southwestern side of the complex. The south eastern side of the complex is bounded by the Our Dynamic Earth visitor attraction which opened in July 1999, and Queen's Drive which fringes the slopes of the Salisbury Crags.
In the immediate vicinity of the building is the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is bordered by the broad expanse of Holyrood Park. To the south of the parliamentary complex are the steep slopes of the Salisbury Crags and Arthur's Seat.
The Holyrood and Dumbiedykes areas, to the west of the site, have been extensively redeveloped since 1998, with new retail, hotel and office developments, including Barclay House, the new offices of The Scotsman Publications Ltd. Before 1707, the Kingdom of Scotland was a sovereign independent state which had its own legislature—the Parliament of Scotland —which met, latterly, at Parliament House on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. The Act of Union, passed in 1707, created an incorporating political union between the Kingdoms of Scotland and England. The Union merged the Parliament of Scotland and the Parliament of England into the Parliament of Great Britain which was housed in the Palace of Westminster in London. As a consequence, Scotland was directly governed from London for the next 292 years without a legislature or a Parliament building of its own.
Pressure for an independent parliament grew in the 1970s with the growth of the Scottish National Party and monies were invested into the conversion of the former Royal High School on Calton Hill into an official parliament. Whilst much of this conversion was completed (including creation of the main debating hall) and the building was renamed New Parliament House it was determined that the facility was too small for its stated purpose (as and when that purpose arose). Failure to create an independent parliament, following the rather onerous conditions of the 1979 devolution referendum, led a campaign group to set up adjacent to the Royal High School at the foot of the access road to Calton Hill. Starting informally this became a permanently manned "vigil" to keep the concept in the public mind. This led to the Royal High School being the "popular" choice of site in the public (and particularly SNP) mindset.
A referendum of the Scottish electorate, held on 11 September 1997, approved the establishment of a directly-elected Scottish Parliament to legislate on most domestic affairs. Following this, the Scottish Office, led by the then Secretary of State for Scotland, Donald Dewar, decided that a new purpose-built facility would be constructed in Edinburgh, to house the Scottish Parliament.
Initially, three sites in and around Edinburgh were considered as possible locations for the building, including St Andrew's House /New Parliament House (better known as the imposing former Royal High School on Calton Hill) St Andrews House being the home of the Scottish Office—later the Scottish Government; Victoria Quay at Leith docks (adjacent to the major Scottish Office building there) and Haymarket on the vacant railway goods yard, in the west end of the city. The Holyrood site was not entered into the picture until after the official closure date of the competition between the three sites. The date for announcing the winner overran and on the date of the expected announcement instead it was announced that they were going to "rethink their decision" (inferring that indeed a decision had been made) and add the Holyrood Brewery site into the running (which had only just closed). However negotiations with the brewing company Scottish and Newcastle, who owned the land, resulted in the company indicating that they would be able to vacate the site in early 1999. As a consequence, the Secretary of State for Scotland agreed that the Holyrood site merited inclusion on the shortlist of proposed locations. The Scottish Office commissioned feasibility studies of the specified areas in late 1997 and in January 1998, the Holyrood site was selected from the shortlist.
Following on from the site selection, the Scottish Office announced that an international competition would be held to find a designer for a new building to house the Parliament. A design committee was appointed under the chairmanship of Dewar, and was tasked with choosing from a shortlist of designs. Proposals were submitted from internationally renowned architects such as Rafael Viñoly, Michael Wilford and Richard Meier. Twelve designs were selected in March 1998, which were whittled down to five by the following May. The five final designs were put on public display throughout Scotland in June 1998. Feedback from the public displays showed that the designs of the Catalan architect Enric Miralles were amongst the most popular. The design team took account of public opinion on the designs and invited all five shortlisted entrants to make presentations on their proposed designs before announcing a winner.
On 6 July 1998, it was declared that the design of Enric Miralles was chosen, with work being awarded to EMBT/ RMJM (Scotland) Ltd, a Spanish -Scottish joint venture design company, specifically created for the project. Construction, which was undertaken by Bovis, commenced in June 1999, with the demolition of the Scottish and Newcastle brewery and the beginning of foundation work to support the structure of the building. MSPs began to move into the building complex in the Summer of 2004, with the official opening by the Queen taking place in October of the same year.
Miralles sought to design a parliament building that could represent and present a national identity. This intractably difficult question was tackled by displacing the question of identity into the landscape of Scotland. In a characteristically poetic approach he talked about slotting the building into the land "in the form of a gathering situation: an amphitheatre, coming out from Arthur's Seat." where the building would reflect a dialogue between the landscape and the act of people sitting. So an early goal of the design was to open the building and its public spaces, not just to Edinburgh but to a more general concept of the Scottish landscape. Miralles intended to use the parliament to help build the end of Canongate—"not just another building on the street...it should reinforce the existing qualities of the site and its surroundings. In a subtle game of cross views and political implications."
The result was a non-hierarchical, organic collection of low-lying buildings intended to allow views of, and blend in with, the surrounding rugged scenery and symbolise the connection between nature and the Scottish people. As a consequence the building has many features connected to nature and land, such as the leaf shaped motifs of the roof in the Garden Lobby of the building, and the large windows of the debating chamber, committee rooms and the Tower Buildings which face the broad expanse of Holyrood Park, Arthur's Seat and the Salisbury Crags. Inside the buildings, the connection to the land is reinforced by the use of Scottish rock such as gneiss and granite in the flooring and walls, and the use of oak and sycamore in the construction of the furniture.
The Parliament is actually a campus of several buildings, reflecting different architectural styles, with a total floor area of 31,000 square metres (312,000 sq ft), providing accommodation for MSPs, their researchers and parliamentary staff. The buildings have a variety of features, with the most distinctive external characterisation being the roof of the Tower Buildings, said to be reminiscent of upturned boats on the shoreline. The inspiration had come from Edwin Lutyens ' sheds, made from upturned herring busses (boats) which Miralles saw on a visit to Lindisfarne in Northumberland. It is said that in the first design meeting, Miralles, armed with some twigs and leaves, thrust them onto a table and declared "This is the Scottish Parliament" reinforcing the unique and abstract nature of the parliamentary campus.