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In 2004, after a gap of 297 years during which the British Parliament governed Scotland, Scotland had once again its own parliament. It is now housed at the foot of the Royal Mile close to the Queen's official residence in Scotland, the Palace of Holyrood.
Strangely a Catalan architect, Enric Miralles, designed the building - he died before its completion. He aimed to produce a poetic union between the Scottish landscape, its people, its culture and the city of Edinburgh. This approach won the parliament building many awards and the description "a tour de force of arts and crafts and quality without parallel in the last 100 years of British architecture".
The result is a collection of low-lying buildings intended to blend in with the surrounding rugged scenery and existing buildings. They have many features connected to nature and land, such as the leaf shaped motifs of the roof in the Garden Lobby of the building. The most distinctive characterisation is the roof of the Tower Buildings - reminiscent of upturned boats on the shoreline. Inside the buildings the use of Scottish rock such as gneiss and granite in the flooring and walls and oak and sycamore in the furniture reinforces the connection to the land.
The debating chamber contains an elliptical horseshoe of seating for the Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs), with the governing party or parties sitting in the middle of the semicircle and opposition parties on either side. The layout blurs political divisions and hopefully encourages consensus among MSPs. There are 131 desks and chairs on the floor of the chamber for the elected members and other members of the Government. The desks have a lectern, a microphone and in-built speakers as well as electronic voting equipment. Galleries above the main floor hold 255 members of the public, 18 guests and 34 members of the press.
The most notable feature of the chamber is the roof. Laminated oak beams joined with 112 stainless steel connectors suspended on steel rods support the roof. It enables the debating chamber to span over 30 metres (100 ft) without any supporting columns. In entering the chamber, MSPs pass under a stone lintel, the Arniston Stone, once part of the pre-1707 Parliament building. It symbolises the connection between the historical Parliament and the present-day Parliament. Natural light diffuses by glass fins, which run down from light spaces in the ceiling, enters the chamber.
There is a wide variety of artwork and sculptures in the Scottish Parliament ranging from commissioned pieces to official gifts from overseas parliamentary delegations. The Main Hall of the Parliament contains a sculpture modelled on the Scottish crown, sceptre and the sword of the state. The parliamentary mace of silver and inlaid with gold panned from Scottish rivers is displayed in a glass case in the debating chamber. It has a formal, ceremonial role during meetings of the Parliament.
Despite its many awards many Scots consider the building a shambles – visit and decide!
- Historical Travel
Old Parliament Building
Partially hidden by the bulk of St. Giles Cathedral lies Parliament Hall, an important part of Scotland’s history. It was the seat of Scottish government from 1639 until 1707 when the governments of Scotland and England were united. The centre of power then moved to Westminster in London - 104 years after the union of the two crowns.
The 123 feet long hall is decorated with a beautiful Neo-gothic hammer beam roof and a series of Raeburn portraits. A striking feature is the Great Window in the south wall celebrates the founding of the Court of Session in 1532. It contains 8,000 pieces of painted and stained glass covering 390 square feet.
Imagine the scene when Parliament opened here on 31 August 1639. Burgesses, followed by the commissioners of the shires and nobility, led the ‘riding’ of Parliament from the Palace of Holyrood at the foot of the High Street. Next came the regalia of Scotland followed by trumpeters, heralds, the Kings Commissioner and his entourage. At Parliament the Earl Marischal escorted the Commissioner to the throne.
Given Scotland's stormy history it is no surprise that parliament was often at odds with the monarchy. In a time when Scottish Kings and Queens had a far more antagonistic relationship with their nobles than those in England - resulting in several royal murders - it is little surprise that parliament was often reluctant to approve taxation or sanction war.
For 300 years from 1707 Scotland was governed from Westminster in London by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Scotland though retained its educational and legal system, which left the door open for the process to be reversed. It is a matter of debate why such an ancient institution should vote itself out of existence, but it seems certain that economic problems coupled with increasing divisions in the parliament and underhanded misdeeds such as bribery all meant that the end of the legislative body was a formality by the time Scotland’s parliament came to accept the union with England. For many Scots the whole matter was summed up in Robert Burns' famous poem ‘A Parcel of Rogues in a Nation’.
Parliament Hall and the adjoining rooms are now used by Scotland's highest court. The Seal Library is also situated here and its Upper Library designed by William Stark is regarded as an architectural masterpiece. One of the statues in the room represents Sir Walter Scott who was the senior court official from 1806 to 1830.
A rise in nationalism in Scotland during the late 1960s fuelled demands for home rule. The discovery of oil off Scotland’s coast led to arguments that more of the oil revenues should come to Scotland and the move to devolution strengthened. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, demands for a Scottish Parliament grew. Finally on 1 July 1999 elements of power were transferred from Westminster to a devolved new Parliament now housed in a purpose built building at the foot of the Royal Mile.
The Scottish Parliament
Also at the lower end of the Royal Mile there are several quite controversial buildings which have recently been built to house the Scottish Parliament.
This is the new parliament that was created under the Scotland Act of 1998. It is the first parliament Scotland has had since its union with England in 1707.
The new Parliament building was open for public viewing for a meeting regarding educational reform so I sat in the gallery and watched things happen for about an hour.
Nice building and it's always fun to get to watch people discuss laws
The Scottish Parliament came into being after a referendum in September 1997 but it wasn't until 2004 that the new parliament building finally opened, just across the road from the Holyrood Palace, which is now a museum.
The building has proved to be rather controversial. Construction ran over by 3 years and nearly 400 million pounds over budget.
While it won many architectural awards it would be hard to say the building is universally popular among the general public. Myself while I'm a lover of modern architecture this place is one of my least favourite public buildings.
One hour tours of the Scottish Parliament building cost 6 pounds and are best booked in advance. Details on their website.
- Castles and Palaces
- Budget Travel
I've not been inside the Scottish Parliament building so I can't offer an opinion about a visit -- it was opened by Queen Elizabeth 11 in 2004 -- initial cost estimates in 1997 were between 10 and 40 million GBP -- the final cost was over 400 million GBP. Sadly its architect, Enric Miralles from Catalonia, died in 2000 aged 44 so he didnt see the opening of parliament here.
Full details at the link below :-
Relax Outside the Scottish Parliament
The Scottish Parliament looks really good although probably not worth the millions spend on it. Anyway, there is a nice green area with some ponds in front of it which is great for relaxing on a hot day. It is possible to go on a guided tour of the parliament building.
The Scottish parliment was to give Scotland back some of the power it lost when the unity of the thrones happened when James VI and I was king. The parliment was voted for by the Scottish people and gives them a say on things such as schools. However the parliment does not have overall control of taxation laws but has tax varying powers which to date has never used. You can visit inside the parliment for free and can sit in some parlimentary debates. So if you are interested in how our parliment works go ahead and visit.
If you wish to take a guided tour you must book in advance and their is a fee for this.
The building is a modern building desinged by the late spanish architect Eric Miralles. The building has won architecture awards for its design. It has been critisied the world over for the amount of money spent on building it and became national laughing stock after several structural defects were found within months such as flooding problems, problems with windows and then my all time favourite was when the ceilling and roof started caving in on the main hall during a session of parliment. This building is supposed to represent and upside down boat.
Although the building has won many awards in my opinion this building is an eyesore that should have never been built on the Royal Mile or anywhere near buildings of beautiful architecture such as holyrood house and spoils the areas historic look.
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
The Scottish Parliament
The new Parliament is well worth a visit and a guided tour can be booked if you wish.
There is an interesting shop...oddly enough full of food and drink and some general toursit gifts.
Tour Bookings: 0131 348 5200
Scotish Parliament building
The new Scotish Parliament building lies to the East down the Royal Mile. It is a striking building and if you manage to get a tour of the interior it is really stunning - especially the council chambers.
Visit the new Scottish...
Visit the new Scottish Parliament at it's temporary home on the Mound just down from the Castle. Thursday afternoon 3.10pm-3.30pm is First Minister's Question Time in the main chamber, public gallery is huge and anyone can sit in.
New parliament in it's infancy. Now has devolved responsibility for much of the lawmaking previously done at Westminster.
Sitting just across from Holyrood Palace, the Scottish parliament sits in a very innovative looking building.
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