With Scotland going to the polls this week, Blue Badge guide Jill McKean takes a look at the somewhat controversial parliament building at the foot of the Royal Mile.
If you find yourself heading down the Canongate towards the Palace of Holyroodhouse, your attention will no doubt be drawn to the eye-catching modern building which sits directly opposite the 16th century royal residence. This is the Scottish Parliament building, designed by Catalonian architect Enric Moralles. He was keen for the building to appear as if it had emerged naturally from the landscape, blending in with the open views to nearby Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat. To emphasise this connection with the land Moralles made liberal use of Scottish building materials such as granite, oak and Caithness stone. Tragically he did not live to see his design come to fruition, as he passed away in 2000 aged just 45, but his legacy is an extraordinary statement . The building tends to divide opinion, particularly as its very contemporary style is in complete contrast to the historic palace across the road. However, lovers of modern architecture will find much to admire including the innovative “thinking pods” which form part of the MSP’s private offices and the use of “trigger panels” around the windows which are said to represent a curtain pulled back – although locals have compared them to giant hairdryers!
The building is also considered controversial because of the build cost. Continuing a long-standing Edinburgh tradition of building projects going over budget (see also Charlotte Square and the National Monument!), the parliament was originally budgeted at £40m and ended up costing over ten times that, coming in at a staggering £414m. However the end result is an impressive, landmark building, full of innovative features, with sustainability at the heart of the design.
Further up the Royal Mile, just behind St Giles Cathedral in the appropriately named Parliament Square, is the location of the original Scottish parliament. This parliament was dissolved in 1707 following the Act of Union, with London becoming the seat of government of the newly united kingdoms of Scotland and England.
Almost three hundred years later, following a referendum in 1997, the Scottish parliament was reinstated in Edinburgh. Elections take place every five years to select 129 MSP’s (Member of the Scottish Parliament), and the devolved government today has a range of responsibilities including health, education, justice and the environment. Issues such as defence, immigration and international development remain in the hands of the UK government in London.
Discover more (and make up your own mind about this striking building!) on a private tour with a Blue Badge guide.
Tours of the interior of the parliament building are currently unavailable due to Covid-19. For updates, please check the Scottish parliament website