analysis - holyrood's £millions


As the Queen opens the scandalously over-budget "Scottish Parliament" this month, separatists and EU-supported devolutionists are still trying to digest the news that support for the very idea of devolution has fallen to its lowest ever in Scotland.

"Confidence in devolution among Scots is close to total collapse," (The Times, 9 August) was typical of comments prompted by a poll organised by Scottish and Grampian Television's Politics Now programme. Only 8% of those surveyed thought this parliament had achieved anything worthwhile and 78% said the new building would make no difference to their lives.

This turn-around in opinion is seen as a blow to those calling for regional devolution in England as well as a setback for Scottish devolutionists. An air of panic pervaded defensive statements from Scottish ministers, with Jack McConnell asserting that "the permanence of devolution itself is under-lined by the Parliament's new home".

This "new home" was cynically sold to voters on the basis of a conventional office block on a greenfield site at a cost of £40 million. The tally of current costs in August's List magazine was an astounding £450 million - a more than tenfold increase, an overrun of three years and an incongruously ugly design imported to the most expensive district of Edinburgh city from the devolutionists' favourite holiday destination, Catalonia.

At a time of increasing deprivation in city housing estates (with life expectancy for males falling to 64 on some) and deterioration in education and health services, the sight of MSPs demanding thousands of self-indulgent extras in their spurious parliament causes anger.

The Auditor General in Scotland has condemned costs that spiralled out of control making Holyrood one of the most expensive public buildings in Britain at £8,900 per square metre. Even the building of Portcullis House in Westminster - long cited as the epitome of extravagance in government building - only came to £8,600 per square metre, and the long delayed British Library £6,600 per square metre.

The auditor pointed out how the fiasco would lead to more costs for years to come, and architectural commentators have warned that despite its expense, it could "crumble in under a century".

Lord Fraser's new report on the Holyrood scandal, published in mid-September, blames everyone except the architects of devolution itself. That, of course, was not in his brief. All the politicians rushed in to make civil servants the scapegoats. This is all quite reminiscent of how the BBC was attacked after Lord Hutton's report failed to address the real issue on the Iraq war fiasco, leading to the death of Dr David Kelly. What credibility remains for reports by Lords of the Realm?

By breaking up Britain, devolution opens the way for the disparate parts to be influenced and ruled by Brussels, and the extravagance of the Holyrood building matches the extravagance of the plan to reverse 400 years of history, and bring in a new order. Britain's economic unity was created in the hundreds of years of industrial revolution. With economic unity came cultural integration. Devolution would sharpen the contradictions among us. The attack on industry and organised workers during the Thatcher era led some up the blind alley of separatism, by now surely revealed for what it is.

For years the EU has been instigating and encouraging such regionalisation, while at the same time discouraging national governments from any debate or defence of their national interests. The Labour Party foolishly (or deceitfully) described the creation of a Scottish Parliament - in the words of Donald Dewar - as an act that "bolstered the Union rather than weakening it", and warned Scottish nationalists not to use it to "wreck the United Kingdom.".

The working class - for we are the nation - must hold Labour to account for their treachery, never allowing our class to be weakened by devolution or separatism. From the time the first national trade union conference was held in Britain - in Glasgow in 1864 - Scottish workers have been an integral part of class struggle and the trades union movement. It is in our power to reverse the disintegration of our country and take pride in what we can build in a united Britain.

A final sting: last month the official replacement value of the new parliament building was announced - at £220 million or just about half what it cost! How much waste can we tolerate?