Monday, 10 November 2008

Better in than out

We had a rather interesting weekend for a change. We met with my ex-brother-in-law and his wife, as we often do, so that ExBIL can keep in touch with the boys. His wife (we'll call her S) works in the Scottish Parliament and she took us in and gave us a tour of the building.

Now, I have not been a fan of the Scottish Parliament building. I thought the original building which everyone thought would house the Parliament, the old Royal High School, was a good choice. The new building.....well, it's concrete and concrete carries certain connotations in Edinburgh. It sits at the bottom of the Royal Mile opposite Holyrood Palace (the Queen must be well pit oot, having her view spoiled) and near a council estate called Dumbiedykes. Which is also built of concrete. I have always thought that basically the Parliament building looks a little like the new Dumbiedykes Community Centre. Without the cars on bricks.

But I have to say the inside is fabulous. There isn't a square room or a right angle in the entire building, I don't think and it is the most interesting, thought provoking place I have ever been in. Round every corner there is a different view, either of another part of the building or of the landscape outside which, given that it sits beside Holyrood Palace, Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags, is spectacular. There is a huge amount of wood used which makes it warm and easy on the eye and we'll just forget the bits made of concrete, shall we?

The debating chamber itself is actually bigger than I thought (unlike the House of Commons which is TINY in real life) and really rather cool. Being in with a pass-holder we got to go right down onto the floor of the chamber and sit in Alex Salmond's seat. Shhhh! We're not supposed to do that! And First Born got interviewed by ExBIL on those steps you always see the MSPs walking down on TV. ("First Minister, what do you think of Gordon Brown?" "He's rubbish! Ha! Ha!")

All in all I was really quite impressed. There are rooms in the building dedicated for use by local schools to come in and see the Parliament and meet with their MSP and the meeting rooms are used by groups of all sorts. S. had had 54 school kids having their packed lunch in one of the committee rooms last week and I love the idea of the public getting to use the building we paid for. And paid for handsomely.

I think the jury is still firmly out on the exterior of the building but I am less scathing about it than I was. I still don't know if it was worth the money (so much money!) and I don't know how long it will last in the inclement Scottish weather, but I am glad I went and had a look. The public are allowed to go in and wander about quite a lot of the ground floor on a daily basis. Go and have a look. It's really interesting, honest. (If you live in North America and are reading this - sorry - really boring post!)


  1. I've always intended going for a peek but never made it.

    As usual, I'm sure it'll be nowhere near as bad as the press made out.

  2. how fun! did you get to take pictures??

  3. My architect daughter says firmly that it's really good quality concrete. Hmm.

  4. The inside of the Parliament is cool. I must admit, seeing the original draft of the Scotland Act with the immortal words "There shall be a Scottish Parliament" had me all choked and patriotic. The weight of history in those few words is enormous. I'm in no way a nationalist but I realised that unlike me, my son was born into a time where Scotland has it's own parliament.

  5. Ooo How exciting! I've never been inside, I can't ever quite bring myself to get past the exterior of the building, which is pretty hideous. I'll definitely make more of an effort now though


  6. I'm in the USA and I found that very interesting. It made me want to pop over and take a look-see myself.

  7. Okay. That's it. I'm going for a look! I've been meaning to for MONTHS now but never got round to it. You've convinced me though!