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And the 267-page Holyrood report concludes.. A BIG CIVIL SERVANT DID IT AND RAN AWAY.

Byline: Paul Sinclair

CIVIL servants were to blame for the Holyrood fiasco, Lord Fraser said yesterday.

His 267-page report into why the Scottish Parliament building costs soared to over pounds 400million was finally published - claiming the mandarins, not MSPs, were at fault.

But no one is set to take a fall for the disaster which embarrassed Scotland.

Top civil servant Sir Muir Russell has quit to take up a post at Glasgow University. AndPolitical Editor Barbara Doig and Bill Armstrong, who failed as project directors, will still pick up lucrative civil service pensions.

Lord Fraser said the choice of contract doomed the Holyrood project from the very start.

Civil servants, led by Sir Muir, chose a construction management contract without understanding what it meant. The move left all the risk with the public purse and none with the builders.

After 49 days of evidence and 63 witnesses, the inquiry found ministers, including the late Donald Dewar, had not been consulted by officials on key questions.

Lord Fraser concluded: 'The selection of construction management was the single factor to which most of the misfortunes that have befallen the project can be attributed. It verges on the embarrassing to conclude, as I do, that virtually none of the key questions about construction management was asked.'

Lord Fraser was also damning of the original pounds 40million budget for the building, claiming it 'never had any basis in reality'.

He said: 'The figure of between pounds 40million and pounds 50million originally put before the public was never going to be sufficient.'

He said project managers Armstrong and Doig took decisions without involving politicians.

Fraser added: 'No consideration appears to have been given to the involvement of Ministers in the decision to adopt construction management or even the possibility of informing them of it.

'They had no glimmer of understanding of where the risk would lie.'

Fraser cleared Dewar of misleading MSPs on costs but criticised him for being in too much of a hurry to press ahead. He was also sympathetic to the late architect, Barcelona-based Enric Miralles.

He concluded: 'Tempting as it is to lay all the blame at the door of a deceased wayward Spanish architectural genius ... costs rose because the client wanted increases and changes.'

Fraser said that whenever a choice had to be made between cost and quality, quality was preferred.

He also criticised building firm, Bovis, who, he said, were wrongly put back on the shortlist having been excluded for being too expensive.

Sir Muir was believed to be at a conference abroad yesterday.

MSPs are to debate the Fraser report next Wednesday.

CAPTION(S):

MANDARIN: Sir Muir Russell; RAPPED: Bill Armstrong
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 16, 2004
Words:443
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