£170k to replace Parliament’s old sound system

Holyrood's committee rooms are experiencing sound difficulties. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
Holyrood's committee rooms are experiencing sound difficulties. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
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HOLYROOD bosses are to spend £170,000 to replace the sound system in the Scottish Parliament’s committee rooms.

Work to install new microphones and consoles is due to start during the MSPs’ Easter break and be completed in the summer recess.

But today independent Lothian MSP Margo MacDonald warned the huge sum could be just the first of many big bills for renewal work on the building as it reaches its tenth anniversary.

The parliament said the sound system, installed before the building opened in 2004, had reached the end of its useful life and spare parts were no longer available.

The Holyrood building cost a total of £414 million – more than ten times the originally quoted estimate.

But Ms MacDonald said when she had been raising concerns during its construction, experts had warned her that work would be needed on the building within a decade or so.

She said: “I was advised that in about ten years’ time there would be fairly major refurbishment of the place needing done.

“And certainly there does seem to be quite a lot of refurbishing work being carried out recently.”

During the half-term break last month, contractors were at work in the parliament, replacing lights in the debating chamber and refurbishing wooden flooring, window surrounds and timber louvres.

Maintenance work was also being carried out on hot water systems, external lighting and lifts.

Ms MacDonald said: “The building is high cost and high maintenance. I think we can expect a constant treadmill of bills to keep the place looking the way it should.

“With some things it’s because the wrong specifications were used and they have had many more people using the building than was allowed for.

“In other places, there was a rush to get it finished and the workmanship at the end was maybe not just as good as it should have been.”

The spending on the new system was also questioned by former Scottish Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott.

He said: “I’ve never been aware of any problems with the sound system in the committee rooms. A very full justification for spending taxpayers’ money on a new system will need to be provided.”

A parliament spokeswoman said: “The committee room sound system is now 12 years old and has come to the end of its functional life. The manufacturer no longer supports this technology and spare parts cannot be sourced. As the equipment is critical to parliamentary business, it will be replaced later this year.”

She said staff were having to do “running repairs”.

“The system is routinely tested prior to the start of a meeting. There have been a number of occasions when as a result of this testing a meeting has been moved to a different room.”

SPENDING UP FOR DEBATE

THE latest refit at the Scottish Parliament is for the sound system in the committee rooms, but three years ago the debating chamber was closed for most of the summer for a new sound and voting system, including touchscreen consoles, to be installed at a cost of £280,000.

Holyrood bosses said the original system – which had been in use for less than seven years - had reached the end of its useful life and spare parts were no longer available.

The work meant the chamber could not be used as usual for the annual Festival of Politics.

But contractors had to be called back less than two months later after problems were identified with the new system.