Critics unite to condemn loss of Parliament Hall

Land reform campaigner ''Andy Wightman on George IV Bridge with Parliament Hall in the background. Picture: Jon Savage
Land reform campaigner ''Andy Wightman on George IV Bridge with Parliament Hall in the background. Picture: Jon Savage
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POLITICIANS and heritage groups have lined up to condemn the city council for “losing” one of the nation’s most historic buildings and demand it be returned to the people of Edinburgh.

Parliament Hall, the original purpose-built parliamentary building in the UK, was built by the people of Edinburgh in the 17th century and managed by the council as part of the “common good” account.

But as revealed in yesterday’s News, ownership of the building was awarded to the Scottish Government and in 2006 transferred to the Faculty of Advocates after officials at Edinburgh City Council failed to assert the city’s rights.

Now opposition councillors are demanding to know how the legal blunder was made and Green MSP Alison Johnstone has written to Local Government Minister Marco Biagi and will raise the issue in Holyrood.

Green councillor Gavin Corbett said: “I have repeatedly raised concerns about the quality of the council’s common good management at finance committee and this monumental cock-up suggests that chickens have come home to roost. I’ve already written seeking an urgent meeting with finance convener Alasdair Rankin with the aim of getting Parliament House back.”

Land reform campaigner Andy Wightman was investigating the ownership of the building, which sits behind St Giles’ Cathedral, when he discovered the legal gaffe.

He said: “The council didn’t even know that it no longer owned it. It just realised one day that something had gone very horribly wrong. Quite why remains unclear since the history of the building is very well documented.”

Independent councillor Jim Orr said he would raise the issue with the council’s scrutiny committee. He said: “The people of Edinburgh need to be reassured that the city’s Common Good Fund is being properly managed by the council.

“Several members of the scrutiny committee have expressed concerns about these new reports around Parliament House and the committee will meet informally this week to establish the facts and discuss the action that we need to take.”

The council refused to add anything more to its original statement that it is “aware of this issue” and has “raised it with the Scottish Government and the Scottish Court Service.”

gdavidson@edinburghnews.com