Brian Monteith: It’s not worth all this hassle

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How long will it be before the upkeep of our Holyrood parliament costs more than a million a year? Ten years, 20?

Actually, by my reckoning, it should be no more than five, possibly even two, just before the referendum when we’ll be asked to give its inhabitants more powers.

You don’t have to be an architect or a quantity surveyor to realise that if it was costing £400,000 to maintain the building in 2010 and next year the parliament authorities want to budget £685,000 – that’s a staggering increase of 71 per cent in two years. If that rate of growth is maintained we can expect it to be costing £1.1 million in two years time and certainly more than £1m in five years.

You can say what you think about how it looks – and people either love or hate the monstrosity – but the fact that it is hugely expensive to maintain is beyond dispute. I cannot think of a building that costs so much year after year. Some buildings need renovated every 30 years, maybe a new roof, maybe new windows, but half a million and rising year on year?

Maybe some helpful Edinburgh architect could tell us if there’s a modern building costing that much in upkeep in the capital city?

Scottish taxpayers were taken for mugs by Donald Dewar, Kirsty Wark and the other champions of the Enric Miralles design – and the cost can only go up. The whole cost, salaries included, is now a staggering £75m a year.

It was only last month that some of the panels were found to be dangerous and now need re-hung. I also said at the time they were installed that the varnished oak rods that appear spaghetti-like over the entrance canopy (before the entrance was permanently moved due to its security inadequacies) will require sanding and re-varnishing on a regular basis.

At least the Forth Bridge serves a purpose – the rods of oak give no shelter and are just an expensive affectation without structural or even decorative merit.

Of course, the maintenance bill is not the end of it, we also heard this week of a barmy idea to add a new security hall on the front of the building – for even the second-choice entrance is apparently still not up to scratch – although it is unclear how. So we’ll get a new protrusion sitting like a boil on the front face of the dark, leaking and uncomfortable-to-work in mausoleum to political egos.

I’d tell you how much the fancy conservatory will cost but MSPs have not yet been told yet – it’s all hush-hush for the moment – but it won’t stay privileged information for ever.

What we do know is it won’t be cheap. Security precautions to put bollards and benches across the entrance cost an amazing £2m just a year ago, so an extension is going to be more than your average Everest or CR Smith job.

Ringing out

IT appears that the Scottish Parliament is not the only institution that has no sense of cost. Another scandal was revealed when an application to put the five Olympic rings across the front of Edinburgh Castle was brought to this paper’s attention.

Lord Coe, whom I have grown to like and respect for his achievements in the dark world of sports officialdom, has got this one wrong, I’m afraid. Having some jumbo-sized cast aluminium rings in the five Olympic colours attached to Edinburgh Castle and other venues across the United Kingdom (such as Cardiff Castle or Stormont) will do nothing to build harmony here or make us feel that the 2012 London Olympics is any closer.

Quite the reverse, it will annoy people, be it for the public-sponsored graffiti or the sheer waste of public funds when folk are losing their jobs.

The Olympics are held by cities, not nations, and if Lord Coe wants to build greater harmony towards the games here’s three ideas . . .

Forget the five rings and pay the salaries for half a dozen (or more) PE teachers in Scottish schools for a year. That would do far more good for kids and help introduce them to the joys of countless sports.

Or trash the rings idea and instead distribute the same amount of money amongst the three best bids put together by amateur sports clubs in Scotland.

If that’s too much like hard work, why not use the same amount of money to take as many Scottish school kids as possible to the London Olympics for a day?

I could come up with more schemes but my point is simple – never mind disfiguring Edinburgh Castle and getting on people’s goat, save the money and help bring some real benefit to Scotland and Scottish sport in particular.

There’s obviously a budget for those infernal rings and it has to be spent somehow (public budgets always have to be spent, remember) so put it to good use instead of making people less harmonious than ever.

Oh, and if it does go ahead we need to find a use for those five rings afterwards. Maybe we could put them across the front of parliament as security devices? Better than tank traps I’d reckon.