Taxpayers hit with £550k Holyrood roofing bill

TAXPAYERS have been landed with a £550,000 bill for new fittings on the roof of the Scottish Parliament so abseilers can attach their ropes while they carry out cleaning or maintenance.

The roof will be modified.Picture: Scottish Parliament
The roof will be modified.Picture: Scottish Parliament

Problems with the existing anchor points were discovered three years ago when a ­workman found one of them was wobbly.

But the firm which installed them has gone out of business so there is no hope of recovering the costs of replacement.

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New roof access systems have already been installed on the MSP block and the grassed canopies.

And parliament officials have been working with a safety engineer and design specialist to decide what to do for other roofs and facades across the complex.

A report to the cross-party management group, the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB), warned that restrictions on access for workmen means increased risk to contractors working at height, increased costs because work takes longer and a risk of ­reputational damage because of the deterioration of the external fabric.

The problem fixings first came to light when a workman hooked his safety harness on to the anchor point and it moved. Further investigation was said to have revealed it seemed to be held on with “a rusty screw”.

An immediate ban was placed on using any of the ­anchor points while a full check was carried out on the other 200 similar fittings across the Holyrood campus.

The parliament was forced to bring in cherry-picker ­mobile platforms to allow workmen to access key parts of the controversial £414 million building.

Although the parliament believes the fault lies with the contractor, the company which installed the anchor points – roofing firm Coverite – has now gone out of business, leaving the taxpayer to pick up the tab.

The SPCB report said that while there were a variety of roof access systems available for standard roof constructions, the “bespoke nature” of the roofs at Holyrood roofs meant any solution would have to be tested in a laboratory.

Lothian Conservative MSP Cameron Buchanan said the problem highlighted the complex nature of the Holyrood building.

He said: “It just shows the over-spec of the parliament. Maintenance costs are ­astronomical. Sadly, this will just make the public even more ­cynical about the Scottish Parliament.”

Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone said the massive bill was unfortunate, but unavoidable in the circumstances. She said: “We have to make sure those carrying out this difficult work are as safe as possible. The parliament has to be a safe building. Now we need to make sure it is repaired properly and is robust.”

The parliament said the new system would be a cost effective for maintaining the long-term life of the building.