Scottish National Gallery overhaul runs into trouble

The £16.8 million project to overhaul the Scottish National Gallery has been hit by delay and budget problems before work is even underway, it emerged today.

The new-look Scottish National Gallery was due open to the public in 2019.
The new-look Scottish National Gallery was due open to the public in 2019.

The National Galleries of Scotland has been forced to halt the start of the project until later this year due to significant complications with the planned construction programme.

Officials have admitted that investigations over the last six months have revealed that the project, which will extend the gallery complex into Princes Street Gardens and triple the amount of space devoted to Scottish art treausures, will be “potentially more expensive to implement than originally anticipated.”

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The problems have emerged days before the project, which is being bankrolled by the Scottish Government and the Heritage Lottery Fund, was due to get underway.

A statement issued by the National Galleries today said: “Work on the construction of new galleries was due to start in March. However, there will now be a delay of several months to the full start on site.

“For the past six months we have been working with our main contractor Interserve on the detailed designs and various tender packages for the building work.

“It has become clear that some elements around the delivery of the construction work are more complex and potentially more expensive to implement than was originally anticipated.

“We therefore have to carry out some value engineering in the coming months in order to streamline some parts of the construction and bring the plans into line with our budget.

“In practice this means that we will be re-examining some of the specifications and construction methods for aspects of the design to ensure that the project stays within cost.

“Until this work on value engineering is complete we will not have a confirmed date for the start of construction but we are hopeful that we can begin work on site later this year. We will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure that there is minimal disruption to The Mound precinct during construction work.

“In the meantime, the Scottish National Gallery remains open as usual and the highlights of the Scottish collection are on display to the public.”

The National Galleries of Scotland had pledged that “cramped, dingy and unpleasant” exhibition spaces would be consigned to history with the overhaul of the attraction.

It revealed that less than 20 per cent of its visitors ventured into the “dead end” of the complex on The Mound in Edinburgh to see masterpieces by leading Scottish artists like Allan Ramsay, Sir Henry Raeburn, Alexander Nasmyth and Phoebe Anna Traquair.