Published here August 2010

Note: The Issues for Discussion at the end of this case study may require research on the Internet.

Introduction | Project Evolution | Project Concept
Planning and Organization | Design Timelines | Construction | Project Cost
Project Progress Report, March 1st 2005 | Commentary | Issues for Discussion


The following notes have been abstracted from a presentation by Mr. Crispin "Kik" Piney, PMP, at the PMI Global Congress - EMEA, Edinburgh, Scotland, in 2005.[22] Mr. Piney is a principal with, a project management consultancy based near Nice, France. His analysis from the perspective of project management is based on a few significant published accounts of the project, including Lord Peter Fraser of Carmyllie's "The Holyrood Inquiry (2004)". This inquiry was conducted at the request of the Scottish government.

According to Mr. Piney:

  1. The failures stemmed from one basic principle: the more inspiring the final goal and challenging the deadlines, the more key stakeholders are tempted to compromise on best principles of planning, management and control. In such situations, safeguards for ensuring the application of best practices must be correspondingly strengthened.
  2. Within a couple months after the 1997 general election, parliamentary figures and government agencies pressed ahead for a fast tracked project with an expectation for the building's completion by mid 1999.
  3. Dozens of people, including the Edinburgh City Council and Secretary of State for Scotland, were involved in overseeing the project but from the start it was at risk from lack of control and authority over project scope. A major difficulty arose from everyone being so keen to get going that no one took the time to plan how.
  4. The project was riddled with controversy such as choice of site, choice of architect, timing issues and escalating costs arising from unrealistic estimates. Renowned architect Enric Miralles of Spain was selected to envision the building complex. A joint venture was formed between Miralles and a Scottish architectural firm but Miralles had no experience of working in Scotland, or in working with Scottish contractors.
  5. Donald Dewar, former Secretary of State for Scotland, was the driving force. Under his leadership, the initial site of the Old Royal High School in Edinburgh was judged too restrictive in terms of space and accessibility, and the site adjacent to the Queensberry House, known as the "Holyrood site", was subsequently selected from a short list.
  6. The project then evolved from an extensive renovation of the school building at a 24.5 million estimated cost, to 34 million for a full-blown design and construction of a new building.
  7. Clearing of the Holyrood site and construction did not begin until mid 1999, around the time the proponents of the original project had expected the building to be ready for use.
  8. Consistent with large building projects, a construction management firm was hired, but their responsibility extended only to procurement of contracts. They had no responsibility for project management control, or delivery of the final product. They set to work before the building was fully designed and excessive overlap between design and construction lead to redesign and scheduling errors.
  9. The project kept going through budget reviews in parliament and each time, the cost went higher. In April 2000, parliament agreed to cap costs at 195 million, and in June 2001, members of Scottish Parliament voted to lift this cap. The project ultimately cost 431 million, with the Scottish Parliament Building finally opening its doors to parliament in September 2004.
  10. According to Lord Fraser, one civil servant hid Davis Langdon's estimates from the rest of her colleagues. The fundamental problem was putting a person in charge who had never handled a building contract. She basically said, "My budget is 55 million, and you will build it at that." She never said to the political powers that be, "I'm sorry they cannot build it for that." Moreover, professional fees and value added taxes were among the costs stripped out by the civil servants in presenting figures to parliament and other project decision makers.
  11. During the prolonged project, several project managers and project directors came and went. There appeared to be no single person with authority, so that no one could take any control actions on the project. The project manager's role appeared to be limited to reporting on the current schedule and giving new estimates on the amount of overruns. The role was more that of reporter and forecaster rather than manager or controller. Apparently at no time was the role and responsibilities of the project manager ever defined.
  12. The reports by the Auditor General of Scotland provided sound project management advice but the project team did not act upon them nor did they deal with the identified shortcomings. Even a one-day training session on program governance might have avoided some of the problem areas.

The project was not without drama. Both Mr. Miralles, the project's famed architect, and Mr. Dewar, a key figure in the project and ultimately the client, died in 2000 without seeing the fruits of their labors.

Project Progress Report, March 1st 2005  Project Progress Report, March 1st 2005

22. Abstracted from Plan Has Merit - It costs: A Project Manager Analyzes the Construction of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, PMI Global Congress- EMEA, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2005
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