Safety checks at Scottish Parliament urged


By Kirsty Topping

The granite slab became detached from one of the building’s towers

HOLYROOD bosses were urged to carry out safety checks to the Scottish Parliament building after a slab of granite became detached from the building.

The stonework, which made up part of the wall of one of the Parliament’s towers, came close to crashing through the roof of the MSP’s restaurant.

Parliament officials said that structural engineers had decided there was a

“low risk’ of similar incidents, but admitted that had not yet determined what had caused the 98lb panel to become detached.

Abseillers removed the stone on Monday afternoon, hours after the problem was first spotted.

The incident is being compared to the 2006 incident where a loose beam in the debating chamber put it out of bounds for six months while the remaining beams were checked.

Independent Lothians MSP Margo Macdonald said:

“I hope this panel’s fall from grace doesn’t imply an inspection of every single panel, but knowing the history of the building I wouldn’t be surprised.

“If that’s the case, can a thorough inspection for safety be carried out before the Queen comes to open the fourth session of the parliament? “

The Queen will visit the parliament on July 1.

Parliament sources said they could not rule out the need for a full inspection of the estimated 1000 granite panels.

Architectural expert Peter Wilson of Edinburgh’s Napier University said such an exercise would be

“elaborate and time consuming’ and would require specialist workmen to abseil down the walls and insert camera probes behind the stonework.

“It’s not easy to get at these things and it would cost a fair bit of money,’ he said.

“It would be a culmulative thing over a period of time if there was wind pressure pulling the stone away from the fixing or the fixing out of the wall. “

He said that a blemish in the stone or poor workmanship could be to blame.

“With any kind of natural material you are always looking for a variation in the material itself to be the likely cause of a problem,’ he said.

“At the time there was such a rush to get it finished, there might have been the odd fixing on the stonework that wasn’t precise. “

A parliament spokeswoman said structural engineers were now examining the panel and they expected to know more later in the week.

She said:

“We are monitoring cladding panels, through daily visual checks, as a precaution.

“Our structural engineers confirmed today that there is a low risk of similar detachments. “

In 2007 a chunk of masonry fell at the front entrance of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly Hall, just hours before Prince Andrew, Alex Salmond and Edinburgh’s Lord Provost George Grubb passed underneath.