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Scottish Parliament

Love it or hate it, the Scottish Parliament building is one of Scotland's most unusual contemporary buildings.

View from the rear of the Main Debating Chamber
The Main Debating Chamber © Scottish Parliament

It was built to house the 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) following the creation of a Scottish government and devolution of power to Scotland from Westminster in 1997.

Front of Main Parliament Building
Front Of Main Parliament Building © AboutBritain.com

Front of Building
Front of Building © AboutBritain.com

The original Scottish Parliament began in the 13th century and lasted until 1707, when the Kingdoms of Scotland and England merged under the Acts of Union and became the Parliament of Great Britain.

The new Scottish Parliament is not one, but several buildings which stand at the bottom of the Royal Mile.

Significantly, it stands next to Holyrood Park, the royal residence where the Queen entertains in an official capacity.

After many delays and overrunning the original £50 million budget by a further £364 million, the Scottish Parliamentary building was opened by the Queen in October 2004.

In 2005, the building received the Stirling Prize from the Royal Institute of British Architects.

The Architecture of the Scottish Parliament  

The Scottish Parliament building was designed by Spanish architect Enric Miralles.

He drew inspiration from the upturned boats along the coast and from the surrounding landscape, intending the building to "arise from the sloping base of Arthur's Seat and arrive into the city almost surging out of the rock".

View to side of Main Parliament Building
View To Side Of Main Parliament Building © AboutBritain.com

Miralles unfortunately died before the construction was completed, and the project was overseen by his wife.

Grass at front of Parliament Building
Grass At Front Of Parliament Building © AboutBritain.com

Many people argued against the cost and upheaval caused by constructing a new parliament building when many large older buildings in Edinburgh remained unoccupied.

Back of Main Parliament Building
Back Of Main Parliament Building © AboutBritain.com

However, the new building was able to encapsulate everything Scottish, even down to the thistle doorknockers, the national symbol of Scotland.

Night time view of Garden Lobby Roof
Night Time View Of Garden Lobby Roof © Scottish Parliament

The Old and The New

A lintel from the original 1707 Parliament building was incorporated into the new parliament doorway as a symbolic gesture and is called the Arniston Stone.

Interior view of Garden Lobby
Garden Lobby © Scottish Parliament

To counter modern-day terrorism, the building was designed to be blastproof.

As well as the hi-tech debating chamber with a public gallery, there are committee rooms, a garden foyer and the offices of the MSPs and their staff.

The complex also includes the newly restored Queensbury house, a Grade A listed building dating back to 1697.

Side view of building with Salisbury Crags in background
Side View With Salisbury Crags In Background © Scottish Parliament

Throughout the Canongate building there are 26 quotations and excerpts from Scottish poetry and literature carved into the stonework.

The three dimensional effect on the exterior of the building is due to projecting window seats which allow the MSPs to sit "outside" the building.

Small committee room
Small Committee Room © Scottish Parliament

The public foyer has concrete columns and a low ceiling decorated with impressions of the saltire (the cross on the Scottish flag). Critics say it feels like a cathedral crypt.

The garden hall includes the reception, information area, shop, cafeteria and facilities for school party visits.

Closeup of MSP block
Closeup Of MSP Block © Scottish Parliament
Poetry at Queensberry House
Poetry At Queensberry House © Scottish Parliament

Visiting the Scottish Parliament 

As well as housing the MSPs, the Scottish Parliament building is open to the public with free admission.

It is well worth exploring this fascinating Catalan designed contemporary building.

Garden Lobby Roof by day
Garden Lobby Roof By Day © Scottish Parliament
Window Seat
Window Seat © Scottish Parliament

Learn about Scottish political history, watch the live parliamentary debates and take a free tour to appreciate the architecture of Edinburgh's most distinctive modern building.

Once you have taken the tour and explored the exhibits, you may want to linger over refreshments in the cafeteria and discuss the merits and flaws of this controversial building for yourself!


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The Scottish Parliament building is located in the Holyrood area of central Edinburgh at the foot of the Royal Mile, on Horse Wynd, opposite the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

By Bus:

Lothian Buses 35 (nearest stop Canongate) and 6 (nearest stop Horse Wynd)

By Train:

Nearest station: Edinburgh Waverley (15 minute walk)

By Road:

The nearest car parks are Dynamic Earth (behind the Parliament), St John's Hill, amd adjacent to Waverley Station (via New Street).

By Cycle:

The nearest public cycle racks are located next to the Holyrood Lodge house building on Horse Wynd.

Scottish Parliament Postcode for SatNav: EH99 1SP


0131 348 5000

EH99 1SP

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