Despite its controversial design, the home of Scottish democracy enjoys a huge amount of visitors, largely thanks to its free guided tours
Set at the foot of the Royal Mile, across the road from the Queen’s official residence in Edinburgh at Holyrood Palace and in the shadow of Salisbury Crags, the Scottish Parliament Building was opened in 2004 following a fraught five-year construction period.
The decision to build a Scottish Parliament building was taken after the country was granted its own devolved administrative powers by London’s Westminster government in 1998, and the architect chosen to design the building was the Catalan Enric Miralles, a controversial selection at the time given his lack of Scots heritage. Scheduled to open in 2001, budget overruns and construction delays actually caused the Parliament’s opening to be put on hold until 2004, with the project achieving something of a white elephant status in the national press at the time. However, since its construction it’s proven to be both an efficient seat of government and a popular tourist attraction, noted by many for its architectural significance and features. Miralles, who died before the project was completed, intended that when viewed from Salisbury Crags the building would call to mind an upturned fishing boat, a callback to Scotland’s fishing heritage.
Outside of Parliamentary recess times the building is accessible to the public, both for those who wish to view the democratic process at work in the debating chamber and at committee meetings, and for those who simply wish to visit the building and enjoy a free guided tour. The Parliament also hosts regular, publicly accessible exhibitions in its foyer, and the Festival of Politics during the Edinburgh Festival in August. Note that airport-style security checks are in operation at the doors.
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