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Assembly Building

Volume 98: debated on Wednesday 4 June 1986

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asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland what area of the Scottish Assembly building in Edinburgh is currently used by him, by the Lord Advocate and by their staff.

As I have indicated previously to the hon. Gentleman, Crown Office buildings are fully occupied as office accommodation with the exception of the debating chamber, a lobby and a press room.

Is it not an absolute national scandal that the debating chamber of the Scottish Assembly building is lying empty and unused for most of the time because this Tory Government are refusing to respond to the legitimate demands of the majority of the people of Scotland, who want a democratically elected Scottish Assembly instead of being ruled by an undemocratic Tory junta which has received no mandate from the people of Scotland?

The chamber would have been much better used if a number of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues had attended the last time the Scottish Grand Committee held its meeting there. As part of a Government who have done more than any of their predecessors to reform the private law of Scotland since 1979, in my view we are much better to concentrate our efforts on that than to waste months of parliamentary time putting together another unworkable scheme.

Does my hon and learned Friend agree that the lack of interest shown by the Scottish people in the meetings of the Scottish Grand Committee that have taken place in Edinburgh, and the lack of attendance of Labour Members, which was referred to by my hon. and learned Friend, and of other Opposition Members shows clearly that the debating chamber is best left empty for most of the time?

Certainly, there has not been much of a turn-out recently either of hon. Members or of the public, although in the past we have taken the oportunity of using the Scottish Grand Committee meetings in Edinburgh to put forward the legislation and the reform of which I have already made mention.

Does the Solicitor-General agree that if the Royal High school building was used for a Scottish Assembly it might generate more interest among his colleagues than is witnessed today by the lack of interest in this place, where not one Scottish Conservative Member has a question on the Order Paper?

Attendance at meetings of the Scottish Grand Committee in Edinburgh has been thin, as the hon. Gentleman will have noticed if he has been there. If he wants to encourage greater use of the building, I am sure he knows how to set about it.

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that, rather than go through the farce of wasting vast sums of public money on running the Scottish Grand Committee meetings in that building, it would be better to sell it and use the resources on the Health Service or on something useful in Scotland, given that his Department survived without it in the past, and as the people of Scotland certainly do not want a Scottish Assembly?

Much as I appreciate the architecture of the Royal High school building in Edinburgh, as Solicitor-General I believe that the sooner we can move out of it and return to a proper Crown Office, the better.

Will the Solicitor-General expand on that last remark? He appeared to support the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) and his scheme. Is that the Solicitor-General's personal view? Will he note that the Opposition are strongly in favour of continuing the present practice of meeting in Edinburgh as a prelude to the day when we have a Scottish Assembly properly established there?

I thought that I said clearly that at present the Crown Office occupies the greater part of the building. As a lawyer, the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that Crown Office activities are to some extent separated not only from the Court of Session and the High Court, but from the sheriff court in Edinburgh. It would be much more appropriate for my Department to be closer to those courts. There are a number of possibilities for the future use of the building, but I certainly would not suggest that it would be right to use it for a Scottish Assembly.