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Committee room earings

THE Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood certainly had a difficult birth.

It opened more than three years behind schedule, at a final cost that wildly exceeded initial estimates. Despite that, the nation's enfant terrible has, over the first decade of its life, begun to win over many of its critics.

The opening debate, held in the main chamber on September 7, 2004, resonated throughout the world. Now, though, it seems our MSPs are struggling to make themselves heard in the committee rooms. The sound system in these six rooms has reached the end of its "functional life" and spare parts are no longer available. Work to install new microphones and consoles is to start during the MSPs' Easter break.

The building is, according to Independent MSP Margo MacDonald, "high cost and high maintenance" and she warned that we should expect a steady stream of bills. Indeed, last month saw lighting in the debating chamber being replaced and wooden flooring refurbished. Holyrood is vital to the nation, and it is important that no corners are cut. The need to keep costs under control, however, should not be up for debate,

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