Saturday, November 17, 2007

Trip to Edinburgh

After visiting many places around the globe, I finally visited Edinburgh and saw this historic city and capital of Scotland for the first time. The city itself has a wonderful vista with Arthur’s seat and the Castle along with Pentland hills overlooking the city.

During my time in Edinburgh, I visited the Scottish Parliament building designed by the late Spanish architect Morales. This controversial upturned boat designed building (build on a maritime theme reflecting Edinburgh’s great tradition as a port) ran significantly over budget and came in at over £400 million. Despite my support for devolution, the Parliament building itself is a truly hideous design and not in keeping with the surrounding area, how this design ever came to fruition is beyond my comprehension. Whilst the inside is not so bad and does have some more redeeming features then the outside, it would certainly not be a building I would regard as a modern architectural masterpiece.

In terms of Scottish politics, the first budget from the minority SNP administration was announced last week. Within the budget, it included a three-year freeze in Council Tax but also u-turns on commitments made in their manifesto including class sizes and university tuition fees. The SNP of course has blamed this on a lack of funding by the Westminster government. Alex Salmond is a very canny politician and any promise he cannot deliver will be blamed on Westminster. This is despite a generous block grant settlement from London. At the end of the day, they’re pushing for a referendum on independence and over the next few years, we are bound to have more of these arguments. The real truth is that the SNP promises did not add up in the first place, having spent their while time in opposition they're are now having to take difficult decisions’ and it's proving to be a major challenge for them.

One of the other places I visited was the Royal Yacht Britannia. At Leith, this has been made into a tourist attraction and it was worth visiting. Looking back it's hard to believe that it was in service until ten years ago - it seemed like a bygone age. The ship itself was opulent especially the royal quarters. The staff quarters were primitive to say the least except if you were of a senior rank. While there was a time and a place for Britannia and other royal ships; given the number of staff needed to run it while the royals were on board (300) it was an extravagance. However, it did represent as well Britain at its finest and with the many receptions held throughout the Queen's reign on board for visiting world leaders along with other dignitaries it was a great advert for Britain.


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