Scotsman, United Kingdom — 12/03/2005
The twists and curves of the Scottish Parliament building have earned praise and ridicule in almost equal measure.
But one group who have been delighted with Catalan architect Enric Miralles extravagant design are the city’s young BMX bikers and skateboarders – who have adopted it as a play park.
They have discovered that the curved walls and landscaped gardens of the £431 million building are perfect for stunts and tricks.
The Holyrood site has become an alternative attraction to the popular skaters’ haunt of Bristo Square in the evenings.
Unfortunately the visitors have left their mark. The walls beside the main visitor entrance have become heavily marked with rubber from bike tyres which have also churned up the gardens.
The problems have arisen despite a police ban on skateboarding and cycling in the landscaped area, which was finally and belatedly opened in the summer.
Mark Thomson, spokesman for the Edinburgh Skatepark Project, said the walls were ideal for bikers performing tricks.
He said: “The last time I was down at Holyrood I noticed someone riding along the walls of the building with a pretty beefy bike. The marks are made when the tyres slide down the wall just before you jump off.”
The lack of a purpose-built skatepark near the city centre and problems at Bristo Square had driven skateboarders to Holyrood, according to Richard Roberts, of the campaign group Skateboard Scotland.
He said: “There’s no doubt some people are just avoiding Bristo Square now as they see it is a no-go area because of all the jakeys that are there now.
“The Scottish Parliament is a great place to go for a change of scene.”
Parliament chiefs said the marks on the building would be cleaned off later this month as part of an annual operation costing almost £750.
A parliament spokesman said: “The area in front of the parliament building is a public area.
“As long as there is no health and safety issue or risk of damage to the building, we would have no objection or reason to report anything to the police. To date skateboarders and BMX bikes have not been a major issue.”
Lothian and Borders Police said officers will move anyone skating or riding BMXs in the landscaped area outside the building because of “the potential for damage to be caused to the building and also noise disturbance”.
Bill Aitken, chief whip for the Scottish Tory group in the parliament, said: “On the one hand it is good to see people getting their value for money out of the parliament by using it for something like this.
“However, on a more serious note the parliament was not designed for this kind of thing and people should be skateboarding and riding BMX bikes where it is safe to do so.
“The last thing the taxpayer needs is for damage to be done through something like this.”
Rosemary Mann, convener of the Edinburgh Old Town Association, said: “I’m not surprised to hear about this at all. If you create a landscaped area like this then people are going to use it.”
Old Town councillor Bill Cunnigham said: “If there is a problem with this then it’s the parliament’s problem to try to sort out.”
It certainly sounds like the Scots are being more civilised about this than a British council would be.