Chief executive says contractor should have threatened to ‘up sticks’ during construction of Scottish parliament

Bovis Lend Lease ought to have threatened to quit the £431m Scottish parliament scheme during its construction, according to the boss of the firm.

Adrian Chamberlain, Lend Lease’s chief executive for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said the contractor ought to have stood its ground when it became clear that the contract was unlikely to be completed on time or to budget.

In an interview with Building, Chamberlain, who joined Lend Lease from telecoms firm Cable & Wireless last October, said: “There were times when we could have been tougher than we were. We repeatedly told people that the cost estimates were in jeopardy and that the constant changes by the client were threatening the integrity of the scheme. We never threatened to up sticks, never took them by the lapels or slapped them round a bit to create a crisis. Possibly, with hindsight, we should have done.”

Chamberlain said the company would “inevitably” take on similar prestigious jobs again but would need to show “more aggressive intervention earlier”.

He said: “That’s not a criticism at all of the management on the ground but a criticism of us generally in assessing what we were doing and supporting people on the ground. We did everything you would reasonably expect us to do.”

Chamberlain added that the Bovis team on the scheme did a “fantastic job”.

We never took took anyone by the lapels or slapped them

Adrian Chamberlain

He said: “We strongly believe we have delivered an iconic building, which will be recognised when the short-term controversy subsides.”

Chamberlain’s comments follow the publication of a report on the parliament, which was officially opened by the Queen in October.

The report, by the office of the independent civil service commissioner, cleared the civil servants involved in procuring and managing the scheme of misconduct. He said they had acted in good faith.

But the author of the report, Alistair Macdonald, a civil service commissioner, did criticise the handling of key aspects of the project. He accused civil servants of making “rose-tinted” judgments, of breaching European Union procurement rules and of lacking transparency. He also questioned whether the civil servants possessed the skills to oversee such a scheme.