Bute House repairs: costs

Breakdown of costs for repair work carried out at the official residence of the First Minister of Scotland in 2023.

Bute house, the official residence of the First Minister of Scotland, was closed between April 2023 and September 2023 for essential repair work. Details and costs of this work are below.

Bute House background

Bute House is central to the category A listed buildings to the north side of Charlotte Square, Edinburgh. Charlotte Square features in James Craig's 1776 masterplan for the New Town of Edinburgh with designs for the facades by Robert Adam. The square was constructed between 1793 and 1805 and is now part of a World Heritage Site.

Following devolution in 1999, Bute House was designated as the official residence for the First Minister. The building, which was previously used as the official residence for the Secretary of State for Scotland, is also used for Cabinet meetings, official engagements, receptions and meetings.

Bute House is owned by the National Trust for Scotland and the cost of the annual lease paid to National Trust for Scotland is £80,000 per year plus VAT. Under the terms of the lease, Scottish Government is liable for all costs of repairs and maintenance.

The conservation and care of Bute House is delivered through partnership and collaboration between the Scottish Government, Historic Environment Scotland (HES), National Galleries of Scotland, National Trust for Scotland (NTS) and the Bute House Advisory Trust.

Bute House closure for repairs

Two routine surveys carried out in 2021 identified the need for essential internal and external repairs: internal fire compartmentalisation work; and external stone work repairs, and window maintenance. Under the terms of the Bute House lease, the Scottish Government is required to mitigate the impact of building dilapidation and therefore designed a programme of works to address issues identified in both surveys.

Essential internal fire compartmentation works

A routine fire compartmentation survey was carried out in June 2021 to establish compliance with relevant statutory fire safety obligations, and to recommend any required remedial actions. An additional specialist fire compartmentalisation survey was carried out in May 2022, resulting in recommendations for internal works to improve fire safety.

‘Compartmentation’ is an approach to passive fire protection that: keeps a fire contained in one place; slows down and limits the spread of fire and smoke; and protects escape routes. The survey established that minimum fire safety requirements were met by existing risk mitigations, however, also recommended that specific compartmentalisation measures were put in place.

A tender package for the essential fire safety improvement work was commissioned by Scottish Government, and the works were competitively tendered by Mitie.

Internal works were carried out during the six month closure were as follows:

  • compartmentalisation materials (passive fire protection) were inserted in the open shaft that runs beside the internal lift
  • compartmentalisation materials (passive fire protection) were inserted in the suspended ceilings in the basement area (which house cables and pipework)
  • fire protection for doors was upgraded throughout the building (particularly important where doors open onto the original open stairwell)
  • two fire rated replacement doors were fitted in the basement and ground floor

The table below shows a summary of cost of the fire compartmentalisation with a lay description of the works.

Essential internal fire compartmentation works: description


General matters: schedule of works design, internal house protection of and coverings; site management plans; and project conclusion works.


Compartmentation/fire related works: including original door refurbishment and fire safety upgrades (in line with conservation advice) such as smoke seals; installation of passive fire protection in the lift shaft via access points across four floors; and installation of passive fire protection in false ceiling area, and lift machinery room.


Installation of two partially glazed fire rated doors (ground floor vestibule and basement areas).


Electrician costs: charges for connecting and disconnecting electrical devices to enable works.


Painting and decorating costs following works: painting of fire rated doors, frames and facings; painting and ‘making good’ of areas across four floors adjacent to lift shaft following disruption caused by contractors creating access to the lift shaft.


Floor covering: like for like replacement of vinyl floor covering to second floor kitchen.


Professional fees: works specific fire compartmentation survey; fire suppression system review; architectural services; building surveying services; construction phase contractor administrator fees; and asbestos survey.


Total contractor cost


Mitie project management Fee @ 10%


VAT @ 20%


Total cost


Essential external stonework and roof repairs, and window maintenance

A routine specialist technical stonework survey, which included consideration of associated roof leadwork and roof tiles was carried out in August and September 2021. Whilst the stonework was in reasonably good condition for a building that is over 200 years old, defects were identified across the front and rear elevations and across the roof. In addition, extensive repair and maintenance work was identified in relation to the gutters and downpipes. The least intrusive option for carrying out stone work repairs was the construction of a full scaffold at the front and back of the building.

Evidence collected during the stonework survey showed that although the windows were still in serviceable condition overall, 17 of the 29 traditional sash and case windows required repairs, and all 29 windows required full painting (internally and externally) to protect the wood from decay. The repairs ensured the windows are fully functional for ventilation, and carrying out the window refurbishment whilst the scaffold was in place offered efficiency savings.

A tender package for the stonework and associated window refurbishment was  commissioned by Scottish Government Workplace Division, and the works were competitively tendered by Mitie.

The following external repairs were completed during the closure of the house:

  • repairs to cracking of the elaborate and decorative stonework on the front of the building
  • previous repairs to cracking of the stonework has had an impact on the ‘lintels’ (stone blocks above the windows) and ‘rybats’ (stone blocks to the side of the windows) to the front and the back of the building
  • extensive repair and maintenance for the rainwater collection pipes (gutters and downpipes) serving the four storey building
  • exploration of the slates on the roof, and specialist assessment of the slates which were estimated to be approximately 100 years old. Existing slates were reused where possible, and replacement slates were sourced from within Scotland
  • traditional Mastic (comprising burnt sand and linseed oil) provides the seal between the timber sash and case windows and the surrounding masonry in Bute House. The external mastic was either defective or missing from the majority of windows to the front and rear of Bute House and replaced to prevent water ingress, and associated window timber decay
  • the lead work on the roof around the cupola, and the lead ‘flashings’ preventing water ingress around stonework seams and joints has reached the end of serviceable life and was replaced.
  • full replacement of the glass cupula due to its age and condition
  • repair and refurbishment of 17 sash and case windows and painting of 19 sash and case windows

The table below shows a summary of cost of the stonework and roof repairs and associated window refurbishment. A lay description of different elements of the work is included in the table.

Essential external stonework, roof repairs, and window maintenance works: description


General matters: schedule of works design and scaffold design.


Roof work: assessment, removal, and replacement of leadwork (ridges, flashings and gutters) and removal and re-use of slates on roof (in line with conservation guidance).


Masonry work: stonework repairs and lay stabilisation across front and rear elevations of Bute House, including limeworks and pointing.


Joinery work: full replacement of glass cupula and upgrades to roof access hatch.


Rainwater goods (gutters and downpipes): removal and replacement of defective sections of cast-iron downpipes; and replacement of defective or missing brackets or fixings.


Painting of cast iron rainwater goods (gutters and downpipes).


Window refurbishment: repairs to component parts of traditional sash and case windows.


Mastic replacement and painting for 29 windows: replacement of mastic, putty repairs, timber preparation and painting.


Installation and removal of scaffolding to the front and rear of Bute House and on the roof.


Variations: cost of delays relating to weather  (£39,672); and cost of relocation of lightning conductor to allow access and lightning protection compliance upgrades (£7,988).


Preliminary costs: site specific costs relating to the operation of the construction site during the course of the works. This includes setting up the site, health and safety measures, site supervision, maintaining quality standards, consulting professionals, delay charges and insurance.


Professional fees: pre contract fees; post contract and site phase fees; principal designer; stone sampling and structural engineer fees.


Total Contractor Cost


Mitie project management fee @ 9%


VAT @ 20%


Total cost


Management of artwork and significant objects

While the repair works were undertaken, in line with handling and care advice provided by Historic Environment Scotland and National Galleries of Scotland, all national collection artworks were removed from the building and placed into storage.

In addition, chandeliers in the drawing, cabinet and dining rooms were covered in specialist material to protect them from dust or debris; and a plywood cover was built around the Drawing room fireplace and rococo mirror. Furniture in the Drawing Room, Dining Room and Cabinet Room was removed to a St Andrew’s House storage area for the duration of the works. The cost of this associated collection management and conservation work is provided below.

Conservation and collection activity: description


Specialist provision of chandelier protection including materials for drawing room, Cabinet room and dining room


Specialist conservation furniture and object movement team


Construction of plywood covers for mirrors in drawing room and dining room


Construction of fireplace cover for drawing room


Specialist provision of installing/removing chandelier protection in drawing room, Cabinet room and dinng room


Specialist art handlers contracted to remove/reinstall National Galleries of Scotland artworks in drawing room, dining room and Cabinet room


Total cost


Alternative accommodation for the First Minister

Alternative accommodation arrangements were put in place for the First Minister. A number of properties were reviewed and the one selected was the best fit in terms of cost, security and size.

The alternative accommodation comprised a 3 bedroom flat in central Edinburgh with sufficient living space for the First Minister and their family. Costs of the alternative accommodation are provided below.

Alternative accommodation: description


Fees for property search and advice


Legal fees to secure a 5 month letting arrangement


Rent from 02 June 2023 to 31 October 2023


Council Tax for rental property


End of tenancy fees




Back to top