Bodies representing over 13,000 construction and property professionals in Scotland today call on the Scottish government to implement a gradual reopening of non-essential building sites, within the parameters of health and safety requirements, as soon as possible.
In a letter to the minister for local government, housing and planning, Kevin Stewart MSP, the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Royal Incorporation of Architects Scotland (RIAS) pointed out that urgent action is needed to avoid a long term, detrimental impact on the construction sector and the economy.
Signed by Gareth Williams, chair of CIOB Edinburgh hub, and John Edwards, chair of RICS in Scotland, the letter says that stasis is already taking hold of the sector in Scotland with many projects at significant risk. They say that unless measures are put in place now, outcomes will include long-term skills shortages, cost increases and reduced productivity.
“One of the biggest impacts of closed construction sites is that we are finding contractors and supply chains are now engaging in a comprehensive furlough of staff to the point that a state of paralysis is setting into the construction industry,” the bodies state. “Many projects are in jeopardy, even at pre-construction phase, because the supply chain cannot submit quotes and prices. Any delay in project planning and procurement will cause projects to be cancelled, and it could prolong the recovery,” they continue.
They say that the construction industry is well placed to police itself through relevant regulations, including additional HSE enforcement. In addition to the lifting of the lockdown on building sites, CIOB, RICS and RIAS have also called on the Scottish government to introduce:
The establishment of a VAT rebate fund for home repair and maintenance, and energy efficiency improvement measures, with parity between new build and existing properties
The prioritisation of preconstruction design and specification work leading to tenders, ensuring there is a flow of activity into the construction industry
Instructing appropriate building surveys / condition inspections now of publicly owned buildings, such as schools, colleges, museums and libraries that are currently vacant
Leading an initiative to encourage a large-scale public sector programme of maintenance works that will assist cashflow for SMEs, supporting the supply chain and retaining skills.
Maintaining public sector pre-design and development work to ensure that design professionals are able to support future public sector development programmes
Having the Scottish National Investment Bank provide guarantees of bank lending, acting as a longer-term post-pandemic CBILS, that will encourage investment in Scotland’s infrastructure programme
The letter “implores” the government to introduce the recommended measures, starting with the gradual reopening of non-essential construction sites.
CIOB, RICS and RIAS point out that their members make a vital contribution to the global success of Scotland’s built environment, and that Scotland’s construction and infrastructure sectors are worth over £20bn to the Scottish economy. They say that they are writing to Scottish government to offer their help in this time of national emergency and to seek government support for the vital sectors.
Similar letters will also be going out to ministers in Wales and Northern Ireland. These are being signed by Gerald Naylor, chair of the CIOB Wales hub and Gary Blair, chair of the CIOB Belfast hub.