The long-awaited announcement from the First Minister last week has created, well, what has it created? Clarity? Yes, but only up to a point. Certainty? Yes again, but only up to a point. That’s my reading of the first comments in the trade press. The initial impression is of a willingness to go along with what the SG is saying, but underpinning the constructive comments are, it seems to me, one or two concerns. Here are some edited headlines and quotes from some of the industry’s leading players, taken from a variety of sources*.
Scottish Construction Now’s headline was:
Wary unions and impatient employers react as Scotland plans its restart
Project Scotland's headline was:
Construction sector welcomes long-awaited return to work but further clarity sought
Vaughan Hart, managing director of Scottish Building Federation (SBF), "Many of our members have already spent the past weeks undertaking the kind of preparatory work envisaged to ensure sites are safe and will be ready to begin building works through a ‘soft start’ either immediately or by the end of May. It is critical the Scottish Government gives the go-ahead for that as soon as reasonably possible and then for the further stages of the plan so that construction can begin to gradually increase activity whilst keeping site safety as the top priority."
Hew Edgar, RICS head of UK Government relations and city strategy, said: “the document is lacking clearer guidance with regard to the housing market. Phase 1: Preparing for the safe reopening of the housing market; and Phase 2: Relaxation of restrictions on housing moves are “not clear enough, and this ambiguity will cause confusion on what is, and what is not, allowed.
STUC general secretary designate Roz Foyer said: “Workers in Scotland cannot and will not be forced back to work by employers until we have an effective contact-tracing system in place and until we know that some of the scenes witnessed in England on public transport will not be repeated here … We demand and expect that, where an employer does not currently recognise a union, it is compelled to agree terms for union engagement, and for the admission to sites of union health and safety officers."
Homes for Scotland expressed its continuing frustration at what it views as an unnecessary further delay to a safe return to work for Scotland’s home building industry. The trade body warned that anything but an immediate return could result in the loss of businesses and jobs.
Elliot Robertson, chief executive of Robertson, “I have been involved with the Construction Leadership Forum to inform Scottish Government of how the construction sector can conduct a safe restart and over the last ten weeks, the Forum in consultation with Health Protection Scotland, HSE and other statutory consultees have made thorough preparations to enable a return to work and we stand well-positioned to do so with immediate effect. We welcome the decision that has been taken."
Look out for a longer, video interview later this week, once we’ve had a chance to digest everything for further and taken soundings from some clients.
Chris Peace, MD, Peace Recruitment
*Scottish Housing News, Construction News, Scottish Construction Now, Project Scotland.