FMB Scotland

Building industry and planners set to give Planning Bill evidence

Holyrood’s local government and communities committee will continue to examine the Planning (Scotland) Bill tomorrow as it hears evidence from organisations from the country’s builders and planners.

Tammy Swift-Adams, director of planning, Homes for Scotland, Jenny Hogan, deputy chief executive, Scottish Renewables, Gordon Nelson, director, Federation of Master Builders Scotland, Sarah Boyack, head of public affairs, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and Jonathan Fair, regional managing director – Scotland, McCarthy and Stone will all give evidence to the committee as the proposed Bill is put to the test.

MSPs will then hear from Kate Houghton, policy and practice officer, RTPI Scotland, Malcolm Fraser, consultant architect, Professor Cliff Hague, emeritus professor of planning and spatial development, Heriot-Watt University and Stuart Tait, manager, and Dorothy McDonald, assistant manager, Clydeplan.

Local government and communities committee convener, Bob Doris MSP, said: “The entire purpose of these proposed changes is to strengthen the planning system and boost its contribution to inclusive growth, housing and infrastructure in Scotland.

“The Bill also aims to empower people to have their say on their places more than ever before, so that communities can influence development plans in their local areas.

“Our Committee now wants to find out whether the Bill will deliver an improved planning system and if so, should any improvements and changes be made to the Bill so that Scotland can develop a world-class approach to planning its cities, towns and rural areas in the future.”

A link to the papers is available here and you can watch the sessions online tomorrow via

FMB reveals evidence of rewards of choosing a career in construction

Leon Hay from Cumbernauld was the first of the stonemason apprentices specially recruited as part of the Mackintosh Library restoration

Construction apprentices will go on to earn thousands of pounds more, every year, than many of their university-educated counterparts, according to the latest research by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) Scotland.

Small building firms in Scotland were asked what they pay their tradespeople and the average annual salaries were as follows:

  • Electricians earn £57,194;
  • Site managers earn £56,576;
  • Plumbers earn £53,609;
  • Supervisors earn £51,456;
  • Civil engineering operatives earn £49,656;
  • Steel fixers earn £49,185;
  • Bricklayers earn £46,956;
  • Roofers earn £46,956;
  • Carpenters and joiners earn £46,089;
  • Scaffolders earn £41,942;
  • Plasterers earn £41,756;
  • Plant operatives earn £41,594;
  • Floorers earn £39,156;
  • Painters and decorators earn £36,898;
  • General construction operatives earn £35,715;
  • Labourers earn £28,184.

The highest reported annual salary was for civil engineering operatives in Aberdeenshire, some of which are commanding wages of £98,000 a year. However, some of Scotland’s university graduates earn the following average annual salaries:

  • Pharmacists earn £42,207;
  • Midwives earn £37,790;
  • Veterinarians earn £36,203;
  • Chartered and certified accountants earn £35,915;
  • Teachers earn £35,772;
  • Physiotherapists earn £30,710;
  • Nurses earn £30,173.

Gordon Nelson, director of FMB Scotland, said: “Construction workers in Scotland are earning higher wages than many university graduates. The average bricky or roofer in Scotland earns £47,000 a year and in Aberdeenshire, some civil engineering operatives are commanding wages of £98,000 a year. Comparatively, Scottish vets, chartered and certified accountants and teachers, all of whom have studied at university, earn around £36,000 a year on average. Given that apprentices also earn while they learn, with the average construction apprentice taking home around £17,000 a year, starting a career in construction is becoming an increasingly shrewd move for young Scots.”

Mr Nelson added: “A career in construction can be seriously rewarding. We’re asking young Scots, their families and teachers, to look more favourably on a career in construction and give apprenticeships serious consideration. What’s more, because the construction industry is in the midst of a skills shortage, we’re in dire need of more young people to join our sector. The FMB’s latest research shows that more than two-thirds of construction SMEs are struggling to hire bricklayers and 63 per cent are having problems hiring carpenters. These are the highest figures since records began a decade ago. The FMB is therefore committed to collaborating with the wider construction industry and the Scottish Government to make sure we’re attracting more new talent into our industry.”

Scottish SME builders suffer sharp fall in confidence and workloads

Confidence and workloads for small builders in Scotland took a sharp downward turn towards the end of 2017 amid continuing skills shortages in the sector, according to the Federation of Master Builders in Scotland (FMB Scotland).

Key results from the FMB’s latest State of Trade Survey found that the overall indicator for the performance of Scottish construction SMEs dropped by 19 percentage points in Q4 2017 in terms of workloads, expected workloads and enquiries when compared with the previous quarter.

The quarterly assessment of the UK-wide SME construction sector also revealed that fewer construction SMEs predict rising workloads in the coming three months, down from 41% in the previous quarter to 38% in Q4 2017, while 87% of builders believe that material prices will rise in the next six months, up from 82% in the previous quarter.

Nearly two-thirds (61%) of construction SMEs also expect salaries and wages to increase in the next six months, the FMB added.

Gordon Nelson, director of FMB Scotland, said the dip in confidence followed seven consecutive quarters of growth for small builders in Scotland.

He said: “Scottish construction firms experienced a significant dip in the final quarter of 2017. Prior to these latest results, we had seen seven consecutive quarters of growth for small builders in Scotland. There are several contributing factors, not least the skills shortages which continue to hamper many SMEs, with rising shortages of key trades like carpenters, plumbers and plasterers. As a result, the wages for these increasingly scarce skilled trades continue to rise sharply.

“What’s more, material prices are also rising and almost 90% of builders think this trend will continue over the next six months. This means Scottish construction SMEs continue to see their margins squeezed, with many choosing to absorb costs rather than pass them onto their clients.”

Mr Nelson added: “Investment in housing and infrastructure can help to support the industry and boost the wider economy. As such, the Scottish Government has recently announced a £150 million injection into the Building Scotland Fund. This could be used to provide a much needed stimulus for some SME construction firms although we still await details regarding exactly how it will work.

“The construction industry is the cornerstone of the Scottish economy so it’s in all of our interests to do what we can to support the smaller companies which form the bedrock of the sector. If we are to see a return to growth in 2018, and sustainable growth beyond this year, we must collaborate with the Scottish Government to make sure these investments are well-targeted, and tackle the skills crisis by attracting more new talent into our industry.”

Across the UK, the FMB found that two-thirds of those running SME construction firms are struggling to hire bricklayers and carpenters as construction skills shortages hit a “record high”.

More than two-thirds (68%) of construction SMEs are struggling to hire bricklayers and 63% are struggling to hire carpenters and joiners – the highest figures since records began in 2008, the trade association said.

The number of firms reporting difficulties hiring plumbers and electricians (48%), plasterers (46%) and floorers (30%) also reached record highs.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “The silver lining to current skills shortages among construction SMEs is that the numerous tradespeople and professionals, who may find themselves out of work following the collapse of Carillion, have a ready supply of alternative employers. The FMB is working with the Department for Work and Pensions and the Construction Industry Training Board to match-make ex-Carillion workers with small construction employers in need of skilled workers.

“We’re also working hard as an industry to re-home the 1,200 Carillion apprentices who are the innocent victims of the major contractor’s demise. It’s in everyone’s interests to ensure that these young people continue on their path to a rewarding career in construction.”

Two-thirds of Scottish NIMBYs ‘concerned about house prices’

Edinburgh aerialTwo-thirds of NIMBYs in Scottish admit to being frustrated that the next generation can’t afford to buy their own home, according to the latest research by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

A UK-wide study into NIMBYs (‘not-in-my-back-yard’), or in other words people who tend to take an anti-development view to new homes being built in their area, revealed that 65% of home owners in Scotland who are concerned about new houses or flats being built in their community also admit to feeling frustrated that the next generation can’t afford to buy a property in the local area;

Nearly one third (29%) of all Scottish home owners are concerned about houses or flats being built in their community having a negative impact on where they live, while almost half (43%) of Scottish people feel frustrated their children, grandchildren or great grandchildren cannot afford to buy a property in the same area as them.

According to the research, NIMBYism is more prevelant among home owners in England with the lowest percentage of homeowners who are NIMBYs in Northern Ireland.

The percentage of home owners that are NIMBYs in each home nation is as follows:

  • England (34%)
  • Scotland (29%)
  • Wales (28%)
  • Northern Ireland (21%)

Gordon Nelson, director of FMB Scotland, said: “We are still not building enough homes in Scotland. More than 24,000 houses were built in Scotland every year during the first nine years of the Scottish Parliament. However, since the economic downturn almost ten years ago, these figures started to slip and in 2016 just 16,498 new homes were built in Scotland.

“The importance of delivering more housing in Scotland is so great that Nicola Sturgeon has committed to delivering 50,000 more affordable homes over the course of this Parliament. One of the reasons why new homes don’t come forward can be the disproportionate power of the ‘not-in-my-back-yard’ gang – the NIMBYs.”

Vicky Biggar, aged 35 and residing in Edinburgh, is concerned about overdevelopment in Scotland.

Vicky said: “I understand that the future generations will need to have somewhere to live. Yet, I am concerned about the impact new homes will have on the character on many towns in Scotland. If we are to build thousands of identical new build homes at once there will be no unique character in our towns any more. House building should happen organically if the homes are to last for generations to come.”

Mr Nelson added: “It’s ironic that two-thirds of Scottish NIMBYs admit to being frustrated that we’re not building enough homes for future generations while in the same breathe voicing concerns about new homes being built in their area. Our research lays bare the contradictory position that too many of us still fall into – we can’t have it both ways.

“Either we must accept that we need to significantly increase the numbers of new homes, or we must accept that future generations won’t enjoy the same quality of life as their parents and grandparents. The next generation quite rightly aspires to own their own home and for their elders to take an anti-development stance will deny many of them this.”

Housebuilders look to sustain growth at annual Fife forum

(from left) Pam Ewen, Ian Drummond, Mark McEwen, Nicola Barclay, Cllr Altany Craik, Gordon Nelson, John Mills and Hugh Hall

(from left) Pam Ewen, Ian Drummond, Mark McEwen, Nicola Barclay, Cllr Altany Craik, Gordon Nelson, John Mills and Hugh Hall

Lochgelly, last year’s winner of Scotland’s Most Improved Town, was the venue of the 11th Fife House Builders Forum this week.

Over 70 delegates from across the house building industry came together at the Lochgelly Centre on Monday 13th November to discuss the recent upturn in the house building industry in Fife and debate how this growth can be nurtured and sustained.

The event, “Sustaining the Growth”, was organised by Fife Council’s Economy, Planning and Employability Service.

A packed audience was presented with a packed programme with Hazel Cross (economic advisor, Town Centre Development Unit, Fife Council) showcasing Lochgelly’s journey to becoming Scotland’s Most Improved Town; Gordon Nelson (director, Federation of Master Builders Scotland) speaking on the importance of the small and medium sized builders to the diversity and supply of new housing; Ian Drummond (managing director, Taylor Wimpey East Scotland) addressing the opportunities and blockers in maintaining housing growth; Nicola Barclay (chief executive, Homes for Scotland) emphasising the need for change, challenge and collaboration in smoothing the path to increased housing delivery; Mark McEwen (general manager, Customer Service, Scottish Water) explaining how infrastructure to enable development was being put in place; Pam Ewen (senior manager, Planning, Fife Council) highlighting the importance of the housing building industry to achieving £3 billion investment in strategic growth within Fife; Hugh Hall (principal, Fife College) tailoring the training offered by Fife College to the future needs of the construction industry; and John Mills (head of housing services, Fife Council) showing that affordable housing is key to the reduction of poverty in Fife.

Nicola Barclay, chief executive of Homes for Scotland, said: “I was delighted to have the opportunity to address the House Builders Forum, particularly in light of the ongoing collaboration between Homes for Scotland and Fife Council to support the delivery of more homes of all tenures across Fife.  The key themes of change, challenge and collaboration that I highlighted in my speech must remain the focus for Fife and all other authorities if we are to strengthen trust and resolve to work together to deliver more homes.”

The Forum was chaired by Councillor Altany Craik (convenor, economy, tourism, strategic planning and transportation committee, Fife Council) who added: “It is pleasing to see the commitment of all parts of the development community to delivering investment, skills, jobs and, above all, houses for the people of Fife. The prospects for further growth in the house building sector are good and Fife Council will work with the industry to sustain and increase this growth. Central to this is the highly successful Affordable Housing Programme and the council’s continuing drive to build on the previous success of 2,700 affordable homes already on the ground.”

Warning signs for construction as growth slows among Scottish builders

Home building stock

Scottish building firms have experienced a slowdown in growth for the second consecutive quarter amid skills shortages and inflationary pressures, according to the Federation of Master Builder (FMB) Scotland.

Key results from the FMB’s latest State of Trade Survey revealed that the performance of Scotland’s smaller building firms in terms of workloads, expected workloads and enquiries dropped by six percentage points in Q3 2017 compared with the previous quarter.

According to the survey, which is the only quarterly assessment of the UK-wide SME construction sector, inflationary pressures remain intense amid sterling’s post-Brexit vote woes.

The number of construction SMEs predicting rising workloads in the coming three months fell to 41% from 48% in the previous quarter, while 82% of builders believe that material prices will rise in the next six months.

Highlighting skills shortages throughout the sector, the survey revealed that 61% of construction SMEs are struggling to hire carpenters and joiners and 49% are struggling to hire site managers.

Over half (58%) of construction SMEs expect salaries and wages to increase in the next six months.

Gordon Nelson, director of FMB Scotland, said: “Growth among Scotland’s construction SMEs has slowed for two consecutive quarters. Scottish firms are facing considerable constraints through the growing scarcity of skilled tradespeople. Our latest research shows that 61% of construction SMEs are struggling to hire carpenters and joiners and half of all firms are having difficulties hiring site managers. When you pile on material prices increases, following the EU referendum last summer, there is considerable upwards pressure on small building firms and it’s taking its toll on growth.

“Given these headwinds and the slower growth we are seeing, it is more important than ever that the industry has the structural support it needs. We eagerly await further details of the Scottish Government’s new Scottish National Investment Bank. We would encourage the Scottish Government to ensure that the new bank is set up in such a way that it can effectively support the needs of construction SMEs. These smaller firms find it particularly difficult to access the finance they need and this new finance stream could make all the difference. Anything that gives a leg up to Scotland’s construction SMEs will have a positive knock-on effect in terms of the wider economy.”

Mr Nelson added: “However, it’s not all doom and gloom for the Scottish construction industry – although we’ve seen a slowdown in growth it’s important to remember that the sector is still growing. Also, in recent weeks the Scottish construction sector has flexed its muscles and shown the world what it can deliver with the much-anticipated opening of the Queensferry Crossing. This is a project that Scotland can be proud of and internationally, it helps put the Scottish construction industry on the map.”

FMB Scotland calls on government to do more over housing crisis

Gordon Nelson

Gordon Nelson

The Federation of Master Builders in Scotland has called on the Scottish Government to increase its efforts to solve the housing crisis.

At the 2017 SNP conference in Glasgow on Tuesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said housing is “one of the biggest issues of our time”.

“When we came into office, council house building in Scotland had ground to a halt,” she said.

“Eight years ago, we started a new generation of council house building. And since then, we’ve built 8,500 council houses.

“Overall, we are building new social housing at a faster rate than any other part of the UK.”

Ms Sturgeon reiterated her pledge to deliver 50,000 more affordable homes over Parliament’s lifetime, investing a total of £3 billion in house building.

The First Minister also warned local authorities who do not use their house building funding that they face losing their allocation altogether in favour of councils who will build homes.

However, director of FMB Scotland Gordon Nelson said if the government is serious about making homes affordable for all Scottish people “then it must be even bolder and consider a broader range of interventions”.

He added: “There were a number of announcements in the First Minister’s speech today (10 October) on how we can increase house building, but it’s worth noting that most of these were re-announcements rather than new policies.

“Scotland could be leading the way if the government were to invest more in new homes and commit to making much better use of our existing housing stock.

“New FMB research, due to be published later this year, will look in to how we can utilise our existing buildings in and around town centres to deliver more new and affordable homes.

“By converting unused space above shops and unused retail space in into residential units, we can transform our town centres and tackle the housing crisis.”

Programme for Government ‘wrong to snub construction’, says FMB

Gordon Nelson

Gordon Nelson

The Federation of Master Builders in Scotland (FMB Scotland) has called on the Scottish Government to reconsider its approach to the construction industry given its economic and strategic importance to the country.

Responding to the recently published ‘Programme for Government’, the FMB stated that while it welcomes plans for a new Strategic Board to focus Scotland’s enterprise and skills agencies on supporting the growth of key sectors, the construction industry “seems to have been overlooked”.

Gordon Nelson, FMB Scotland director, said: “The construction industry is notable by its absence in the Government’s programme for Scotland. The appointment of a new Strategic Board to focus Scotland’s enterprise and skills agencies on supporting the growth of key sectors is welcome but construction seems to have been overlooked. As the second largest industry in Scotland, comprising of more than 48,000 firms and employing 180,000 people, the construction industry is vital to the health of the wider Scottish economy. Indeed, the industry generated a total output of £14.5 billion in 2016.

“However, the construction sector’s workforce is ageing. Figures from the Office for National Statistics indicate that over the next decade, close to 20% of the industry’s workforce will retire. Without enough skilled workers, Scotland will struggle to build and refurbish the homes, schools, hospitals and transport infrastructure that Scotland requires to flourish. I am calling on the Scottish Government to reconsider its approach and identify the construction industry as a key sector. We want to work with the new Strategic Board, and the relevant enterprise and skills agencies, to ensure that we are recruiting and developing the skills base that Scotland demands.”

Mr Nelson added: “We look forward to seeing more detail on the new National Investment Bank and how it might help small firms grow and prosper. 98% of the construction industry’s employers are small or micro businesses; with many struggling to access the right type of finance. It would be welcome if the National Investment Bank were to step in where the major banks have not been able to provide a solution.”

Damp spring for Scottish builders as SMEs report slowdown in growth

Gordon Nelson

Gordon Nelson

Growth among Scottish builders slowed significantly in the second quarter of 2017 as political uncertainty and price concerns hit home, according to Federation of Master Builders in Scotland (FMB Scotland).

The FMB’s State of Trade Survey for Q2 2017, which is the only quarterly assessment of the UK-wide SME construction sector, indicated a double-digit decline in overall performance for construction SMEs north of the Border of 22 percentage points to +13.

According to the survey, one-in-four construction SMEs in Scotland now predict rising workloads in the coming months – down from one-in-two predicted rising workloads three months earlier.

England was the only home nation whose construction SME sector grew at the same rate as Q1 2017, though overall growth slowed down in the second quarter.

Across the UK, 83% of builders think that material prices will rise in the next six months.

Gordon Nelson, director of FMB Scotland, said: “In the first three months of this year, Scottish building firms were growing as fast or faster than their English, Welsh and Northern Irish counterparts. However, these latest results suggest that the Scottish building industry’s wings were clipped in the second quarter of the year. Our survey covered the campaign period for the snap UK General Election, as well as its indecisive outcome in June. It may be that this period of political uncertainty resulted in the consumer confidence of Scottish home owners taking a hit. As Scottish construction SMEs work predominantly in the private domestic sector, this could have had a knock-on effect on Scottish builders.”

Mr Nelson added: “Another concern is that over the next six months, the cost of doing business is set to rise for Scottish builders and cost pressures could put the brakes on growth among construction SMEs now and in the longer term. Wages and salaries are all projected to increase due to skills shortages and material prices are likely to continue to rise as they have done since the depreciation of sterling following the EU referendum.

“Building firms will have little choice but to pass these increases onto the client or consumer and this could further dampen growth for small construction firms. Looking ahead however, now that the political dust has settled in Westminster, we hope that the Scottish construction sector starts to fire on all cylinders once again and that the better-than-expected performance of the wider Scottish economy is reflected in the building industry.”

Recruitment difficulties are widespread, with 60% of construction SMEs struggling to hire bricklayers; 57% are struggling to hire carpenters and joiners; and 47% are struggling to hire plumbers. Almost two-thirds (62%) of construction SMEs expect salaries and wages to increase in the next six months.

Brian Berrry FMB

Brian Berrry

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “Rising material prices and salaries could be starting to dampen growth among construction SMEs. However, it is encouraging to see that the sector has continued to grow despite the recent snap General Election and the resulting hung Parliament. The construction SME sector is particularly vulnerable to any dips in consumer confidence that might come from periods of political uncertainty. It may be that a number of home owners decided to delay any big spending decisions on new extensions or loft conversions while the election campaign was underway – this would account for the slow-down in growth seen in the second quarter of 2017.”

Mr Berry added: “Looking ahead, almost two-thirds of construction firms expect wages and salaries to increase over the next six months and this is in contrast to stagnant wages elsewhere in the economy. Rising salaries are undoubtedly the result of the escalating construction skills shortage – construction workers know their worth and are demanding higher wages from their employers. The majority of construction SMEs are struggling to recruit key tradespeople such as bricklayers and carpenters and we’re seeing shortages in other trades, such as plumbers and plasterers, starting to creep up.

“With Brexit on the horizon and worrying talk of the so-called ‘Tier 2’ immigration system replacing the free movement of people, the construction industry urges Ministers to bear in mind their strategic house building and infrastructure targets before pulling up the drawbridge on EU migrant workers.”

Business booming as Scottish builders achieve strong first quarter

Home building stockWorkloads for small and medium-sized construction firms in Scotland rose faster than at any time since the 2007 financial crisis, a new survey has revealed.

The latest report from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) shows that workloads for Scottish construction SMEs rose faster than at any time since the final quarter of 2007 with one in two SMEs predict rising workloads in the coming months.

Only 5% are predicting a decrease in activity.

The report shows a weighted net balance of 35% of small and medium-sized construction firms in Scotland were in the first quarter positive overall about recent and expected movements in workloads and levels of inquiries from customers.

This was an improvement of 25 percentage points on the weighted net balance recorded for the fourth quarter of last year. The FMB noted this was the greatest rise in this indicator seen in any nation or region of the UK in the first quarter.

The weighted net balance is calculated by subtracting the proportion of companies making negative responses from that declaring a positive picture, after weighting firms by size.

A weighted net balance of 26 per cent of small and medium-sized construction companies across the UK were positive about workloads and inquiry levels.

However, the FMB’s State of Trade Survey for Q1 2017, which is the largest quarterly assessment of the UK-wide SME construction sector, also highlighted concerns in the sector with 85% of builders suggesting that material prices will rise in the next three months while 58% of firms said they were struggling to hire carpenters, the highest reported level since the financial crisis.

Gordon Nelson, director of FMB Scotland, said: “Scottish construction SME workloads have now risen for five consecutive quarters and rather than tapering off in advance of Article 50 being served, that growth seems to have accelerated in the first quarter of this year.

“At a time of growing concern about the strength of the Scottish economy, the robustness of the construction SME sector is a definite good news story. Even more encouragingly, the number of enquiries for future work has risen solidly and one in two firms are now predicting that their workloads will continue to rise in the coming months.”

Nelson added: “This is not to say that the last three months have been without their challenges. Builders have experienced sharp rises in material prices since the depreciation of sterling in June last year and the subsequent spike in the cost of imported materials and products.

“Added to this is the rising cost of skilled labour which continues to be exacerbated by the ever-worsening skills shortage. The overwhelming majority of builders expect these trends to continue resulting in further increases in output prices in the next quarter – in layman’s terms, this means that builders will have to pass on these costs to the consumer.”

Nelson concluded: “The biggest concern for builders, however, will be the prospect of weakening consumer confidence. The risk of economic uncertainty impacting on consumer spending was already present due to confirmation of the UK’s departure from the EU and the possibility of another Scottish independence referendum in the medium term. Now that home owners will also be factoring in the UK General Election, Scottish builders may well temper their optimism.

“The repair, maintenance and improvement sector is the staple of most small local builders and is notoriously vulnerable to dips in consumer sentiment. Going forward, the industry is hoping that political stability will be re-established as soon as possible as both consumers and businesses respond best to political certainty.”