MSPs urge construction leaders to ‘take ownership’ in tackling long-standing challenges

A Scottish Parliament committee undertaking an inquiry into construction in Scotland has called on the industry’s leaders to “take ownership” when it comes to tackling long-standing challenges within the sector.

In its inquiry the economy, energy and fair work committee sought to understand the characteristics and challenges of construction in Scotland, a sector which employs 147,000 people.

It found several issues including a lack of diversity and skill shortages in the ageing workforce. The committee also suggested greater use of new technology such as off-site construction to boost productivity and highlighted the need to focus on value rather than costs.

Andy Wightman MSP and Jamie Halcro Johnston MSP given a tour of construction training facilities at Edinburgh College as part of the inquiry. Image credit: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

The committee highlighted a number of issues in its report, including:

  • It is essential that long-term value is the focus of public procurement rather than lowest cost. The Scottish Government must consider how public authorities and businesses can be better supported to make this a reality.
  • With an ageing workforce, skills shortages and lack of diversity in the construction workforce, there is merit in considering a sector specific approach to apprenticeship frameworks.
  • Women only account for 12% of the current construction workforce. More must be done to encourage diversity and raise awareness of the broad range of careers available within the industry.
  • Innovation and off-site manufacture can be stifled by planning regulations and resistance to change. New technology is vital to improve productivity in the sector.
  • Construction businesses of all sizes struggle to access finance which can be a barrier to growth.
Gordon Lindhurst MSP

Speaking as the report was published, committee convener Gordon Lindhurst MSP said: “The construction industry in Scotland is valued and plays a significant role in the economy, but there are also longstanding challenges which we have set out in this report.

“A failure to focus on long term value rather than simply on lowest cost, and a lack of finance are some of the barriers to productivity in the industry. While we saw pockets of good practice there was a lack of overall necessary change evident.

“For the sector to realise its potential and be equipped to tackle these challenges, the Scottish Government must work together with industry to facilitate change across the whole sector.”

Mr Lindhurst added: “This was the first time the committee has done an inquiry looking at a whole sector and how it contributes to the economy.

“Only with sector wide leadership, collaboration and cultural change, will the construction sector be able to share best practice, tackle these challenges and achieve its full potential in contributing to Scotland’s economy.”