Federation of Master Builders Scotland warns of ‘fragile’ construction recovery

FMB Services Director Gordon NelsonA revival in the construction industry north of the Border remains “fragile”, the Federation of Master Builders Scotland (FMB) has warned.

The group’s new services director Gordon Nelson said it was encouraging to see official UK-wide output showing a 1.5 per cent uplift in construction output in the first quarter of 2014, a figure significantly ahead of the previous estimate of a 0.6 per cent uplift.

However, he said the stats did not paint a full picture of how the sector was performing in Scotland, or the widening skills gap that had opened up since the recession.

Mr Nelson (pictured) said: “These latest figures are encouraging. They show a continuing recovery in the construction industry across the UK.

“However, the evidence suggests that recovery in Scotland remains fragile.

“The FMB’s State of Trade Survey is the only survey of its kind of small and medium-sized construction firms.

“This showed a significant dip in activity in Scotland in the first quarter of this year, and the net balance of responses moved into negative territory again.

“The survey has shown positive results for the UK as a whole for five consecutive quarters — but for Scotland, over the same period, we have only seen positive results during Q4 2013.

“Many members are reporting rising workloads, though, so we would expect next quarter’s results to be more positive.

“However, there remain significant barriers to further growth, including growing signs of skills shortages.

“The dire state of the construction sector over the past five years has led to many workers being lost to other industries and too few new apprentices being taken on.”

Scottish Building Federation managing director, Vaughan Hart, added: “Many of our members are telling us they’re finding it increasingly difficult to find candidates to fill positions at operative and managerial level.

“This problem is further exacerbated by an ageing workforce within the Scottish industry. If we fail to address these issues, a shortage of skilled labour is liable to drive up costs and hamper output. Building companies need additional guidance and support to recruit more apprentices.”


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