Gordon Nelson: Marking 30 years of FMB Scotland

Gordon Nelson: Marking 30 years of FMB Scotland

Gordon Nelson

Gordon Nelson, Scotland director of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), reflects on the past 30 years as the trade federation looks forward to the 30th Anniversary of FMB Scotland.

Whilst the FMB was established in 1941 and has had members based in Scotland since the 1970s (at least as far as I can tell from the archives in our Scotland office!) it wasn’t until 1993 that Scotland became a distinct region within the FMB. On Friday 9th June we will hold FMB Scotland’s 30th AGM in Edinburgh. I am looking forward to welcoming members from across Scotland and as predecessors of mine have done over the past 30 years, listening to their feedback and proposals on how the FMB as a membership organisation can better meet their needs.

In 1993 there was no Scottish Parliament. Devolution was an aspiration: although there were polarised opinions about its merits. I was studying Politics at university and have memories of discussions with fellow students about the pros and cons of a Scottish Parliament coming to fruition. The Scottish devolution referendum of 1997 settled the arguments with the Scotland Act of 1998 being a game changer in legislating for the establishment of the devolved Scottish Parliament.

FMB Scotland had been operating for 10 years by the time The Building (Scotland) Act 2003 was passed. By the early noughties, there was a significant range of devolved matters pertinent to the interests of our members as SME building contractors. By then we were well-versed in advocating and lobbying in Scotland on issues such as skills, apprenticeships, procurement, planning and housing.

In 30 years there have been huge cultural and technological changes. The World Wide Web was launched in 1993; as was the first general-use internet browser called Mosaic. It may have taken us a few more years to master digital newsletters and webinars to sharpen up our communications with members; but these are second nature for the FMB now. For the most part, our newer members prefer to connect with each other online, mainly through our monthly Zoom meetings.

The financial crisis of 2008 had a huge impact on the construction industry. Around the whole of the UK, the FMB lost members, especially small-scale housing developers who went out of business as the banks were bailed out by the UK Government. Many members feared a repeat of these painful consequences when the pandemic struck in 2020. Thankfully, once the lockdowns in Scotland ceased, workloads for members have been buoyant.

Some of the same challenges afflicting our members back in 1993 persist though. Labour and skills shortages across the industry. The scourge of rogue traders operating in the domestic sector because the construction industry has no licensing system. The ongoing VAT rates on home improvement works. However, there are new business opportunities for FMB members around net zero. As quality local building firms who must meet the FMB’s high standards to become a member, many are well placed to deliver fabric and energy retrofit measures to reduce the heat demand of our homes.

I look forward to the discussion with our members at the AGM. The FMB has gone through seismic changes in 30 years but at our core as a not-for-profit organisation run by members for members, we are as we were in 1993. Rather than speculate about what the next 30 years will bring for our members, we will celebrate their hard work and achievements at our Scotland Master Builder Awards ceremony which follows our 30th Anniversary AGM in Edinburgh.

Share icon
Share this article: