Professional bodies call for gradual re-opening of Scottish sites

Bodies representing over 13,000 skilled and trainee construction and property professionals in Scotland have today called on the Scottish Government to implement a gradual re-opening of non-essential building sites, within the parameters of health and safety requirements, as soon as possible.

Professional bodies call for gradual re-opening of Scottish sites

In a letter to minister for local government, housing and planning, Kevin Stewart MSP, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Royal Incorporation of Architects Scotland (RIAS) and Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) point out that urgent action is needed to avoid a long term, detrimental impact on the construction sector and the economy.

Signed by John Edwards, chair of RICS in Scotland, Gareth Williams, chair of CIOB Glasgow Hub, and Robin Webster OBE PRIAS, president of RIAS, the letter states that stasis is already taking hold of the sector in Scotland with many projects at significant risk.

The signatories add that unless measures are put in place now, outcomes will include long-term skills shortages, cost increases and reduced productivity.

“One of the biggest impacts of closed construction sites is that we are finding contractors and supply chains are now engaging in a comprehensive furlough of staff to the point that a state of paralysis is setting into the construction industry,” the bodies state.

“Many projects are in jeopardy, even at pre-construction phase, because the supply chain cannot submit quotes and prices. Any delay in project planning and procurement will cause projects to be cancelled, and it could prolong the recovery,” they add.

They say that the construction industry is well placed to police itself through relevant regulations, including additional HSE enforcement.

In addition to the lifting of the lockdown on building sites, RICS, RIAS and CIOB also call on the Scottish Government to introduce:

  • A VAT rebate fund for home repair and maintenance, and energy efficiency improvement measures, with parity between new build and existing properties
  • The prioritisation of preconstruction design and specification work leading to tenders, ensuring there is a flow of activity into the construction industry
  • The instruction of appropriate building surveys/condition inspections now of publicly owned buildings, such as schools, colleges, museums and libraries that are currently vacant
  • An initiative to encourage a large-scale public sector programme of maintenance works that will assist cashflow for SMEs, supporting the supply chain and retaining skills.
  • The maintenance of public sector pre-design and development work to ensure that design professionals are able to support future public sector development programmes
  • Having the Scottish National Investment Bank provide guarantees of bank lending, acting as a longer-term post-pandemic CBILS, that will encourage investment in Scotland’s infrastructure programme

The letter “implores” the government to introduce the recommended measures, starting with the gradual reopening of non-essential construction sites.

RICS, RIAS and CIOB point out that their members make a vital contribution to the global success of Scotland’s built environment, and that Scotland’s construction and infrastructure sectors are worth over £20bn to the Scottish economy. They say that they are writing to the Scottish Government to offer their help in this time of national emergency and to seek Government support for the vital sectors.

Trade union Unite Scotland has reiterated its position that all non-essential construction sites should remain closed in Scotland to keep construction workers and their families safe and called on the Scottish Government to introduce legislation compelling all employers to make sure their workers keep two metres apart.

  • Read all of our articles relating to COVID-19 here.

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