Scotland’s £20 billion-plus construction sector requires “urgent action” to stimulate growth and protect thousands of jobs after a collapse in confidence.
The demand from industry leaders came yesterday after a major survey highlighted a sharp decline in conditions during the third quarter of 2012. More than a third of businesses reported a downturn, with the outcome for Scotland bleaker than the rest of the UK.
Grahame Barn, Scottish director of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), which conducted the “state of trade” poll, said the construction sector remained in “deep trouble”.
He said: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s plans to support the refurbishment and housebuilding sectors through its sustainable housing strategy, but more urgent action is required to arrest the decline in the Scottish construction sector in the immediate term.”
It is estimated that the industry supports some 31,000 businesses north of the Border employing 170,000 people and is worth about £21bn annually to the Scottish economy.
But many firms have been forced to lay off staff during the recession while others have gone to the wall as work dried up.
According to the FMB report, only 13 per cent of firms saw an improvement in conditions in the last quarter, compared to 27 per cent in the pervious three months.
Barn added: “There must be a commitment to delay any additional regulatory burdens on the house building sector, which add significantly to the cost of building each new housing unit.
“When it comes to existing homes, the Scottish Government’s pledge to invest in improving their energy performance is welcome. However, small businesses must be able to deliver this work to help reap bigger rewards for the Scottish economy.
“The government must also help owner-occupiers understand the financial as well as the environmental benefits of energy saving refurbishment work.”
Earlier this week it emerged that only a quarter of Scottish construction businesses expect to grow over the next year.
Firms continued to struggle to raise finance and gain access to public procurement processes, according to the first annual Construction Scotland industry survey.
The report by the industry advisory group also found broad support for collaboration between companies, with 38 per cent saying they thought their business would be more competitive if they worked with others.
Recent official figures suggested that UK construction activity had picked up pace during the summer. The Office for National Statistics said output in the sector had grown by 2.2 per cent month-on-month in July.
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