THE Scottish Chambers of Commerce’s reports that business confidence is finally improving are very welcome (11 July). But we shouldn’t lose sight of how far key sectors of the economy have been forced to downsize – and the challenges this creates in building a sustainable recovery.
In the construction sector, we’ve seen employment fall by more than a quarter in the space of five years. Commercial construction activity has almost halved. Housing activity is down 38 per cent and industrial output is down by almost a quarter. Between 2008 and 2012, 655 Scottish building firms went out of business.
The industry is fully committed to developing the next generation of workers it needs to deliver long-term sustainable growth. But recruiting someone for a four-year apprenticeship remains a significant commitment when many firms don’t know what work they’ll have on their books six or 12 months from now.
The efforts being made by the Scottish Government to prioritise direct capital investment are hugely welcome. Crucially, the public sector now needs to set out a much clearer long-term project pipeline as a consequence of that investment. This will give building firms the confidence to begin investing to rebuild industry skills and capacity.
Scottish Building Federation