Chronic shortages threaten Scottish homes targets

Serious shortages of skills together with cost rises across the construction sector are putting the Scottish Government’s housebuilding strategy at risk, according to an industry expert.

The Scottish Government has set ambitious plans to build 100,000 affordable new homes by 2040.
The Scottish Government has set ambitious plans to build 100,000 affordable new homes by 2040.

Ryan Gilluley, managing director of Lanarkshire-based quantity surveying consultants GCM, warned that many large development projects could grind to a halt because clients, developers and contractors can’t agree on price or timescales.

Although some of the issues facing the sector such as supply chain disruption are relatively short-term, Gilluley said the lack of skilled labour was “structural and long-term”.

He believes the problems could derail the Scottish Government’s long-term housing strategy which sets out ambitious plans to build 100,000 affordable homes over the next two decades.

Latest UK government figures show that, in the year to August, average material costs increased by more than 23 per cent.

Supplies of steel and timber were particularly hard hit with imported sawn or planed wood up by 74 per cent and fabricated stainless steel by 75 per cent.

“There are so many different factors at work that it’s difficult to predict where costs will be in several months’ time,” said Gilluley.

“As a result, companies are now trying to procure their supply chain earlier in each project on a fixed price to transfer the material cost risk downstream to their suppliers.”

Scotland is also suffering from a shortage of skilled tradespeople, particularly bricklayers, joiners, plasterers, electricians, and plumbers, as well as hauliers needed to deliver materials to construction sites.

Gilluley said: “Many migrants who returned to Europe following Brexit and at the start of the pandemic have not returned. Not only did they provide many of the skills needed for our industry to function effectively, but they were also employed in the construction supply chain

“As well as having a shortage of experienced, skilled tradesmen with more than five years’ experience, we don’t have enough young people coming through which means there is no solution in sight for this problem.”

The Scottish Government’s strategy, “Housing to 2040”, aims to ensure that everyone has a safe, high-quality home that is affordable and where they want to live by the end of the next decade.

“But without the necessary labour and dependable supply routes for materials, it’s difficult to see how it can be achieved,” warned Gilluley.

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