Covid-19 hammers Scots construction, survey finds

The Scottish construction industry is being “hard hit” and needs further support, with cashflow having completely dried up for nearly 80 per cent of firms, according to new “disturbing” survey results.
The survey analysed responses from 377 construction companies. Picture: contributed.The survey analysed responses from 377 construction companies. Picture: contributed.
The survey analysed responses from 377 construction companies. Picture: contributed.

The study was carried out on behalf of the newly-established Construction Industry Coronavirus (CICV) Forum, which was created a fortnight ago and now has 16 members.

It has also revealed that more than half of firms who took part in the poll say they’re owed vital monies from public and private sector clients, with invoices now overdue.

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The effect of the Covid-19 crisis and the recent Scottish Government instruction for all non-essential building work to cease is revealed in the survey, which was carried out between 1 and 14 April.

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The survey analysed responses from 377 construction companies across Scotland, ranging from electricians, builders and plumbers to surveyors, architects, roofers and joiners.

As a consequence of the current pandemic, 262 of the companies surveyed said cashflow has stopped, while more than two thirds say they’ve furloughed staff, 37 per cent are shut completely, while more than a quarter currently have staff and sub-contractors in self-isolation.

John McKinney, secretary of the National Federation of Roofing Contractors, the Stone Federation and the Scottish Contractors Group – which are members of the new forum – said: “These disturbing results illustrate very clearly that the construction sector in Scotland is being hard hit, despite the measures that have been put in place to alleviate the pain.


“It is clearly incumbent on all branches of government and public bodies to step up efforts to expedite payments under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme announced by the Chancellor in March. However, there is a danger that even this may be too late for many firms, especially smaller enterprises.

“The same urgency is required for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, which needs to be fast-tracked. Nearly half of companies which have applied have found the process cumbersome and difficult.”

Respondents also called for better information from the UK and Scottish governments, with requests for greater clarity over both the work can be carried out and the financial and commercial implications of the virus.

Fiona Hodgson, chief executive of CIVC Forum member the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation, echoed the industry’s frustrations.

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Hodgson, who is leading the commercial sub-group of the CICV Forum, said: “Small construction sector companies are taking the brunt of the shutdown at the moment and many simply do not have the resources to sustain a long period of inactivity… fast-tracking of financial support from government will be crucial as this crisis develops.”

Meanwhile, the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre has launched its i-Con initiative to support the built environment sector during the current global coronavirus crisis. CSIC is asking for challenges to be registered on the portal, which will then be communicated to attract proposed solutions.

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