Scottish builders fear impact of EU referendum

Published date: 26 April 2016

Positive growth among Scottish construction firms in the first three months of this year could be undermined by the forthcoming EU referendum, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

Commenting on the results of the FMB’s State of Trade Survey for Q1 2016, Gordon Nelson, Director of FMB Scotland, said: “Workloads among Scottish builders grew in the first three months of this year, which is an encouraging result. That said, one swallow doesn’t make a summer and it comes off the back of a poor result at the end of last year. Furthermore, the construction industry is particularly sensitive to fluctuations in confidence and as we approach the forthcoming EU referendum, uncertainty is building. From experience, referenda can curtail consumer confidence as evidenced by Scotland’s own independence referendum back in 2014 – there’s no doubt that these momentous votes have a direct impact upon workloads in the construction industry.”

Nelson continued: “Regarding the imminent Holyrood elections, with the latest opinion polls indicating that the SNP is likely to be re-elected with an even larger majority, there are elements of its newly-launched manifesto which builders will find encouraging. The pledge to bring forward a Planning Reform Bill, based on the recommendations of the Planning Review, is welcome. Delays and blockages in the current planning system have resulted in additional costs for Scottish builders. However, to be truly effective, the Bill must improve the focus of Scotland’s planning system on small sites suitable for small local house builders. These SME builders are key to delivering the 25,000 homes a year we need in Scotland to start meeting the demand.”

Nelson concluded: “We look forward to seeing further details of the SNP’s plans to improve the energy efficiency of our existing homes – this must be a priority over the coming years as not only does refurbishment work result in jobs and growth, it also has a number of social and health benefits for those people who go on to live in these homes. Building new homes is important but let’s not overlook or neglect our existing homes.”

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