Nearly fifty delegates turned up for the launch of the ‘Get Scotland Building’ campaign on 28th May in the Scottish Parliament.
They included a vast array of organisations including the Scottish Building Federation, Scottish Property Federation, Unite, and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations to help put pressure on the politicians to avert 16,000 construction jobs losses in Scotland. The campaign launch, which is part of the ‘Get Britain Building’ campaign, called on Scottish politicians to help the building industry now as it tries to cope with its worst recession since the early 1980s.
The event was chaired by Archie Ferguson, Chairman of the Construction Forum in Scotland, who called on the Scottish Government to recognise the importance of the construction sector in helping to secure its economic and environmental policy objectives. Representatives from all the main political parties in Scotland were present and included Aileen Campbell MSP (Scottish National Party), Murdo Fraser MSP (Conservative and Unionist Party), Marilyn Livingstone MSP (Labour Party), and Jamie Stone MSP Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson.
SMEs, The backbone of the Scottish economy
Aileen Campbell, MSP, from the Scottish National Party (SNP) told delegates that small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) were the backbone of the Scottish economy and that she had ‘sympathy’ for the campaign’s ‘Ten Point Manifesto’. In particular she announced that cutting VAT to five percent for all repair and maintenance work was official Scottish Government policy but because taxation is decided in Westminster, the Scottish Government was unable to implement such a cut. Murdo Fraser MSP from the Conservative Party said that the Manifesto was ‘very ambitious’ and that whilst he was sympathetic for a cut in VAT warned that an incoming Conservative Party would have to be mindful of the state of the economy. Marilyn Livingstone MSP from the Labour Party and Chair of the Cross Party Group on Construction said that the single most important issue was for the Scottish Government to bring forward capital expenditure plans.
The FMB Scotland was represented by Jim Gilmour, FMB National Vice-President, Grahame Barn, Director of FMB Scotland and Carol Daniels. Also present were Brian Berry, Director of External Affairs and Daniel Hunt, Public Affairs Adviser. Jim Gilmour was first to speak during the question and answer session urging the Scottish Government to reintroduce 90 percent grants and to do all it can to simplify the planning system which is holding up much needed development in Scotland. Lets us hope the Scottish MSPs now take on the baton and do all they can to turn their words into action to get Scotland building. Time will tell!
The ‘Get Scotland Building ‘Ten Point Manifesto’ calls on the Scottish Government to:
1. Lobby the UK Government to cut VAT from 17.5 percent (currently at the temporary rate of 15 percent) to five percent for all building repair and maintenance work
2. Develop and implement a coherent housing strategy to create more homes and make Scotland’s existing stock more energy efficient
3. Lobby the UK Government and the banks to ensure the swift return of responsible lending to prudent borrowers, coupled with the reintroduction of mortgage interest tax relief
4. Set targets for all local authorities to fast track the planning process to release and designate land for social housing to ensure that sufficient land, in the right locations, is made available to facilitate the completion of 20,000 units of social housing by the end of 2010 in line with the recommendations of the ‘Firm Foundations: The future of Housing in Scotland’ document
5. Implement the reforms to the planning system announced in October 2008
6. Bring forward as a matter of urgency, details on how The Scottish Futures Trust will facilitate the construction of schools, hospitals and prisons to ensure that projects are completed in 2009 and 2010 respectively
7. Introduce a section 75 agreement holiday and then subsequently cap the value of section 75 agreements
8. Honour its commitment to pay contractors within ten working days and ensure, through contract terms, that contractors pay their subcontractors within the same timeframe
9. Lobby the UK Government to reform stamp duty so that it is only applied to the proportion of the value of the house which is in excess of the taxation threshold
10. Lobby the UK Government to reintroduce empty property rate relief demonstrating the benefits as they exist in Scotland.