The Scottish Building Federation (SBF) has launched its policy manifesto for the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections by setting out a five pillar plan for sustainable growth in the Scottish construction sector.
Developed in consultation with members over recent months, the manifesto sets out policy recommendations to support the industry in key areas including procurement, skills, training and recruitment, planning and building control, capital investment and energy efficiency.
SBF managing director Vaughan Hart said: “This manifesto is the result of extensive consultation with our members throughout Scotland and reflects the issues and priorities they would like to see addressed by the next Scottish Parliament. Taken together, we believe the recommendations outlined in this document will contribute positively towards delivering sustainable long-term growth in the Scottish construction industry.”
Recommendations on procurement include proposals to develop new guidance on revised procurement thresholds so as to reduce the number of cases where a full pre-qualification process is applied to even relatively low value contracts. The document also calls for a rationalisation of the use of guarantee bonds within the industry and the phasing out of bank guarantees, which can have a major negative impact on the cash flow of smaller construction companies.
In relation to skills, the manifesto calls for the employed status of indentured apprenticeships in construction to be protected – and any moves to dilute craft skills through the introduction of Foundation apprenticeships in secondary schools to be opposed. It argues for better careers advice in schools that promotes construction as a positive career choice for all pupils. It also seeks reassurance that revenues raised from construction employers by the introduction of the UK government’s new Apprenticeship Levy will be reinvested into construction apprenticeships.
On planning and building control, the SBF manifesto outlines a series of proposals to improve the performance of Scotland’s planning authorities. These include better resourcing of planning departments, more transparent decision-making, innovative funding and better coordination of infrastructure that enables development and potential outsourcing of building control functions to approved certifiers as a means of speeding up decision-making and improving consistency.
Concerning capital investment, the SBF argues that an even higher priority should be given to housing during the next Scottish Parliament and that funding per unit of affordable housing should be more responsive to local circumstances in different areas of the country.
Finally, on energy efficiency, the manifesto suggests that effort and funds should be shifted from already very tight standards for new build properties towards improving the energy efficiency of Scotland’s existing built environment. This should include investment to promote specialist skills in energy efficiency as well as greater flexibility in the use of funding for energy efficiency programmes from one financial year to the next.
The full manifesto can be found here.