SBF calls for housing and industrial focus for economic stimulus plan

Vaughan Hart
Vaughan Hart

The new economic stimulus package unveiled by the Scottish Government should prioritise housing as well as commercial and industrial projects, the Scottish Building Federation has said.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon this morning announced plans to accelerate capital spending on infrastructure projects to support and stimulate the economy in the wake of the EU referendum, starting with an additional £100 million of funding in this financial year.

The Scottish Building Federation welcomed the move but it has urged the Scottish Government to focus its efforts to accelerate capital spending on those sectors of the industry most likely to boost employment.

Vaughan Hart, managing director of the trade body, said: “In this period of economic uncertainty following the Brexit vote, any moves to accelerate investment in construction projects are of course welcome. However, if the objective is to stimulate employment within the Scottish construction industry, we would argue that investing in housing and smoothing the path for commercial and industrial projects ought to be the priority.

“Over the past ten years, we have seen a dramatic shift in industry output away from housing and commercial and industrial activity towards infrastructure, which accounted for almost 30 per cent of a record Scottish industry output of more than £14 billion last year. At the same time, industry employment has declined from more than 235,000 in 2008 to 175,000 in 2015.”

Vaughan Hart added: “A strategy focused on rebuilding industry confidence and stimulating employment needs to target additional funding towards housing as well as clearing obstacles to commercial and industrial output. A good start would be to reinstate business rates relief for empty industrial properties.”

Scottish Chambers of Commerce said the acceleration of capital spending is a welcome start to supporting Scotland’s businesses but warned the funding must be backed up by action to tackle businesses’ cost base.

Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “This is a great example of the Scottish Government using devolved powers it has at its disposal to deliver a timely boost to the Scottish economy. However, it must be clearly targeted to provide a shot in the arm to Scotland’s businesses and to support jobs in the short, medium and long term.

“This is a very welcome first step in the process of supporting businesses. Businesses are looking for our Governments in Edinburgh and London to invest in infrastructure and skills in order to support business at this crucial time.

“We would also ask that the Scottish Government follows this up with action to reduce the cost base of businesses, including a reduction in the burden of business rates and an acceleration of the planned reduction in Air Passenger Duty.”

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