The construction industry is facing one of its bleakest periods, with some 3,300 jobs having been lost in the Borders alone. That’s according to a Scottish Government labour market report published this week.
Hawick councillor Zandra Elliot, who is also financial manager and company secretary of family firm J & R Elliot, has called on the UK Government to do more to kick-start the trade through financing new infrastructure, while Andy Pearson, managing director of Peebles-based Tweed Homes, warns that public funding – which has been a lifeline to some local construction firms in recent years – is running out. Not only has the Scottish Government made record levels of investment in affordable housing in recent years, but this cash has also helped provide much-needed jobs, including apprenticeships, more of which could help rid Scotland of the blight of youth unemployment.
With budgets being slashed at local and national level in a bid to cut the country’s debt and ensure we don’t follow the same route as Greece and Spain, it is hard to see how we can build our way out of the current financial hole we’ve dug for ourselves.
But with the building industry vital to stimulating our local economy, politicians need to put their money where their mouths are.
It may be an over simplification, but surely by getting people back to work the industry benefits, our shops and services benefit, and we benefit, with people not having to rely on state benefits, and with money in their pockets they start to spend again.
As MSP Christine Grahame suggests, why not allow capital funding from future years to be brought forward to fund shovel-ready projects currently on the backburner?
One note of optimism was sounded by Councillor Stuart Bell who said: “We anticipate that there will be a number of opportunities across the economy, including for the construction sector, as the Borders railway project is implemented later this year.” Let’s pray he’s right.