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Planning reform to boost the trades

The Scottish Government

Proposed changes to Scotland’s planning system will put a great emphasis on economic benefits, including creating new jobs, planning Minister Derek Mackay will tell key members of Scotland’s business community this week.

Mr Mackay will meet with Scotland’s business leaders during a series of engagements taking place around the country to support the Scottish Government’s public consultation on Scotland’s third National Planning Framework (NPF3) and a revised Scottish Planning Policy.

The Minister will discuss how proposed changes to the planning system will place a greater weight on economic impact. This includes the creation of new jobs as well as recognising and responding to economic conditions.

Mr Mackay said: “The Scottish Government is focussed on sustainable economic growth, and as Planning Minister I am intent on delivering a planning system that is enabling this objective.

“This is about the culture and practice of planning on the ground. An explicit emphasis on economic impact in planning deliberations is both necessary and timely. I believe we are making good progress.

“During the consultation process I have been meeting with local authorities, developers, environmental groups and members of the public. By meeting with key players from Scotland’s business community I will gain further feedback on the consultation which will assist in our drive to push forward sustainable economic growth.”

Work to start on Inverness College

The Scottish Government

Construction work on the new £50 million Inverness College UHI is set to start next month, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed today.

The 13.3 acre University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) development will create 300 jobs during construction, a minimum of 28 modern apprenticeships and provide facilities for over 8,500 students.

Inverness is the first Further Education college to use the Non Profit Distributing (NPD) financing model with City of Glasgow and Kilmarnock colleges to follow later in the year.

NPD ensures that private sector returns are capped, that there is no dividend bearing equity, and any surplus is directed in favour of the public sector.

Other major projects in the £2.5 billion NPD pipeline include M8, M73 and M74 improvements, while construction work has already begun on community health buildings in Aberdeen, Forres and Tain.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The new £50 million Inverness College UHI will be a landmark building, the centrepiece in a high quality, modern and sustainable campus being developed on the outskirts of the city.

“This Government is determined to invest in Scotland’s infrastructure – our schools, roads and hospitals – both to stimulate growth in the short term and lay the foundations for long term success.

“That is good news for the Highland economy and its construction industry and will attract businesses and highly trained professionals to the Highlands to help stimulate economic growth.

“Our investment in schools, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure is set to top £3.4 billion in 2013-14, which is estimated to support more than 40,000 jobs across the Scottish economy.”

Education Secretary Michael Russell said: “The Scottish Government has demonstrated its commitment to Scotland’s college sector by adding £61 million to the sector’s budget over the next two years compared to what was originally planned for the spending review period.

“We are progressing college reforms that will substantially improve students’ chances of securing a job at the end of their course, as well as ensuring local businesses are able to employ the right people with the right skills.

“Our investment in Inverness College UHI sits alongside upcoming investment in Glasgow and Kilmarnock colleges to ensure our students have state of the art learning facilities to help them maximise their potential. The new Inverness campus will play a crucial role in the expansion of research, further and higher education in the Highland region.”

Barry White, Chief Executive of the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT), explained: “Reaching financial close of a project of this size and complexity in only 17 months is unprecedented. This project, funded through the SFT led NPD programme, is a massive boost to the local economy with the main contractor committed to deliver at least 25 apprenticeship positions.

“When it opens in summer 2015, Inverness College UHI will be housed in modern, high quality and fit-for-purpose buildings and achieve great value-for-money thanks to the collaborative efforts and professionalism of all partners involved.”

Proposed planning revamp to boost infrastructure projects and create new jobs

The Scottish Government

Scotland’s planning system will create new trade jobs and economic benefits to help deliver sustainable economic growth, Planning Minister Derek Mackay has announced today.

The third National Planning Framework (NPF) and draft Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) will influence development plans across Scotland and guide future planning decisions on a range of sectors including transport, energy and infrastructure.

The NPF is the Scottish Government’s strategy for the long-term development of Scotland’s towns, cities and countryside. It sets out strategic infrastructure needs and priorities over the next 20 to 30 years that will pave the way for new jobs in the construction sector.

Mr Mackay said: “Scotland needs a planning system that has, at its heart, the overriding principle of delivering sustainable economic growth in order to maximise the country’s attraction to investors and visitors in a global economy.

“We want future planning decisions to give significant weight to the economic benefit of proposed developments, particularly the creation of new jobs.”

These draft proposals are supported by on-going measures to improve the overall performance of the planning system, ensuring smoother delivery and a stronger focus on economic recovery.

Planning Minister Derek Mackay added: “The consultation on the National Planning Framework and Scottish Planning Policy will influence development plans across the country for the next thirty years affecting every part of Scotland.”

He said: “We will support our review of Town Centres by insisting that major new developments which attract people – like workplaces, leisure facilities and shops – are in town centres wherever possible. We want to see development which ensures lively, successful and viable town centres.

“I am keen that planning does more to encourage good design, and the creation of the kind of places we would all like to live in or visit. Our forthcoming policy on Architecture and Place will show what we are doing to achieve this.

“Scotland is enriched by a high quality environment and many special places to live in and visit. These physical assets underpin our economy and our quality of life and that is why we need to ensure developments go in the right place, providing positive benefits for our communities and environment.”

What is your reaction to the proposed planning changes in Scotland that will create new jobs and boost the trades? Share your thoughts by commenting here or raise your voice on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Cash flow boost for Scottish construction industry

Cash flow boost for Scottish construction industry

The construction industry in Scotland is set to benefit from an initiative to speed up payments to contractors in public sector developments.

Project bank accounts are ring-fenced accounts from which payments can be made directly and simultaneously by a client to the main contractor and members of the supply chain, removing the scope for delays in payment from the main contractor’s bank account.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, announced the Scottish Government’s intention to trial the scheme during a procurement debate held today.

The trial is an early recommendation of the Review of Procurement in Construction, which is set to report in the summer on how Scotland’s £2 billion public construction contracts are awarded.

The system, which should be in place later this year, will speed up available funds to all contractors with electronic payments typically taking five days.

Project bank accounts will also reduce the time between initial expenditure on labour, plant and materials and subsequent payment, which will help reduce insolvencies, particularly amongst SMEs.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The Scottish Government is working tirelessly to improve on the procurement system in Scotland’s public sector in order to maximise economic growth and support jobs.

“We are happy to take on board the trial of project bank accounts for public sector projects and we are now looking to identify suitable opportunities which will support local and national economies and boost cash flow for both contractors and subcontractors.

“This should in turn help to preserve Scottish jobs and retain indigenous skills and expertise.

“Using project bank accounts guarantees a diverse and competitive marketplace, meaning that Scotland’s many SMEs are given the confidence to compete for Scottish construction contracts.”

Ken Lewandowski, deputy chair of the Review of Procurement in Construction, said: “Times are tough in the construction industry, and when payment for work is delayed, things only get tougher.

“Project bank accounts can help to relieve some of that pressure, especially on Scotland’s SMEs.

“The case for trialling them is so compelling, and the industry so important to the economy, that we felt it was appropriate to make this early recommendation, before we publish our full report in the summer.”

Time to seize the moment on offshore wind and the renewable industry

Investment in Scottish renewables to top £1 billion and support 11,000 jobs

Scotland’s Energy Minister Fergus Ewing has warned that the UK Government should allocate further investment to boost the electricity market and create thousands of offshore wind jobs.

A recent report by Cambridge Econometrics found that UK GDP will be £20bn or 0.8 per cent higher in 2030 if wind is deployed rather than gas, with 70,000 more jobs created – but that investors needed certainty if we are to secure these benefits.

Ahead of a debate on the Energy, Enterprise and Tourism Committee’s report on the achievability of the Scottish Government’s renewable energy targets, Mr Ewing warned the UK coalition ministers’ mixed messages on energy policy and continuing uncertainty around Electricity Market Reform, including the lack of a decarbonisation target until at least 2016, is risking jobs, investment and economic growth.

The proposals outlined in the Energy Bill published in November 2012 lack measures to give investors confidence beyond 2020, putting the UK at a disadvantage compared to countries like Germany which has already set a clear target of 26GW from offshore wind by 2030.

Scotland would benefit in particular from an increase in offshore wind, as we have a quarter of the offshore wind potential in Europe.

Already, four international turbine manufacturers, Gamesa, Areva, Mitsubishi Power Systems and Samsung Heavy Industries have announced they intend to build turbine manufacturing plants in Scotland, creating an estimated 8,600 potential manufacturing jobs.

Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “Offshore wind has reached a watershed. The industry has enormous potential, and to realise this potential it is essential that investors have confidence.

“Over the past weeks I have spoken to many potential investors who say the uncertainty surrounding Electricity Market Reform is starting to affect their investment decisions.

“The time to reassure them is now. The UK Government must make clear their ongoing support for offshore wind and emulate the Scottish Government’s approach by setting a 2030 electricity decarbonisation target now, not in 2016 as planned under the Energy Bill..

“Offshore wind has the potential to raise UK GDP by 0.8 per cent, and we must seize this prize. The opportunities the industry present us – in terms of jobs, investment, stabilizing energy bills and reducing our carbon output – are too valuable to risk.”

What is your reaction to the support by the Scotland’s Energy Minister to boost the renewable industry and create thousands of renewable jobs? Share your thoughts by commenting here or raising your voice on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Glasgow College announces preferred bidder for new super campus

McAlpine wins £228m Glasgow campusSir Robert McAlpine has been named as the preferred bidder to build a £228 million college in Glasgow, paving the way for new trade jobs and boosting the local economy.

The multi-million investment is financed with funding support from the Scottish Government via the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and from the college’s financial reserves.

The European Investment Bank has approved up to £100 million of financing which will kick-start building and construction work in the summer of 2013.

Julia Kennedy, associate director at Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) who has been supporting the college through the procurement process, said:  “Construction is planned to start later this year and will act as an enormous boost to local small and medium enterprises working within the building sector and related supply chains thanks to the preferred bidder’s commitment to supporting local employment and training.”

Douglas Baillie, Chair of the College Board said: “Selecting the preferred bidder is yet another major milestone in our continuing success.

“The announcement is proof of what we can achieve as a beacon of excellence and it is with great excitement and energy that we look ahead to the next chapter in the life of this great college.

“Enhancing our diverse and talented student learning community with brand new, bespoke facilities underlines our passion for learning and desire to meet the needs of Glasgow’s and Scotland’s employers and the wider civic community.”

Both campuses have been designed by Reiach and Hall and Michael Laird Architects. The College represents the single largest estates investment in the educational sector in Scotland and will help transform the city centre landscape for generations to come.

£200 million extra investment for housing in Scotland

The Scottish GovernmentScotland’s housing budget has increased by almost £200 million over the last year, paving the way for new homes to be built across the country.

With over 30 rep cent additional housing investment this year, compared to the 2011 Spending Review, the building construction sector is set to benefit from the recent funding which could create new jobs and boost the trades.

Decisions on the allocation of another £50 million investment package for the housing industry are expected to be announced later this month.

Speaking ahead of a debate on the Scottish Government’s Budget Bill, Finance Secretary John Swinney said: “The Scottish Government has been absolutely clear that we aim to deliver at least 30,000 affordable homes during the lifetime of this parliament and this funding will help ensure this commitment will be met.

“Despite Westminster cuts to our capital budgets the Scottish Government is delivering just as much new social housing – and more new affordable housing – as in the period up to 2007 when budgets were rising every year.

“The extra £50 million is our fourth tranche of extra housing spending announced over the last year, and is in addition to announcements made in February, June and September.

“The overall increase totals almost £200 million over the spending review period – demonstrating that where we have an opportunity to invest, this Government does exactly that.

“Housing is just one element of the Budget Bill which will be debated in Parliament this week. Parliament will be debating a Budget for Scotland’s economy. This Government is doing everything within its limited power to protect households, business and front line services, and this Budget provides further investment in construction, skills and the green economy.

“We are investing money to create and maintain jobs. Increased support for affordable homes will provide a much needed boost to the construction industry as well as improving the lives of the families who live in them.

“We are providing an immediate capital stimulus through support for shovel ready projects and we are helping businesses with a tax relief package worth over £540 million this year.

“This has to be seen against a 26 per cent real terms cut by the UK Coalition Government to Scotland’s capital budget in a failed attempt to reduce public sector borrowing.

“We have listened to the Scottish Parliament by bringing forward further investment in housing and we will continue to work with all parties to deliver a budget for growth.

“Only with the full levers of independence can Scotland properly capture economic opportunity and tackle inequality and poverty and we can do so more efficiently and effectively than currently happens in the UK.”

Industry praises Chancellor’s plan to boost infrastructure and create new jobs

CECA Autumn Statement

As reported on T4TS News, Chancellor George Osborne has today announced £5.5 billion infrastructure package in his autumn statement, paving the way for new jobs in the building construction sector.

The infrastructure investment package will be funded by welfare cuts and a reduction in other Whitehall departments. The latest revelation by the Chancellor represents a firm commitment by Government to boost construction projects and create new jobs.

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) said that today’s autumn statement demonstrated that the government was listening to the needs of the infrastructure sector.

In advance of today’s statement CECA had worked with other industry bodies to press the case for immediate action to unlock activity in the sector.

Based on analysis of figures published today, CECA believes that around £775 million of work will be release in 2013/14 as a result of the Chancellor’s actions. More than £1 billion further additional work is due to follow the next year.

Commenting, CECA director of external affairs Alasdair Reisner said: “CECA has long argued that there is a pressing need for the government to take action to unlock new work in the infrastructure sector to achieve growth in the economy.

“Today’s Autumn Statement show that the government has listened. A combination of new projects and investment in repair and maintenance work offers the potential of additional work worth £775 million for CECA members in 2013/14.

“Investment in the infrastructure sector offers the best rate of return, but for larger infrastructure projects it can take time for these benefits to be realised, particularly due to the planning system.

“It is thus vital that government and industry work together to identify ways of unlocking work in the sector that will show an immediate benefit.

“By announcing new work in the fiscal year, the Chancellor has recognised the need to stimulate infrastructure activity in the short as well as the long term, as the best means of returning UK plc to economic health.

“Clearly we will need to be sure that this is genuinely new money, rather than recycling of funds that would otherwise have been spent on infrastructure elsewhere. But on the face of it, this appears to have been a good Autumn Statement for the industry.”

What it your reaction to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement announced today? Share your thoughts by commenting here or raising your voice on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Boost for Scotland’s construction industry

The Scottish GovernmentThe number of new homes started by private sector builders in the year to June 2012 was the highest recorded since the banking crisis started in 2008 according to official statistics.

Over that period, 10,827 new homes were started, a 24 per cent increase on the previous year. This increase follows three years of recorded annual decreases in private sector new build starts.

The statistics reflect new starts by house builders building for private sale, alongside other house building activity by construction companies throughout Scotland such as for RSL shared equity developments and self-build.

There was also a continued increase in the number of council houses across Scotland, with local authorities completing 1,206 new homes in the year to September 2012, the highest number since 1990.

Across all sectors 14,032 houses were started to June 2012, up by 4% compared to the same period last year.

Housing Minister Margaret Burgess said: “Scotland’s construction sector has faced the full force of the economic downturn.

“Times are still very tough, with high deposit requirements and reduced mortgage availability continuing to prove a barrier to recovery in the housing market.

“However, I welcome these latest statistics and hope this increased activity can spark an economic revival for the industry. Every house started supports jobs for bricklayers, joiners, plumbers and the wider supply chain.

“The Scottish Government is doing all it can to support the industry and boost supply. We plan to deliver at least 30,000 affordable homes during the lifetime of the Parliament, backed by investment of at least £760 million in the next three years.

“We have allocated almost £115 million to local authorities across Scotland, which is helping deliver over 4,400 council homes.

“And we are stimulating growth through the innovative National Housing Trust initiative and our shared equity schemes.

“We have also offered a guarantee to support up to 6,000 new build house purchases through a housing industry-led Mortgage Indemnity Scheme, to help address the banks’ requirements for high deposits.”

Highland Council to boost infrastructure and development projects

 The Highland Council will highlight to the Scottish Government a series of infrastructure and development projects that would boost economic growth and create new trade jobs.

The list of key projects will be passed on to the Scottish Government for their consideration as part of the review of the National Planning Framework (NPF3) which is expected to unlock investment for national developments of strategic importance for Scotland.

The projects that will be put forward by Highland Council are all considered to be of national significance and have the potential to make a significant contribution to the country’s sustainable economic growth.

The projects being promoted by the Council to the Government include strategic road improvements to the A9. A82 and A96 trunk roads that connect Highland communities to the rest of Scotland, enhancements to Highland ports and harbours including Nigg and Kishorn, enhancements at all Highland airports, the provision of  superfast broadband and the upgrading of the existing electricity transmission network to realise the growth potential in renewable energy generation.

The Council is also taking the opportunity to raise other issues it feels that are of national importance such as the decommissioning of Dounreay, faster train journey times on the mainline, coastal development including the harnessing of wind, wave and tidal energy, waste management and natural heritage.

Vice Chairman of the Planning, Environment and Development Committee, Councillor George Farlow said: “All the projects we are putting forward could potentially bring huge benefits to Highland businesses and residents as well as bringing wider prospective socio-economic growth to the whole of Scotland.

“Our response will highlight the need to ensure we have the best infrastructure in place to make the most of every opportunity and will recognise the work we are doing to promote sustainable development and economic growth.

“Our plans are ambitious and they reflect the confidence we have in the Highlands as great place to live, work and do business in.”