Scottish builders fear skills drain to London

May 8, 2017 / Isla MacFarlane
Scottish builders fear skills drain to London

Scottish building firms fear that if the UK has access to fewer EU migrants post-Brexit, there could be a Scottish skills drain to London and the south east, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) Scotland has warned ahead of the General Election.

FMB Scotland has called on all major political parties to recognise the importance of migrant labour to the Scottish construction sector as part of its ‘Programme for Government’, that has been launched the day before Parliament is dissolved for the General Election.

Gordon Nelson, Director of FMB Scotland, said, “While the Scottish construction industry may be less reliant on EU labour than elsewhere in the UK, Scottish firms will be concerned that if the UK more generally loses access to EU labour it could lead to a drain of skilled workers from Scotland to London and the south east of England in particular. Almost half of London’s construction workers are of non-UK origin and in the absence of the ability to easily recruit from Europe and beyond, Scottish workers could be tempted down to London and the south east via the promise of higher wages.

“We are already seeing a number of construction workers from Northern Ireland living and working in London Monday to Friday and returning home Friday to Sunday so they can reap the benefits of higher wages.”

Nelson concluded, “Unless the UK Government introduces a flexible immigration system post-Brexit, the Scottish house building sector will fail to increase in capacity and the Scottish Government’s plans for investing in the energy efficiency of our existing homes will be jeopardised. The Scottish SME construction sector has grown steadily in recent years but firms will soon reach a ceiling if the skilled workers they need aren’t readily available.

“Clearly the Scottish construction industry also needs to train more apprentices but that is a solution for the medium to longer term. Whoever represents Scotland in the next UK Parliament must act as a strong voice for the Scottish business sector as it will play a significant role in the success of Scottish society more broadly in the coming years.”

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