Has the Scottish civils sector changed over the past 20 years?
After 20 years working in the sector, Alan Watt’s swift answer to this is – YES, INCREDIBLY!
Alan retired from CECA Scotland in May after 20 years service and before he left, agreed to pen a short blog on how the sector has changed in that time:
Health & Safety
Construction has taken huge strides not only in reducing accidents but also in improving working conditions, including pay, and occupational health and wellbeing where we see the next great push coming. I make no apologies for CECA Scotland taking a lead role with others including HSE to bring about positive change as evidenced by the highly successful Safety & Health Awareness Day (SHAD) events, behavioural safety programmes, mock trials and utility avoidance initiatives. This has always been, and will remain, CECA’s top priority.
Undoubtedly the biggest change for CECA has been advent of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 and the consequent shift of infrastructure policy from Westminster to Holyrood. We estimate that over 80% (by value) of civils decisions are now made in Scotland giving CECA a far better opportunity to engage with key decision makers. We also operate very closely with the main civils clients so members know what’s coming when; how it will be procured and can enjoy a dialogue that is important even when difficulties arise. This has been of particular significance given the remarkable list of flagship transport projects over the last decade culminating in the Queensferry Crossing, the extensive upgrade of Scotland’s utilities and the steady increase in Scotland’s housing stock. However, one area of deep disappointment has been the Westminster Government’s change of policy on renewables. This will cause a huge reduction in activity over the next couple of years, particularly in onshore wind and hydro where Scotland has huge untapped resources. I have no political axe to grind but the UK Government would have served Scotland far better if it had not adopted a “one cap fits all” attitude and recognised that, in this case, Scotland is genuinely different.
Procurement & Contracts
If only we had a fiver for every time we’ve heard “let’s sort out prequal and tendering” bureaucracy”! It’s been a long and tortuous road but CECA’s endgame has always been to encourage clients to select the best qualified contractors to carry out appropriate contracts in the right locations and we remain firmly committed to that. Most people now accept that NEC3 is the industry standard despite the inevitable issues on risk transfer and payment. We continue to work with Government and clients in promoting NEC 3 (and soon NEC4) to maintain clarity and encourage fairness and have embarked on a sustained programme of training clients, consultants and contractors in its use.
Skills & Training
Another game changer over the last 20 years. Against a backdrop of constant, and sometimes disruptive, changes at CITB our members are still seeking a flow of quality recruits and recognised schemes and qualifications for career progression in the workforce. Although competence cards, with CSCS as the benchmark, have had their critics, they have brought much needed order to the process together with a base level of health and safety. CECA has rightly nailed its colours to that mast and this will remain a high priority for CECA Scotland.
20 years have seen seismic changes in Scottish construction in the political backdrop, the range of incredible projects delivered, improved safety and working conditions. CECA Scotland has grown steadily in both size and influence but has never lost sight of the need to in the forefront of all of these changes in order to promote our members’ interests and improve the wider industry.
Alan Watt, CECA Scotland Chief Executive 1996-2017