Scottish sites can reopen ‘if they work with trade unions’

Scotland will begin a process to reopen construction sites from next week (28 May).

Plans unveiled by first minister Nicola Sturgeon set out a series of four phases for easing the lockdown. Speaking to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, Sturgeon warned that the reopening of sites could only take place in partnership with trade unions, based on a plan the government had developed with the industry.

“The construction industry will be able to carefully implement steps one and two of its six-step restart plan, which it has developed with us. However, let me be clear, there must be genuine partnership with trade unions – this can only be done if it is done safely,” Sturgeon told Scottish parliamentary members.

Restrictions on construction sites in Scotland have been more stringent than the rest of the UK since coronavirus legislation began. Non-essential construction work is currently banned in Scotland. When prime minister Boris Johnson last week urged construction sites to resume work, Sturgeon called on the PM to emphasise that this was just in England.

However, a new six-phased national plan revealed today will lift restrictions in Scotland from next week if there continues to be sustained reductions in the number of new infections, hospital admissions and deaths in the country. While no exact dates were given in the new route map detailing the lifting of lockdown rules, the first minister said the situation would be reviewed every three weeks, with further phases being introduced if enough progress was being made.

In addition, the Scottish Government published a letter to the chair of Construction Scotland Ken Gillispie, which explains how it plans to embark on a similar six-phase reopening of sites. From next week, construction companies can plan a return to site, make preparations and then embark on a “soft start” to site works, which involves a phased return of a proportion of the workforce.

Scottish construction's six stages Contractors can begin implementing the first three of the below stages from next Thursday. The next three can only take place when, as a nation, the country is in its own phase two.

  • Phase zero: Planning

  • Phase one: COVID-19 pre-start site prep

  • Phase two: “Soft start” to site works (only where physical distancing can be maintained)

  • Phase three: Steady state operation (only where physical distancing can be maintained)

  • Phase four: Steady state operation (where physical distancing can be maintained and/or with PPE use)

  • Phase five: Increasing density/productivity with experience

Details of the industry plan were not immediately available following the announcement by the Scottish Government after its website crashed shortly after Nicola Sturgeon began speaking.

Scottish housebuilders had previously sent a letter to first minister Nicola Sturgeon requesting a phased return to work.

Since lockdown began, Construction News has reported on two Scottish firms who have fallen into administration due to cashflow issues made worse by coronavirus lockdown restrictions. The firms included £36m-turnover Central Building Contractors.

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