4. Devolved News – Scotland and Wales 2016 – 2021: Unfinished business and what’s to come?
With the Scottish and Welsh Elections due to take place on 6 May, we take a quick look at what’s been achieved over the last five years and what policies might be carried over by the next Government’s.
Scotland is going to the polls in May 2021 following a turbulent political and economic parliamentary session of 2016 – 2021. This parliamentary session saw a focus on the built environment that the four preceding sessions had not seen, and over the course of the five year term, the UK voted to leave the EU, a climate emergency was declared, and a global pandemic led to a series of lockdowns.
The construction sector, however, showed its resilience by effectively navigating the turbulence and maintaining a sound level of output and productivity; not least the completion of the £1.3bn Queensferry Crossing.
Construction resilience and successes aside, the post-pandemic recovery will naturally feature in the six-week election campaign and beyond. The new parliament, however, must not lose focus on some unfinished business leftover from the last term:
The Scottish Government’s flagship housing policy over the last parliamentary term was the £3bn investment in 50,00 affordable homes; 35,000 of which would be for social rent.
With the Covid-19 lockdown restricting activity in the construction sector, the social homes target stalled, but the Scottish Government has committed to completing the remaining homes over the next year.
On top of this, the Scottish Government’s long-term strategy, Housing to 2040, outlines Scotland’s intent to “deliver 100,000 social and affordable homes by 2031/32”. Even with the key word here being “deliver” (which does not necessarily mean new build) this is no mean feat and could mean a constant flow of projects for construction companies.
In March 2018, the cross-party, stakeholder-led Scottish Parliamentary Working Group on Tenement Maintenance was initiated with the purpose of establishing solutions to aid, assist and compel owners of tenement properties to maintain their buildings. The final report, published in May 2019, made recommendations for mandatory Owners Associations, Building Reserve Funds and Building Surveys, and was responded to positively by the Scottish Government. Covid-19 impacted progress, but sector participants, as well as tenement owners and occupiers, will been keen to see this restarted as soon as possible.>
Procurement and Payment
Voiced sectoral concerns over public procurement and payment were not new in 2016, nor were they solved over the last parliamentary term. With the UK leaving the EU, there is opportunity to reassess the procurement and payment regime and make necessary amends that can best support the whole of Scotland’s construction industry.
Any review and amends should be instigated as soon as possible to kickstart programmes and projects from Scotland’s Infrastructure Investment Plan (IIP) and maintain momentum.
The current Welsh Government is a Labour-led administration, with Mark Drakeford MS holding the position of First Minister of Wales since December 2018, taking over from Carwyn Jones.
Welsh Labour’s manifesto ahead of the 2016 Senedd election called a plan for prosperity included pledges to include childcare support for working parents, more money for schools, 100,000 age-all apprenticeships, tax cuts for small businesses, a new treatment fund for the NHS, and a ‘better deal’ for people who need care in old age. At the time, there was also criticism about the lack of detail on Welsh Labour’s biggest infrastructure project – the £1bn M4 relief road.
Five years on, Wales is in a very different position, with the impact of Brexit and the covid-19 pandemic alternating plans and commitments from the Government. These issues are likely to set the basis for future policy making. Indeed, Wales’ Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015 help sets the framework for these issues, ensuring public bodies – and by extension anyone that performs functions in the public interest – consider the long-term impact of their decisions, work better with people, communities and each other, and tackle persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change.
According to polling organisations, the May 2021 Senedd elections is likely to be one of the most highly contested, with potential coalitions and agreements needing to be struck to form a Government. We anticipate all the main parties will focus on post-economic recovery from the covid-19 pandemic, with varying approaches to stimulating the Welsh economy.
Questions around Wales’ constitutional future may also be raised by the likes of Plaid Cymru. There are areas of increasing support for Wales leaving the UK, although polling has suggested it is nowhere near the levels of support for independence in Scotland.
The CIOB will be producing a manifesto for Wales ahead of the election on 6 May. The CIOB has also participated in the creation of a manifesto for Scotland in alignment with the Construction Industry Coronavirus Forum (CICV) which can be accessed here.
Over the coming weeks, we will promoting the manifestos amongst policy makers as well as analysing each of the commitments from the main political parties in their respective manifestos.
If you would like any further information on either the Scottish or Welsh elections, then please contact [email protected]