Momentum is building to rectify the disparity between guidance on the re-opening of construction sites north and south of the border.
Next week will see three of the UK's biggest housebuilders re-opening sites in England. As my able colleagues Karen Cameron and Sarah Stuart have commented in recent days over in our coronavirus hub, the construction industry has seen a divergence of approach north and south of the border.
In Scotland, Scottish Government advice is now clear that all construction sites should close unless they are linked to specified essential services. Even if they do fall within the latter category, they must then comply with social distancing requirements.
In England, there has not been such direct advice, with construction sites being encouraged to remain open, subject to being able to comply with social distancing requirements.
What the Scottish Government has not done, however, is encapsulate its advice in direct legal requirements. This means it is relying on the goodwill of contractors and employers to follow the guidance rather than imposing that instruction upon them.
How long is that goodwill likely to last when faced with evidence, as quoted by the Federation of Master Builders, that two thirds of small and medium sized construction firms may only have cash to survive another two to three months? Or when, anecdotally, we hear of construction firms having difficulty accessing government (or indeed any type of) funding?
This is an industry with a track record of managing physical risk. Has the time come for trust based re-opening across the sector — from the largest to the smallest?
There's evidence that about two thirds of small and medium-sized construction firms may only have the cash to survive another two to three months if the present circumstances continue.