A GROUP of construction industry bodies representing most of Scotland’s contractor business have written to Scottish Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop suggesting a range of “simple” actions to help protect the sector from the crippling effects of coronavirus.

The group has labelled itself the Construction Industry Coronavirus (CICV) Forum, and said it believed its suggestions could help with cash flow and protect jobs.

It includes the Scottish Building Federation (SBF), the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) and civil engineering and contracting groups from Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Members said that without immediate action, the industry would face “business closures and loss of jobs and skills”.

The forum said in its letter to Hyslop: “Most of Scotland’s economy is made up of micro and small businesses, many of whom are already facing the closure of construction sites and a reduction in domestic work.

“This will undoubtedly lead to business closures, loss of jobs and skills at a time that Scotland can least afford and would seriously dent Scotland’s future economic growth.

“However, what we would need the Scottish Government to do, in this unprecedented time, is to use its influence with clients to ask that payments are accelerated as quickly as possible to ensure that the flow of cash will continue.”

“It is also vital that clients ensure that payment must be cascaded down the supply chain to ensure that everyone who is legitimately due cash is paid more quickly. We would also request that all public sector clients immediately release any retentions due to boost cash flow in the sector.”

Alan Wilson, managing director of Select, the electrical contractors’ trade association, said: “We are at the beginning of what is likely to be a prolonged and very difficult time for a sector which has already been struggling during recent years.

“If the Scottish construction industry is to survive this crisis, it is absolutely vital that the Scottish Government and public sector clients continue to procure a steady pipeline of work.

“Given the unprecedented challenges ahead, we would urge the Scottish Government to relax current procurement rules and procedures, in the short term, to help industry and public sector clients overcome the inevitable staffing issues all employers will face over the coming months.

“We’re also requesting that the government adopt a light touch, because the private sector may not have the staff to compile large specifications and the public sector won’t have the staff to mark it.”

SBF managing director, Vaughan Hart, added: “We are already seeing a significant impact on the way the industry is having to alter its mode of operations and we are sure there will be many more issues to be dealt with as things develop.

“Cashflow has always been a major factor for companies operating within the construction sector and this is even more important now, as work streams are restricted and the potential impact on future workload is unknown.

Any measure which improves cash flow and eases the route to future work opportunities has to be looked at seriously in these times, otherwise we may not have the industry we will need to grow the economy, once the worst of the impact of the coronavirus is over.”