The Scottish nationalists may have entered Parliament en masse, but their influence on construction will be small

Michael Dall

The pollsters at least got something right over the last few months. The projected landslide win for the SNP was not, as many in the Labour Party hoped, a statistical error. It was a tsunami of epic proportions which in one fell swoop completely altered the political landscape in Scotland.

It is hard to comprehend just how much of a resounding victory this was for the SNP. They went from having six seats in March to 56 seats on swings of 35% and higher in some places. I will be surprised if a turnaround of such epic proportions happens again in any other country of the world, let alone the UK. However, it is hard to escape the paradox of this success for the SNP. Swept to power on the promise of “making Scotland’s voice heard” it was assumed that they would now be holding the balance of power at Westminster.  Many of those who voted for them were promised a chance to put Westminster’s feet to the fire and extract key concessions for Scotland. It is ironic then that they are now facing the prospect of a Conservative majority government that has the latitude to enact all the proposals in its own manifesto.

The SNP had hoped to push for Glasgow and Edinburgh to be part of HS2 proposed route but that is now surely off the table

In construction, the SNP had hoped to push for Glasgow and Edinburgh to be part of HS2 proposed route but that is now surely off the table. It never really sounded plausible given how advanced the existing proposals are and the considerable obstacles the project already faces. The other construction related pledge was to increase the number of affordable homes in Scotland. This was confusing however as housing is devolved to the Scottish Parliament so one would expect that to be a priority for the SNP in next year’s Holyrood election.  

The infrastructure sector has been particularly strong in Scotland in recent years with many transport schemes completed and more about to start, including the Aberdeen Western bypass. However, projects such as this are decided upon and delivered by the Scottish Parliament so the impact that the SNP at Westminster will have here is likely to be limited. The renewable sector has also experienced huge growth in Scotland and this is likely to continue as the UK wide subsidy funds investment in clean energy projects. This is certainly one area that the SNP will be able to influence at Westminster and a potential boost for Scottish construction.

To summarise there was a hiatus around construction spending commitment at the time of the Scottish referendum but many of those projects in question proceeded since then. I may be wrong, but while the SNP’s presence will make plenty of headlines, the material impact on the construction sector on both sides of the border is likely to be small.

Michael Dall is an economist at Barbour ABI