Scottish Building Employers Federation says minister is “inaccessible” and his portfolio too wide.
The Scottish Building Employers Federation has attacked the industry’s lack of representation in the new Scottish parliament.

The SBEF said Scottish construction minister Henry McLeish had too many other departmental briefs in his ministerial portfolio and was unable to give construction the attention it deserved.

The SBEF has called for the appointment of a minister whose sole focus is the construction industry. It has also called for access to the executive to be improved.

Sid Patten, director of SBEF and head of the Scottish Housebuilders Association, said: “Access to the minister is a big problem. The minister for construction is also the minister for enterprise and lifelong learning, and he seems also to be the minister for sport. The whole thing has not been organised properly.”

Patten’s comments were echoed by other construction industry insiders. The managing director of one major contractor said: “I think there should be a minister in Scotland whose primary function is to focus on the construction industry.”

Another Scottish contractor said: “The problem is that McLeish has his eye on the first minister’s post when Donald Dewar retires. He just wants to keep his nose clean.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish executive said: “Mr McLeish is serious about the construction industry in Scotland, and is determined to pursue growth through closer links with other sectors like education and tourism.

“The portfolio recognises that different interests in Scotland’s economy are intrinsically linked, and these should be co-ordinated.”

However, Patten said the lack of a focused minister was delaying the implementation of Egan and Westminster initiatives in Scotland. He said the SBEF had also proposed a registration scheme similar to the quality mark initiative launched by Nick Raynsford, Westminster’s minister for construction. Patten said: “A more focused minister could provide dedicated legislation to make it unrealistic for rogue builders to work in construction.”

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