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Scotland heads the UK on growth

According to the latest RICS market survey Scottish construction is yet to experience the slowdown that is hitting other regions

Whether it is the £82 million Union Square development in Aberdeen, a £180 million deal to build new schools for Edinburgh City Council, or the £1 billion redevelopment of the former Ravenscraig steelworks near Motherwell, 2007 was a busy year for the Scottish construction industry.

This vibrancy is reflected in the most recent RICS construction market survey.

Covering both the last quarter of 2007 and also looking forward into 2008 the survey recognises that, while much of the rest of the UK is feeling the brakes being put on their pipelines of work, north of the border growth is still healthy, with eight consecutive quarters of industry growth providing evidence of burgeoning workloads in all sectors.

Even private housing is still going strong in Scotland.

Scots surveyors remain confident about the future, but their level of confidence has fallen throughout the second half of 2007.

Perhaps they have been anticipating the mood of their equivalents elsewhere in the UK. The overall picture across the country shows that while the industry continues to grow, it is doing so at a more sluggish pace.

The balance of those surveyors contributing to the report shows that the percentage of those expecting sales to rise compared to those anticipating a fall is down from +29 in the first quarter of 2007 to just +16 by the last. Growth was greatest in the South-west and Wales, while the North of England brought up the rear.

Growth in public housing

Across the sectors RICS surveyors see greatest improvements in the public housing sector that offsets falls in its private sector counterpart.

“The national trend throughout the year of a strengthening public housing sector partially offsetting a weakening private housing sector continued in Q4. London, the Midlands and East Anglia have been the main drivers of this trend.

“The South-west and Wales bucked the trend with strengthening private activity and falling public housing workloads,” states the report.

Both industrial and office building growth has dampened down in the last quarter according to the survey, with again the South-west and Wales taking the largest share of what growth there was for commercial, while the Midlands and East Anglia led the way for industrial growth.

Having experienced a boom at the start of the decade, infrastructure works UK-wide showed only slight growth, dragged down by a slowdown in London and the South-east.

This contrasted with rapidly expanding workloads in the public non-housing sector where positive conditions were felt across the UK.

Skills shortage not a factor

But claims of a skills shortage from other quarters do not seem to be borne out by the survey, with only a third of those questioned expressing any difficulty recruiting, a figure that has remained steady since the beginning of 2005.

Returning to where we started in Scotland, it is also the region that expects to see most growth in the number of people employed in construction, with further major infrastructure projects such as the M74 extension around Glasgow, and Edinburgh Tram, not to mention a new Forth Road Bridge, the Scottish market looks pretty healthy for years to come.

Whether the rest of the UK can match this vigour remains to be seen.

For further details of the RICS survey see