Project Scotland

Industry leans towards voting to stay in EU

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ONLY 8% of Scottish building employers believe Britain leaving the EU would have a positive impact on their business. Almost one in three believe Brexit would have a negative impact while more than 40% think the impact would be neutral. A further 20% “remain unsure” what the impact would be.

These are the findings of the latest Scottish Construction Monitor, a quarterly survey of the membership of the Scottish Building Federation.

The survey also revealed a drop in construction employers’ confidence about the future outlook for their business compared to the final quarter of 2015. This is, however, the eleventh consecutive quarter in which a positive overall confidence rating has been recorded. The rating is now only marginally positive overall having slipped by a further five points to stand at PLUS 3.

In view of the forthcoming EU referendum, the survey asked a series of questions about Scottish construction companies’ level of exposure to the European Union in terms of labour, supplies and exports. 23% said they currently employ labour from other EU countries compared to 77% who do not. One third said they procure goods and services from other EU countries while two thirds said they do not. Only 6% of businesses said they export to other EU countries while 94% do not.

SBF members were also asked to judge the likely impact on their business if the UK were to leave the European Union. The most popular answer was “neutral” with more than one in five saying “don’t know”. However, roughly four times as many thought the impact of Brexit on their business would be negative as those who thought the UK leaving the EU would be positive for their business.

Vaughan Hart, Scottish Building Federation managing director said, “The responses we’ve received to the questions related to the EU referendum suggest there is limited interest in or enthusiasm for the European Union amongst construction employers. The results also show that the industry’s level of exposure to the European Union is far more limited than might be the case for certain other industries. The most significant relationship building companies have with other EU countries appears to be through their supply chain.

“But out of the minority of building companies responding who think the UK leaving the EU would have an impact on their business, four times as many think this impact would be negative as those who think Brexit would be good for their business.

“More generally, a further drop in industry confidence this quarter adds weight to the view that 2016 looks set to be a challenging year for the Scottish economy.

“For its part, SBF will not involve itself in the forthcoming referendum campaign. But I would observe that it is perhaps this growing sense of uncertainty about the economic outlook which explains why, on balance, our members are leaning marginally towards a preference for remaining in the European Union when the referendum takes place in June.”

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