Almost one in three building employers thing leaving the EU would have a negative impact on their business compared to 8% who think the impact would be positive. More than 40% think the impact would be neutral while a further 20% remain unsure what the impact would be.
These are some of the headline findings of the latest Scottish Construction Monitor, a quarterly survey of the membership of the Scottish Building Federation (SBF), Scotland’s leading construction employers’ federation comprising hundreds of member companies. Fifty-five responded to this survey.
The SBF survey also revealed a further drop in construction employers’ confidence about the future outlook for their business compared to the final quarter of 2015. This is now the 11th consecutive quarter in which a positive overall confidence rating has been recorded for the industry.
The rating is now only marginally positive overall, having slipped by a further five points this quarter to stand at +3.
The percentage of respondents who are more confident about their prospects for the next 12 months compared to the past year has risen marginally from 33% last quarter to 35% this quarter. The percentage of respondents less confident about their firm’s future prospects has also risen marginally from 25% in Q4 2015 to 26% this quarter.
In anticipation of the forthcoming referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union, the latest survey also 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 in three said that they procure goods and services from other EU countries while two thirds said they do not. Only 6% of businesses responding to the survey 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 results were not decisive either way with the most popular answer being ‘neutral’ and 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.
The SBF survey did not indicate, however, whether members preferred to stay in the EU as part of a wider UK or as an independent state of Scotland.
On 23rd June 2016 the electorate of the UK goes to the polls in a referendum on UK membership of the EU.
Commenting on the survey results, SBF managing director Vaughan Hart 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 among 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.
Mr Hart concluded: “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.”