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Scottish construction firms allowed 'gradual' return

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image captionSite preparation was given the go-ahead on 29 May

Workers will now be allowed to return to construction sites in Scotland, the first minister has confirmed.

Site preparation began two weeks ago after lockdown restrictions were relaxed on 29 May.

Nicola Sturgeon said workers could return "gradually" while using physical distancing measures and hand hygiene.

Industry bodies have "warmly welcomed" the announcement, saying it provided further confidence for both buyers and builders.

The Scottish government has developed a six-phase plan for the restarting of the construction industry in Scotland.

With phase one now complete, Ms Sturgeon said the industry was ready to begin restarting work.

How will Scotland's construction industry be restarted?

Phase 0 - Planning

Phase 1 - Pre-start site preparation

Phase 2 - Soft start (only where physical distancing can be maintained)

Phase 3 - Steady state (only where physical distancing can be maintained)

Phase 4 - Steady state (where physical distancing can be maintained and/or with PPE use)

Phase 5 - Increasing density/productivity

"Moving to the next step of the industry plan will now allow workers to return to construction sites gradually while using measures such as physical distancing and hand hygiene to ensure that they can do so safely," she said.

"I'm very grateful to the sector and to trade unions for the very responsible approach that they have taken during an incredibly different time."

Ms Sturgeon said it was a "significant step", but added there was still a "long way to go" before construction was working at full capacity again.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said the health and safety of construction workers and the public remained the "top priority".

"Easing restrictions will not mean returning to how things were before the virus," he said.

"Physical distancing, hand hygiene, and other critical behaviours will be essential in each area to ensure public and workforce confidence."

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionPhysical distancing will need to be maintained on sites

Speaking at her daily briefing, the first minister also confirmed that the Scottish government was extending its help-to-buy scheme until March 2022.

The scheme was due to expire in March 2021.

Under help-to-buy, the Scottish government provides up to 15% of the cost of buying a new build home, recovering the money when the property is sold or the share is bought out.

Industry body Homes for Scotland welcomed the announcements on construction sites and the extension to the help-to-buy scheme.

'Great news'

Chief executive Nicola Barclay said: "To get confirmation that home builders can now commence the reopening of their sites is great news that hasn't come a moment too soon given the robust safety plans that the industry has developed and put in place.

"With pent-up housing demand having increased with every day that has passed, we look forward to finishing off the many homes that are already largely complete and that families are desperate to move into as well as starting to get the new homes that are so desperately needed out of the ground."

Vaughan Hart, managing director of the Scottish Building Federation, said the organisation was "delighted" the first minister had agreed to plans for a "soft start" for the sector.

"Both individual members and the industry as whole have been working tirelessly with unions, clients and professional bodies to ensure we only reopen sites when we can make it safe to do so," he said.

"I believe that work has paid off and a number of sites will now be ready to begin work again on Monday."

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