‘Ignored’ – Anger over lack of clarity on installations in Scottish roadmap

Scottish retailers and installers have hit out at the Government’s ‘roadmap’ plan to exit lockdown as it gives no indication on when installations will be allowed to resume.

Scotland is the only country in the UK that hasn’t allowed installers to enter people’s homes during the most recent national lockdown.

Official guidance said fitting a new kitchen or bathroom was non-essential “unless there was some sort of emergency and [they were] necessary for the health and safety of residents.”

Many in Scotland were hoping that the ‘roadmap’, unveiled by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (pictured) on Tuesday would reveal when installations could start.

Instead, it gave a very cautious plan that aims to open showrooms by April 26 – two weeks after England – and gives no other firm plans past that date.

As a result, KBB retailers and installers have been left frustrated at best.

“It’s totally confusing and a let-down for all businesses,” said Jim Geddes, MD of Kitchens by JS Geddes in Kilmarnock. “There’s no clarity. We contacted our local MSP to be told they didn’t know either but would get back to us – we’re still waiting on the call.”

Angus Kerr, sales director at The Bathroom Company in Edinburgh, is equally  scathing, saying that businesses trying to follow the law are suffering.

“The SNP have no clue what it takes to own, drive and make a business survive,” he said. “And at the moment no one is surviving apart from the sheds who are still serving the general public and the ‘white van man’ who is still working unchallenged in domestic properties.

“We all know this is going on and we all know that there will be zero tax paid by the people doing the fitting. This whole process is wrong on so many levels. Instead of feeding and encouraging the black market, responsible, visible, legal installation companies should be allowed to work and, if required, they can be monitored.

“Our industry has not been forgotten, it has been completely ignored.”

Darren Walker, director at Laings in Inverurie, said: “Customers have been patient for this first nine weeks but to be looking at another nine is no use, we need to get going again.”

For the installers themselves, this continued delay and uncertainty is also, unsurprisingly, seen as a major blow – especially as, they say, so little is being done to stop illegal projects.

“I must admit that [the roadmap announcement] knocked the wind out of my sails,” said Mark Conacher, director of KBB fitting specialist Liberty, based in Dundee. “I just didn’t see that coming, it’s crazy.

“But there are a large number of trades in Scotland still out there working and installing and the fact that it’s just being ignored is a little hard to swallow. I expect most of them do it because financially they have no other choice but, again, this falls back on the Government.”

Damian Walters, CEO of The British Institute of KBB Installation (BiKBBI), said: “I have been continuously disappointed throughout the last year with the lack of cohesion between Downing Street and the devolved governments in terms of the consistency of messaging.

“This lack of togetherness makes a mockery of the term ‘United’ Kingdom in my opinion, which has not only been embarrassing on the international stage, but has led to confusion among tradespeople – undoubtedly costing livelihoods.  Sadly, I believe much of the motivation for this inability to work together is fuelled by a political drive for points scoring – as opposed to doing what’s right and importantly, what’s safe.

“If tradespeople in England and Wales have managed to safely operate throughout the majority of this pandemic, I see absolutely no reason why those north of the border cannot. Nicola Sturgeon has said she will not be guided by dates, but by data – I challenge her to evidence that the danger to tradespeople or their customers is different to the rest of the UK and further challenge the Scottish government to demonstrate their support to Scottish tradespeople who have, in my opinion, been unfairly treated during their latest lockdown measures.”

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