Author Archives: Craig McFarlane

About Craig McFarlane

I’m a branding designer, so I know how to make your brand radiate the feels that your audience relate to. And I make sure everything we create, from your marketing headlines to the photos we shoot, are on brand, because that’s how we build trust with the people in your community. I’ve managed creative teams for years, so when we hire a team, we get the best from them. I communicate with them on their level, so you get the creativity you need to help you succeed. I enjoy life, so I only choose projects I believe in with people I like. So if we’re working together, I actually give a shit about you succeeding. That’s pretty handy when you’re trying to hit big goals.
  1. Diversity and inclusion events at ScotEng

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    To promote diversity and inclusion at ScotEng, with our members and in our wider industries, we host events, webinars and networking breakfasts at our offices in Glasgow.

    We’ve collected here a selection of past events.

    To keep up to date with upcoming diversity and inclusion events, sign up to our weekly news roundup.

    Inclusive Engineering Session – December 2021
    Inclusive Engineering Virtual Session
    INWED 2021 Celebration – In partnership with Women in Rail
    Inclusive Engineering Virtual Breakfast
    Unconscious Bias and Inclusive Recruitment


    We can’t thank our amazing guest speakers enough for sharing their stories with us at this morning’s #WomensNetworkingBreakfast. Left to right Dianne Coughlan of @CatalentPharma, Carmen Cummiskey of @fomoprotection and Penny Morton of @UofGfemeng #WomenInSTEM #InspirationalWomen

    @ScotEngineering enjoying day 2 of the Centenary of Women in Engineering international conference hosted by @INWES_Global @WES1919 @WITI @EquateScotland We have just been inspired – and challenged – by @jfinlayson who has travelled from UC Berkeley California to take part!

    A massive thank you to our inspiring speakers from today’s Women’s Networking Breakfast for sharing their stories, experiences and challenges as women in STEM. If you’d like to help us raise the platform of Women in STEM, our next event is 24/01/20! Pencil us in! #WomenInSTEM

    #Inspiring #Determined #Empowered #Successful #Rolemodels #Leaders
    Just a few of the words to describe the amazing women who attended our #INWED19 Breakfast to celebrate the achievements of women in #Engineering. Thank you for coming along and thank you for sharing your stories!

    To celebrate International Women in Engineering Day yesterday, we’re showing our support here at the Scottish Engineering office. Join us at our celebration and networking breakfast this Friday #INWED19 #womeninengineering #TransformTheFuture

  2. Inclusive Engineering Programme 2019/2020

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    Naziyah Mahmood
    Gender Equality Officer, Scottish Engineering

    Funded by Impact Funding Partners
    Delivered in partnership with EQUATE Scotland


    In order to further our goals, grow our businesses and successfully become equal and inclusive organisations, it is imperative for individuals and companies to continuously review their equality and inclusion stances, and to implement positive practices to allow for a more progressive, successful and fairer work culture.

    Gender inequality has been an issue within many industries for centuries, and the engineering, construction and manufacturing sectors are among some of the worst for female participation, be it in academia or industry. From the normalisation of gendered-careers from a young age, to the ‘leaky pipeline’ faced by women progressing from studies into industry, there are several obstacles throughout a woman’s career path that can lead to dropping off the engineering ladder.

    Time and time again research has proven the business case for gender diversity, and why having a more diverse workforce can positively impact business across several metrics. Attraction, retention and progression of the female engineering workforce requires a better understanding, and for there to be tangible action at a faster rate.

    In partnership with EQUATE Scotland, and funded by Impact Funding Partners, Scottish Engineering has delivered the Inclusive Engineering Programme with the goal of helping engineering SME (Small & Medium Enterprise) companies to grasp the importance and need for a better understanding of this topic and to push for positive change.

    Download the full report

  3. Chief Exec’s report Q4 2021

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    Read the full Q4 2021 Quarterly Review


    4 minute read

    Welcome all to our final review of 2021, a year of surprising welcome levels of order recovery in one sense, dampened by the reality of raw material, component, logistics and resource shortages and costs. One member couldn’t have described it more clearly in their response in this review: “We are not able to enjoy being as busy as we are, as the continual issues of price and supply are not easy to deal with”. 

    In any kind of normality, the increased order intake, output volume and exports would be welcome news after a period of downturn – and in truth they still are – but for now, it comes with a constant headache of where and when the ingredients needed to make a customer’s order will come from. Energy price increases are a new addition to the list of concerns, so perhaps it’s not surprising that almost half of our respondents believe that this challenge will be with us until the second half of 2022, and only then might we see an improving outlook.

    Elsewhere, if you are looking for the risks that raise concern, Brexit still lingers like a bad smell, a gift that not only keeps giving but never seems to go away either. In the crucial skills area, one quarter of members have been impacted by the loss of EU nationals, and over seventy percent honestly outline that they are not fully prepared for the scheduled implementation of Brexit enforced import checks due to start from January 1st, 2022. That’s not surprising after the year and a half of plate spinning that industry has had to do just to stay alive, but it’s galling that this extra headache comes once again without support, and especially with zero benefit to industry in Scotland or indeed the UK.

    November also saw the much-anticipated one-year delayed arrival of COP26, and after guessing what shape it might be, it very much was face to face, and certainly put Scotland in the spotlight on a global stage. As much as we would like to say we were in the heart of the global negotiations, we weren’t, but the fringe events we attended, spoke at and indeed led, underlined some common themes that are fundamentally important for our industry as we consider the challenge and opportunity of the climate emergency. 

    Our main takeaway from those sessions was that business and industry are now ahead of governments in their intentions for action to address the climate emergency. Whilst governments act with one cautious eye on the timing of the next election cycle, business is moving in the way it always has, first to survive and then to thrive. The realisation for business that achieving these aims only comes from change and action is the tipping point, as to whether you like it or not, the drive to be sustainable financially also brings the outcome of being sustainable in the broader climate sense. 

    As we look forward to 2022, it has to be a cautious outlook with materials, logistics, energy and wage inflation all likely to be possible causes of headaches for the foreseeable future, but perhaps the most difficult factor is the continued unpredictability. A constant theme across companies talking to us every day is how hard it is to plan, when there is so little you can reasonably base a forecast on. 

    Our optimism then comes from a sector that has survived remarkably intact after the most brutal of recent economic downturns, enacting all the learnings from recent, crippling recessions that allowed it to balance spending in a way that ensured survival. If margins get squeezed then the lean tools will be exercised continuously to find the savings that ensure survival, and against our never-ending skills challenge, this survey shows that training investment is an encouraging positive with a thirty seven percent increase for the next three months indicated.

    It’s been a busy year for all then, with an improved business position versus 2020, but still with difficulty and uncertainty now and ahead. 2022 and beyond brings opportunity in abundance with the massive infrastructure programmes that our climate emergency targets stipulate across the UK, an opportunity that will need a concerted effort across Scottish industry stakeholders to ensure we have the skills pipeline needed to deliver.

    Paul Sheerin
    Chief Executive
    Scottish Engineering


    Read the full Q4 2021 Quarterly Review

  4. I’m super stoked about this stuff

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    Guest Writer
    Angus Robinson
    Chairman, Headtorch: Positive Workplace Mental Health


    5 minute read
    Paul Douglas is Vice President of Volvo Construction Equipment and Managing Director of Rokbak (formally Terex Trucks). They manufacture VERY BIG trucks for the construction and mining industries.

    Paul engaged with Headtorch in June 2019 to provide workplace mental health consultancy and learning & development for his team.

    Headtorch worked with every level within the company with tailored solutions for each group.

    This interview explores why Volvo looked for help, what was done and the results.


    1) Tell us a bit about yourself and your role at Volvo.

    Paul Douglas: “I chose to go into Engineering as I had a passion for making things and how they work. I began my career in Terex and have been in this industry my whole career.

    I’ve had several different roles: Engineering, Product Strategy, and Aftermarket leadership. I’ve been in my current role for over 10 years.”


    2) When and why did you first recognise that it was important to support your colleagues’ mental health?

    “It was over 3 years ago, we had an organisation do some events on suicide awareness. What surprised me was the attendance. We had to ask them to do several sessions because the interest was so high. Afterwards, the organisation advised that quite a lot of our team had approached them to get advice on their own issues, or concerns they had for family and friends. This prompted me to look deeper into mental health.”


    3) How have you approached this?

    “We began with no knowledge. We looked around for organisations who could support us. Scottish Engineering and our local authority were offering seminars. We attended these and really got our eyes opened to how broad and deep this subject is, and how little we knew.

    It was through these initial feelers that we came across Headtorch.

    A flexible and adaptable approach was very important, Headtorch had different solutions that met our needs. We began with consultation with the senior team, then up-skilled line managers, before raising awareness with people on the shop floor.”


    4) You made the decision to take action when business was quiet, that must have taken a lot of confidence. Why did you choose then?

    “It’s funny but on reflection we weren’t doing it because business was slow – that’s more coincidence. I felt that this was so important we had to engage and get something moving – even small steps in the right direction had to start almost straight away.

    Being quieter helped with the availability of the team. Some people, even the unions, questioned if business was slow, why were we investing in training? With hindsight it’s easy to say every penny was well spent – if it helped just one of our team, it was worth every penny.

    We didn’t just dip our toe in the water, we committed – you’re either all in or you’re not.

    You can’t put a value on human life and people feeling good.”


    5) How was the learning and development received by what is a male dominated workforce in heavy manufacturing?

    “This was the biggest surprise – engagement was incredible. The training and the follow-on development were extremely well received.

    The rumour mill started – “been on that course, it’s a real eye opener.” The unions also picked it up quickly and put out very positive signals.

    The Team were fully engaged and were very supportive. It was clear that without ever asking about it, they were all very keen to be involved and learn more about the subject, either for themselves, family or friends.”


    6) What difference has this made over the past 18 months?

    “It wasn’t just the awareness that interested us, it was the opportunities that came from it that were a real eye opener.

    There are many examples all the time, every week. We are much more comfortable talking about mental health than we are on some other things in the business.  None of us knew the pandemic was coming – and I cannot think there’s ever been a time when people’s mental health was under so much pressure.

    Our journey has put us in a much better place, and we’re better equipped to deal with some of the issues arising – don’t get me wrong we’re far from expert at this, but at least our awareness level has increased.

    Even the smallest steps – that everyone knows it’s OK not to be OK, and we’re all there to listen and support. These were the biggest help for all of us.

    When a burly welder stops our HSE Manager (who just happens to be female) to have a chat about a small mental health issue he was having, this speaks volumes about how far we’ve come.

    On top of that, it seems strange talking about finance and mental health in the same breath, but the financial model was a shock. Payback was almost instant, and I’m talking months here – we automatically became more productive!

    The key is that the training investment, which might put organisations off, was recovered very quickly.”


    7) You stated that you’ve come through the pandemic as a strong team. Could you expand on this?

    “We focussed on People, Customers and Processes.

    People – this was the most important area and where Mental Health, Attitude and Communications were crucial.

    Mental Health – through our training, we actively listened for any mental health issues, making support available to all the team, and making every attempt to keep going on our mental health awareness journey.

    Communications – we had to stay in touch, listen, advise, and keep the team clear on what was happening and what they needed. Comms was hugely important. We even sent letters to make sure we were reaching everybody.

    Attitude – most of the team really stepped up. We wanted everyone to retain a real positive attitude, that we would get through this safely and come out the other side in a better way. Of course, there were some negative issues – furlough jealousy for example.

    Customers – they’re still working and needed our products and services. We had to figure out new ways to be there for them.

    Processes – we had to create new, safe, and hygienic ways for our team to work. This was a big challenge and the team once again delivered.”


    8) Do you see lasting change and what difference will this make for the business?

    “Yes, almost everybody in the organisation is comfortable with mental health and it’s engrained in our culture.

    As I said before the payback was almost instant, the team has benefited greatly, and the productivity gains are lasting.”


    9) Where do you see the business being on the mental health journey?

    “We’re still at the beginning, not the beginning of the beginning, maybe in the first third. I don’t even think there’s an end, it’s a journey that continues.

    I want to emphasise that the choice of partner for Mental Health Training & Awareness makes a huge difference.

    As the leader I set the tone, it’s got to be the most important aspect of making lasting change, it keeps going.

    I’m super stoked about this stuff.”


    See more about Volvo here and Rokbak here

    More information on Headtorch here

  5. Chief Exec’s report Q3 2021

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    Read the full Q3 2021 Quarterly Review


    4 minute read

    Welcome all to our first review of our engineering manufacturing sector since most lockdown measures have been lifted, and we all make a welcome if tentative step towards something more akin to normal.


    This quarter’s review is an appreciated continuation of improvement for our sector’s outlook, and it feels like we can now release some optimism given that we are on an upward curve for the second quarter in a row. The forecasts that we viewed three months ago with caution have held up well, and the outlook for the next quarter looks to hold that gain, and whilst it’s not yet positive for all, improvement seems to be on its way across the board.

    Challenges remain, and front and centre for these are material pricing, availability, and the logistics capacity to get components and raw materials in, and especially billable finished goods out. Skills availability issues return surprising quickly, and a lack of easily available skills from EU countries are cited as a contributor to that deficit. We asked companies in this review to outline their intentions this year for apprentices, recognising that they are such a key part of our future skills and resource, and knowing that in 2020 apprentice starts were significantly below the level required to maintain status quo in skills. The feedback from companies underlines that the impact of Covid remains with us, as despite the buoyant outlook in orders, companies reviewing their financial strength are reticent to invest in long term skills at this time, an understandable position even if its longer-term impact causes concern. Companies have told us that financial pressures are the most significant reason for limiting intake, followed by a lack of available training resource to deliver a quality learning environment. Good candidate availability, potential loss of trained staff after years of investment, and a lack of financial support initiatives are also cited for holding back increasing numbers. We need to find solutions to these obstacles quickly, as every year that sees an intake below that required to just stand still is a future headache for our sector.



    Looking ahead, it looks like we will now welcome a physical event with actual people in attendance for the COP26 global summit on the climate emergency here in Scotland. Something that has felt very vague is firming up fast and evidence can be found if you try to book a hotel in Glasgow for the first half of November. Scottish Engineering hope to be a small part of COP26 having been informed that it remains a possibility we will have stand in the Green Zone located in the Glasgow Science Centre, and this would be shared with our co-applicants Primary Engineer and the International Network for Women in Science and Engineering (INWES) – watch this space. The focus this year on the Climate Emergency has helped us secure excellent engagement from companies for our Net Zero Skills support programme, with companies ranging from those looking to refine and test the extensive work they have already done, through to those seeking a starting place and guidance to get going to protect their business and the planet at the same time. Our 1:1 support sessions with Eric Boinard leading the programme are open to all, please get in touch with the team if that is something you would find useful.

    A final mention is for the Scottish Engineering Awards 2021, celebrating companies and individuals that have stood out in their innovation, resilience, and commitment in the last year. Less than a month ago we found out that we could have an awards dinner once again, and perhaps like most of us we paused to consider if we were ready for over three hundred people in a room at once. With the input from most member discussions being it’s time to get back out there, we have bit the bullet and within a week of this report’s release we will have a chance to reconnect with members and guests at the Hilton Hotel in Glasgow. For the awards we will acknowledge excellence in our successful companies and individuals, recognising that their achievement was made despite the impact of a global pandemic, making it all the more significant. A special mention though must be for our Young Engineer of the Year applicants, full to the brim with talent, impressive delivery, and personal growth. Hearing about their projects was engaging and fascinating, trying to separate them into overall winner and runner-up much more tough. But the silver lining is that even if these projects from applicants working in Scottish companies large and small is only representative of the best of our young engineers, then we genuinely have cause for optimism.


    Paul Sheerin
    Chief Executive
    Scottish Engineering


    Read the full Q3 2021 Quarterly Review

  6. If it ain’t broke… Break it!

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    Guest Writer
    Kathleen Harkins
    People Development Consultant

    What?! That startled me awake from my zoom daze recently in the middle of a webinar! I’ve grown up hearing “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. That was the mantra I’d always had in my head, and it was a revelation to hear “break it”. Apparently, this is the title of a book that’s been around for a while. I’ve never read it, but the title alone made me sit up and listen.

    Maybe I’ve not been doing it wrong after all? There have been many times I’ve challenged the status quo and been put right back in my box! Why would we want to change processes and procedures when they are working perfectly well?!

    I love the leaders who allowed me to “break it”. They are the ones who stretch the boundaries, who have vision, and who inspire change, and we need change now more than ever. It’s interesting to hear the differences in how some organisations are managing how we ease out of lockdown. I know of some leaders who are “encouraging” their employees to get back into the office so that they can get back to “normal” as soon as possible. Many are recognising the positives that have come from home working and are experimenting with the new hybrid working approach. There’s wide agreement that home working has had a detrimental impact on team collaboration, but many people have found they’ve been significantly more creative working from home. I wonder how our leaders will respond to these new challenges. The traditional style of management isn’t likely to work well in this new world, and there will be some leaders who find it difficult to let go of the control that they’ve been used to in the past…

    The most effective and inspiring leaders to me are those who encourage their teams to “break it”, to try different things, and to speak up when they think there are different ways to do things. Maybe they won’t work, but why we would not want them to try? “Empowerment” is a popular word at the moment and this, for me, is real empowerment in action.

    I’ve attended some Scottish Engineering webinars recently on “The Path to Net Zero” and now, more than ever we need to question the way we approach everything, and people must be allowed to “break it” or we’ll never bring about the changes we need to make for a truly sustainable future.

    Let’s see our brave leaders do something different with this year’s appraisals. Let’s make them really worthwhile. Instead of setting an objective to work harder, or be more productive, let’s set everyone an objective to “break it”!

    Kathleen Harkins | LinkedIn         

    The views expressed by the guest writer are not necessarily those of Scottish Engineering.

  7. An interview with Officer Cadet Abby Semple

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    In celebration of (INWED) International Women in Engineering Day 2021, we are delighted to share Officer Cadet Abby Semple’s story as a fantastic example of young women achieving amazing things in engineering and demonstrating how motherhood and an enriching career can indeed go hand in hand. This article has been provided courtesy of Lowland Reserve Forces’ & Cadets’ Association.


    Who are you? Where are you from? What do you do?

    My name is Abby Semple, I’m 22 and I live in Carluke. I’ve got a two-year-old son, I have just graduated from Glasgow Caledonian University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and I am a Reservist with 153 Recovery Company REME (Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers). This summer I’ll be starting my teacher training to become a Physics and Maths teacher. Life is a bit of a juggling act but it is also really fun.


    Why did you want to become a Reservist?

    I wanted to join the Army since I was young. I had always found studying easy and was not stressed about getting into university. However, I was very shy and figured I needed to challenge the other side of me, to stretch myself physically. So I decided that after university I would join the Regulars. However, life changed quite dramatically when I had my son two years ago and I did not want to be away from him for long periods of time. So when I saw there was a Reserve unit nearby (153 Rec Coy), I rang them up, went for an interview, had a tour and I knew instantly it was for me.


    What has your Army Reserve experience been like so far?

    My Reservist experience has only been during COVID-19 times which has been a bit strange and has definitely made it harder to get to know people. Having said that, I have completed my Alpha training at Redford Barracks and I have just returned from doing my Main Board at Westbury – Officer selection process.


    How do you balance being a mum and a Reservist?

    Perhaps surprisingly being a Reservist is a great accompaniment to being a mum. Of course, when I am away on training it feels like a real sacrifice. However, I enjoy it so much it feels worth it and it makes you appreciate what you have all the more. It also gives me something which is just for me, a chance to focus on myself and my development.


    Will your Reserve experience benefit your civilian career?

    Without a shadow of a doubt! As a teacher I’m going to meet all sorts of people. Being in the Reserves has taught me to get on with everyone, whatever their background. Going down the Officer route will also provide me with world-class leadership training at Sandhurst – I would imagine this will come in very useful in the classroom and the workplace.


    Today (23/6/21) is International Women in Engineering Day. Tell us a bit about your degree.

    I found my degree really interesting, it was really varied and included a lot of problem-solving. Essentially that is what engineering is, finding the simplest solution to complex problems. My final year project involved trying to find sustainable energy solutions in third-world countries. Our focus was on power solutions for African healthcare providers in light of COVID-19. Vaccine centres need constant access to electricity for fridges and other equipment and it’s a bit disastrous if the power cuts out. Our solution was to install mini-grids across Africa which would provide solar energy. It was a really challenging problem and a really interesting project.


    What’s it like being a woman in engineering?

    You are definitely outnumbered. It was the same at school though. In my computing class there were 30 guys and I was the only girl.

    Whilst you are in the minority, I’ve never felt out of place and the guys I studied alongside were always really friendly. At the end of the day, we’re all in the same boat and we all want to get through it together.


    Lowland Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association (RFCA) is a Government agency that seeks to connect and promote Defence to the people of the Lowlands of Scotland. If you would like to find out more, please visit their website.


    Facebook: @LowlandRFCA

    Twitter: @Lowland_RFCA

    Instagram: @lowlandrfca

    LinkedIn: Lowland RFCA

  8. Chief Exec’s report Q2 2021

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    Welcome all to this quarterly review of our sector’s outlook, one that brings some welcome and justifiable optimism for the first time in 12 months, albeit with some notes of caution too. It would have been naïve to think that we could enjoy a straightforward across the board upturn, and we should take a minute to note the relative speed at which an upbeat outlook has arrived, as this timeline looks distinctly different from the recessionary impacts of recent years. That difference is a key driver of caution, as we all will want to see this trajectory sustained and extended to all before we start any celebrations.

    Let’s start with areas where further improvement is needed, and our first thoughts stay with precision machining companies where the continued lack of activity in civil aerospace and oil and gas explain their low order response whilst others have moved to positive. A forward view shows a forecast improvement in domestic and export orders, reflected in a mild pick up in optimism, but these remain tough times for those companies, and the return to aviation traffic approaching pre pandemic levels remains some time away. For companies in this predicament, their skills and capability are highly transferable, and if Covid has underlined one truth, it has been the value of shorter supply chains – a value to both supplier and customer equally. The team at Scottish Engineering welcome the opportunity to connect companies with capacity to those who wish to explore those benefits, please contact us if you can help yourself and fellow members in this way.

    Another tricky topic that has impacted almost everyone is increasing pricing – and availability – of raw materials. Everything from metals to plastics, cardboard to hydraulic oils seem to have been on an upward spiral and short supply. In some cases, it’s been difficult to separate the Covid and Brexit impacts affecting these goods, but there is no lack of clarity on the concern it brings and the subsequent movement on pricing which has had to be passed along. Short supply places additional pressure on meeting promised delivery timing for customers who need to be retained, and so this is an area we will all be watching carefully for improvement.


    Sector Change in Net Zero Opportunity vs Concern

    A – Concerned
    B – Deeply Concerned
    C – Neutral
    D – Opportunity
    E – Strong Opportunity


    What about the good news then? Well, there are quite a few significant highlights to mention, but my starting pick is exports, with the most strongly positive response since June 2018, and I say that while acknowledging that everything is relevant, but also countering that exports are essential to a strong Scottish engineering sector, and hence this is especially welcome. It’s good to see our fabrication companies’ substantial increases in forecast orders mirroring the overall increase across construction, and staffing numbers are forecasted to rise between thirteen and fifty percent for all. Thankfully, the outlook for additional staff is reflected in a strong training investment intention, essential to hold up our fragile skills supply. We know that a significant proportion of the redundancies of the last year were retirements and therefore likely permanent loss of skills, and these are combined with a fifty percent drop in new apprentice starts in the same period, so picking up the pace on training is both welcome and essential.

    Recovery in economic terms from the pandemic is of course not only different from other recoveries by its timeline, but also the intent on how we should recover, with the path to net zero emissions front and centre and woven in to almost every supporting policy by both UK and Scottish governments. In this survey we revisited the questions we asked companies one year ago around their climate emergency views and added some new based on a better understanding of the key measures of progress.  So, in a year we see a ten percent reduction in companies who are concerned or deeply concerned at the threat that their business faces from the climate emergency, with seven percent moving to see opportunity or strong opportunity instead. One quarter of responding companies now have some level of dedicated resource tasked with driving progress in their net zero actions, and more than half are aware of the detailed scopes outlined in the greenhouse gas protocol. Two key measures which have unfortunately not moved in the last year are the related pursuit of operational and product/service changes to support reduced climate impact. In that respect, our concern is that companies in our sector don’t get left behind by a changing landscape that will not pause, and here we believe we can help. Our net zero skills support programme launched in April is free and open to all and aims to give straightforward practical help to all companies regardless of where their net zero journey is at – please get in touch if we can help.

    Scottish Engineering sees that it is our responsibility to link the supply chain opportunities coming from the shift in industrial focus required to meet net zero – in areas such as energy, transport and heating – and this underlines that our industry association intends to fulfil a key role in supporting companies in diversifying and growing in these areas.


    Paul Sheerin
    Chief Executive
    Scottish Engineering


    Read the full Q2 2021 Quarterly Review

  9. From Awareness to Appreciating our Autistic Colleagues

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    Guest Writer
    Dorry McLaughlin
    Chief Executive
    Scottish Autism


    During the last year I have met some amazing people, virtually of course rather than my preferred face to face. Most of these amazing people are autistic.

    I’d like to talk about some of what we can do help our autistic colleagues be the best they can be.

    Some of our autistic employees set up a forum before Covid hit but it really began to gain traction during the pandemic. This forum has been very influential in how we develop our autistic employee offering – from the way we recruit and select to retain autistic people. For example, what is wrong with giving out interview questions in advance if it means you select the best person for the job rather than the best person at interviews or adjusting our workplace to reduce sensory stressors?

    There are people like Lauren. Lauren told me about some of the difficulties she had faced finding employment. As we chatted my understanding increased in much the same way as my understanding of why our autistic employee forum needed to influence what we were doing as an employer. Lauren also had an amazing idea, to help autistic people gain work experience but had difficulty in moving it forward. We have been able to give Lauren a platform to promote her idea – in her way, at her pace, when she wanted to do it. That collaboration with Lauren wasn’t just about awareness of autism, it wasn’t just about understanding autism nor was it about accepting autism. It was about appreciating autistic people and the unique insights they bring to organisations.

    There have been many examples over the past year and many of them, a bit like Lauren, have left me amazed that actually some autistic people have not previously been supported to deliver on ideas that should be picked up and run with. We heard many stories like Lauren’s through our Advice Line during the pandemic.

    So what can we do to support autistic people to reach their potential? This question is not just for organisations like Scottish Autism but any employer, whether in engineering or other sectors.

    The first step is understanding autism, not just being aware but understanding that every autistic person is a unique individual with their own thinking style and their own way of communicating with others. If we make safe space for our autistic employees, perhaps in forums, then we can facilitate peer support and generate ideas about how we can make their work experience fulfilling and rewarding. Then there’s acceptance. Just accepting that autistic people have as much to contribute to and be valued for, in society and in the work place. Autistic people like anyone else may need quite reasonable and inexpensive adjustments to be made for them to reach their full potential. Moving to appreciation means really challenging ourselves and really looking out for the ideas that might have potential. This means listening to all your employees and giving them the scope to develop, evolve and implement their ideas and proposals.

    It took a while for Lauren to find a platform for her ideas but maybe if she’d been given the opportunity to build her own stage, she would have got up there much sooner than she did.

    If you would like to find out how Scottish Autism could help your organisation achieve the best autistic employee offering, please contact us or visit, email or telephone 01259 720044.


    @scottishautism | twitter

    Scottish Autism | LinkedIn

    ScottishAutism – YouTube

  10. Chief Exec’s report Q1 2021

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    The first two months of 2021 have been if we are honest, not what we would have hoped for in our cautious state of optimism back in December. Further education in the natural ability of a virus to mutate for maximum effectiveness led us back into strict lockdown, homeschooling for some, and a dent to the confidence that a rollout of not one but two excellent vaccines brought. Add to that our annual shortage of actual daylight along with some proper winter weather and it’s easy to see why it’s been more challenging than ever to stay upbeat.


    One reason to do just that was the support extended to the sector by our respective Governments – the UK Government through extension of the furlough scheme allowing companies to offset losses and retain key skills, and equally the Scottish Government encouraging manufacturers to stay in operation whilst others unfortunately were asked to close. This latter support was very welcome and was also more than earned through the hard work and innovation demonstrated by manufacturing companies applying every lesson learned in the use of effective risk assessment and management controls. The net effect of those efforts were the excellent reported levels of compliance from HSE Covid inspections, demonstrating a sector able to rapidly adapt and remain fully in control of a challenging public health issue

    If recognition of our sector’s Covid response is a positive this quarter, then the reality of ending the Brexit transition period has been more than its balance. Even the best prepared companies with solid export and import experience have contacted us to seek direction to advice on complex areas of VAT, duty suspension, conformity assessment, country of origin rules and essential travel to support customers.  Some of these rules were only clarified on completion of the UK:EU trade agreement, less than ten days before the end of transition period, and frankly the online guidance tools are not enough to help. One member responding to this survey said the help they needed is “Clear rules and procedures, a helpline of some kind …. as it now feels as though import/export has become a specialised field which makes it impossible for small businesses to manage on their own”.

    The impact of this has certainly been increased costs in everything from transit costs to extra administrative burdens, and we have already reported that the major concern is late delivery to customers leading to a potential change to sourcing within the EU. The big question remains: are the issues merely teething problems that will settle down, or is this evidence of more systemic problems with the implemented solutions to Brexit? The answer has to be a mix of the two, as there is no doubt that companies who never thought twice about sending or receiving goods from Europe have been on a steep learning curve, and there will always be room for efficiency improvements. There have also been clear examples that the training, resources and systems have inadequacies that need to be fixed as soon as possible. A final word on Brexit from another member company stated, “Brexit is a significant issue, poorly signposted and businesses (are) left to pick up the burden and the cost”.

    One of the more interesting questions of the last quarter has been finding a definition of what ‘green economy’, ‘net zero’ or ‘climate emergency’ skills are? The question was raised as part of Skills Development Scotland’s work to form a Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan (CESAP), and for us it prompted some useful conversations with industry on what this means. After all, the gearbox and generator in a wind turbine are still a gearbox and generator, and a hydrogen fuel cell is for the most part a high-pressure gas system with valves, instrumentation, and pipework. There will be specific product level knowledge needed, but in essence the good news is that the core hands-on skills are nothing new under the sun. Even if you say that for green jobs, enhanced levels of digital skills are key, where in industry wouldn’t say that today?  What does seem to stand out from those conversations is that net zero skills will require an understanding of the importance and principles of de-carbonisation, along with a mind-set change to bring adaptability to go quickly, safely, and effectively.  Clean technology projects will almost always be investor backed, with clear benchmarks for return on investment, and consequently requiring ever higher levels of cost efficiency and continuous improvement to ensure the project gets off the drawing board to become a reality.


    Paul Sheerin
    Chief Executive
    Scottish Engineering


    Read the full Q1 2021 Quarterly Review

  11. Get into Rail 01: “The Route to Market”

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    Find out more about how to get into the rail sector by rewatching our introductory event to the “Get into Rail” sessions.

    Event description

    Scottish Engineering’s rail cluster builder project and the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) have joined forces to deliver a series of events called “Get into Rail” which we hope will help to answer many of the questions you have been asking.

    During this hour long session which will be packed full of practical tips on what you need to know, you will hear from Gillian Scott, Scheme Manager for the Railway Industry Supplier Qualification Scheme (RISQS) who will explain how to navigate the RISQS process easily. Neil Walker from the Railway Industry Association (RIA) will address export opportunities and Rose Garber will discuss the membership benefits of RIA. Natig Asadullaev from Mack Brooks and Jenny Illingsworth from BCRRE will cover rail trade fairs and how to raise the profile of your business within the rail sector and Robert Hopkin, BCRRE will conclude the hour with a review of the rail sector trade media and trade associations.

  12. Rail Innovation Day for Scotland – Morning

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    Rewatch the morning session of the Rail Innovation Day.

    Event description

    We have not one, but two sessions running on Thursday this week as part of the Rail Innovation day for Scotland event. The first session starts at 10am and will focus on Network Rail’s RD&I portfolio with case studies showing best practice. Our second session will start at 1pm, where Innovate UK will talk about R&D funding opportunities and calls.

    In our afternoon session we are delighted to announce that the DfT’s First-Of-A-Kind 2021 funding will be introduced by the DfT sponsor for the rail innovation programme. This will then be followed by a briefing from Innovate UK who will provide information on the background and scope of the competition.

    …and if that is not exciting enough, you will then hear from three key Scottish rail sector stakeholders; specifically ScotRail, Eversholt Rail and Caledonian Sleeper who will present their particular challenges within their areas of expertise. This will be followed by a presentation from McCulloch Rail and Unipart Rail.

    Arcola Energy will finish off the afternoon session speaking about their powertrain supply requirements and the Hydrogen Supply Chain Survey it recently issued.


    Click here to view our speakers 


  13. Rail Innovation Day for Scotland – Afternoon

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    Rewatch the afternoon session of the Rail Innovation Day.

    Event description

    We have not one, but two sessions running on Thursday this week as part of the Rail Innovation day for Scotland event. The first session starts at 10am and will focus on Network Rail’s RD&I portfolio with case studies showing best practice. Our second session will start at 1pm, where Innovate UK will talk about R&D funding opportunities and calls.

    In our afternoon session we are delighted to announce that the DfT’s First-Of-A-Kind 2021 funding will be introduced by the DfT sponsor for the rail innovation programme. This will then be followed by a briefing from Innovate UK who will provide information on the background and scope of the competition.

    …and if that is not exciting enough, you will then hear from three key Scottish rail sector stakeholders; specifically ScotRail, Eversholt Rail and Caledonian Sleeper who will present their particular challenges within their areas of expertise. This will be followed by a presentation from McCulloch Rail and Unipart Rail.

    Arcola Energy will finish off the afternoon session speaking about their powertrain supply requirements and the Hydrogen Supply Chain Survey it recently issued.


    Click here to view our speakers 


  14. Statwars: Big data at the heart of the climate change challenge

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    Guest Writer
    Dr Susan Scurlock MBE
    Chief Executive and Founder
    Primary Engineer Programmes


    As the plans around COP26 in November emerge from the COVID fog, the one certainty we have is we have to make it work. Not just the events, the meetings, and the conference, but the outcomes, the promises, and the commitments.

    For so many of us Big Data has been sitting on the horizon, something we should know what to do with but many of us weren’t quite sure what. Now, sadly COVID has publicly demonstrated its power as it leads us daily through and hopefully out of a pandemic.

    Commitments to Net Zero from companies, promises, and plans by governments are, as they should be, constantly in the press and on the news – but what are we personally going to do? We can recycle more, be more aware of the air miles of avocados, but how do we empower our young people to really understand and take data-led action by looking at the facts, in essence looking at the data?

    At Primary Engineer we believe all young people are capable of great things given the opportunity to experience engineering and develop engineering skills. We have seen remarkable outcomes from the ‘Scottish Engineering Leaders Award – If you were an engineer what would you do?’. Here learners of all ages have regularly demonstrated their desire to help others and their altruism has inspired many, such as universities who annually choose young peoples’ inventions to build and refine.


    The Flat pack wind turbine for refugee camps built by Glasgow Caledonian University Proto-Team


    What we have also witnessed are the influences on those ideas – David Attenborough’s Blue Planet produced a huge impact on entries the year it was first released, before its influence slowly tapered away. We wondered if the same effect would be witnessed with COP26 hosted in Glasgow, how long would the impact, the commitment to change stay with young people across the UK.

    We devised the ‘STATWARS: Climate Change Challenge’ to take a different approach to engaging learners. We put data at the heart of the problem, and asked learners to consider their daily lives to identify three things they could personally commit to change.

    COP26 isn’t just about government or industry, it’s about what goes on in our personal lives, our homes, kitchens, cars and classrooms. As we have the sense to allow science and data to lead us through a pandemic, we should also encourage our childrens’ use of science and data to lead us through the climate crisis.

    If you would like to be involved, please contact us or visit the STATWARS website here. There are home learning resources alongside classroom ones, so feel free to use at home and encourage your own Climate Change STATWARRIORS to take part.


    Find out more

  15. Interview with an Apprentice: Aimee Cooke, Diodes Incorporated

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    Guest Writer
    Aimee Cooke
    Apprentice Maintenance Technician
    Diodes Semiconductor GB Limited


    My name is Aimee Cooke, I am 20 years old and I am an Apprentice Maintenance Technician at Diodes Semiconductor GB Limited. I am from Greenock, which luckily for me as this is where the factory is located. I began my apprenticeship training when I was 18, which contained both theoretical and practical aspects. My role within the factory is to help maintain the tools which are used in our wafer production system. This involves both giving the tools regular ‘check ups’ and resolving any problems which are found.


    1. What made you take the route of an Apprenticeship?

    An apprenticeship has always appealed to me as it gives me the opportunity to gain relevant work experience whilst receiving qualifications. Also, apprenticeships give young people the chance to earn money whilst developing their skills within the workplace.


    2. What’s the best part of being an Apprentice?

    Being an apprentice, you get to work with qualified engineers at Diodes who can help and give advice whenever it is needed. Everyone has so much experience and knowledge that they are able to pass on to you whilst at work.


    3. What’s your biggest feeling of achievement so far in your Apprenticeship?

    My biggest feeling of achievement was when I was able to complete a job on my own. This felt like a big thing to me as not only did it show how far I had come from when I started, but it also gave me the feeling of independence within the workplace.


    4. How do you feel COVID-19 has affected your Apprenticeship?

    At the beginning of lockdown, I was in the middle of completing my final weeks of my NC qualification. This meant that the rest of my coursework and assessments had to be completed at home, which at times could be a struggle. However, I got through it with encouragement from Diodes.


    5. What do you feel have been the challenges in your Apprenticeship?

    The biggest challenge I’ve faced so far was completing my NC from home. Before starting my apprenticeship, I had no experience with physics. This meant completing coursework at home was much harder than in the classroom, as getting a response to a question or an explanation could take a long time.


    6. Do you have any advice for young people considering an Apprenticeship?

    An apprenticeship is such a great opportunity for anyone who is considering applying, but you must be willing to put in the work to ensure that you get as much out of your training as you possibly can.


    Diodes Apprentices outside their Greenock factory

    Diodes Apprentices outside their Greenock factory


    Diodes Semiconductor GB Limited is part of Diodes Incorporated (Nasdaq: DIOD), a publicly traded global semiconductor company. Due to the nature of their work for producing high quality semiconductors, member company Diodes regularly risk assesses the various tasks performed within the company, so when the factory closed initially because of Coronavirus, they were able to get back into production after a fairly short period of time and have continued to recruit fresh talent into the business throughout the pandemic.

    Diodes is passionate about investing in staff and through their Modern Apprenticeship Programme, with the help of Skills Development Scotland, they have gained access to plenty of home-grown talent. The company has taken on a new batch of Modern Apprentices and graduates, as well as welcoming back their second-year Modern Apprentices. This new wave of recruitment helps Diodes continue to accelerate business growth and also provides a welcome boost to local employment.  For more information about Diodes, please click here,

    Interested in a Diodes apprenticeship? Contact them at


    Find out more

  16. Chief Exec’s report Dec 2020

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    Welcome all to the final Scottish Engineering quarterly review of 2020, a year that few of us will miss, with genuine hope and cautious optimism for the new year arriving soon.


    Anyone coached in the slightly dour mantra of ‘remember that hope is not a plan’ would rightly remind themselves to stop and balance the objective measures that might give us a steer on where we are going next. In the column for optimism are genuinely encouraging results for four of the major vaccine developments including the UK’s Oxford programme, and more in advanced development globally. With an expectation of a rolling vaccination programme for those in society most at risk likely arriving in concert with spring, its surely not blind optimism to see an upward curve of normality – and crucially for business, optimism – as we progress through the year. Previous recessions have always had a clear reason that shows the trigger, but the recovery is harder to pin down due to its reliance in large part on the more nebulous concept of ‘confidence’. Covid-19 for sure had a defining event or cause, but you could argue that it also has a definitive trigger for return of confidence in the form of effective vaccines to manage it.

    On the conservative side of this balance are three essential points to consider. The first is that for all the optimism, none of current candidate vaccines have at this time been rolled out to use within the general public, and even when they do, the schedule for wider distribution is far from clear at present. The second is that even when economic demand generally returns, the timing of its return will be uneven for some, with Aerospace, Oil and Gas significant concerns for demand recovery in 2021, even with enabling interventions. The third and final issue, my favourite subject, is Brexit. And whilst we still may or may not know whether a trade deal will be done, we can be sure that even with the least worst deal there will be significant changes to almost every aspect of the way we do business with Europe. What is less clear is how impactful those changes will be in reality from the 1st January 2021, as opposed to the opinion we hold about it based on our view of how much sense it made in the first place.

    So, an outlook based on the likely landscape would call for balance, causes for optimism and caution, and recognition that there may likely be recovery in sight for some but not all. In our report, whereas UK and Export orders show remarkable improvement of 50% and more, high value machining operations record a 60% fall, reflecting we believe the uneven demand signal across industry. Similarly, with optimism, we can be grateful of a more than 30% overall increase from last quarter, before reminding ourselves that the resultant average of -9% includes a -60% fall once more in high value machining.

    In many ways there is still so much uncertainty ahead, yet it seems likely now that science will prevail and a future with this pandemic under control is not only possible but probable too. If that’s the case maybe it’s time to remind ourselves of what we talked about before Coronavirus, lockdown survival, rubbish holidays and concern for the future of our sector were the only topics of conversation.
    My memory says that our top three conversations were: Brexit, Skills and latterly Climate Change. All three still worry me for different reasons, but decarbonisation to address climate change presents a significant opportunity as well as concern, as the investment and resource required to reach the minimum targets to achieve this are staggering, with timelines in engineering terms not in some far distant future.

    Diversification cannot be achieved overnight, and it’s not ideal to achieve business transformation in the middle of a biting recession, but if these commitments are real, and we believe they are, then there will also be real demand for the engineering to deliver them and nothing will enable that transformation more than ensuring the most significant portions of that demand flows to Scottish manufacturing and engineering companies. That will require different thinking from our current course in the way we define, procure and deliver new infrastructure, as well as genuine commitment from industry to respond – which will be there, if there is a clear line of sight to the opportunity to fulfil demand.


    Paul Sheerin
    Chief Executive
    Scottish Engineering

  17. Delivering Outreach during a Pandemic

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    Guest Writer
    Toni McLaughlin
    Outreach Convenor
    FemEng 2020/21


    Outreach to most means engaging the younger generations through school visits and the delivery of practical activities in the classroom.

    But in 2020 this was not an option, as COVID-19 meant visiting schools and meeting teachers and pupils was not possible as the world faced the pandemic.

    FemEng is a society at the University of Glasgow with the aims of empowering women in engineering and the pandemic was not going to stop us sharing the wonders of STEM.


    FemEng committee and members attending our Outreach Training last year (2019/20 - pre-COVID)

    FemEng committee and members attending our Outreach Training last year (2019/20 – pre-COVID)


    My role as the Outreach Convenor for FemEng would normally be to arrange events/workshops that would be delivered in schools and to make sure our amazing members can be there in person to inspire pupils from local nursery, primary and secondary schools.

    Unfortunately, FemEng could not deliver Outreach in the traditional way, so we had to think fast and create a programme to reach more pupils, but ensure the delivery was still as exciting as our face-to-face events: we achieved this through our Virtual Outreach Programme. The workshops describe the different disciplines within engineering from aeronautical, to biomedical, to civil and mechanical and we did that through a series of video sessions allowing the children to create and give engineering a go.

    This Programme is a pre-recorded video series, featured on FemEng’s YouTube Channel. In these videos, pupils (aged eight to twelve – Primary 6 and 7) work alongside an engineering student and learn about the specific engineering disciplines as well as create a craft at the end from gliders, to their very own DNA model.


    Thumbnail from Workshop 1 – Aeronautical Engineering on the FemEng YouTube channel


    I appreciate this is a trying time for most but with this programme I hope we can shed some light on the importance of enabling young people to produce crafts they are proud of, learn something new and gain confidence in their own abilities. FemEng and (I in particular) believe that it is crucial to inspire the next generation of engineers and promote STEM to pupils curious to learn, create and explore.

    With regards to what is next? We have shared our videos with our first group of participating schools and our mentors will be having virtual Q+A calls to bring a sense of normality and engage in an interactive STEM discussion.


    FemEng: Empowering Women in Engineering 

    Find out more
    Instagram @gufemeng
    Twitter @uofgfemeng

  18. COVID-19. Brexit. Economic recession.

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    Naziyah Mahmood
    Gender Equality Expert


    From individuals and families, to businesses and educational institutions, this year has been a rollercoaster of uncertainty for everyone and as such keeping our head above the water is at the top of the priority list.

    Often during times of crisis, essential training and best practice can take a back seat, however, the case for businesses becoming more inclusive and diverse has never been stronger. A plethora of research has shown that more diverse companies outperform those with less diverse workplaces on several metrics. From better financial performance and employee productivity, to better customer satisfaction and lower employee turnover, the business case for a diverse workforce is strongly linked with the success of your company.

    A part of the issue is that many organisations don’t seem to understand the core of what Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) entails, and as such these have become buzzwords that are thrown across the table as badges of honour. Everyone wants to become more attractive to a diverse range of applicants, but then how do you work to retain that diversity once you have it? Equality is to allow everyone the opportunity to reach the same outcome of success. Diversity is appreciating that people belong to a very wide spectrum of ways of being, and putting value on this. Inclusion is realizing that to retain this diversity we must ensure our workplace cultures reflects our desire to respect and value each individual. There’s also the missing “I” of intersectionality, but let’s at least make a start with the former!

    Centuries have passed and we are still finding ourselves having to make a case for gender equality across several sectors, but now that these sectors are being brought to their knees by so many simultaneous issues, we must ensure that we do everything to rise from this toward a better future. This means including all voices, no matter how uncomfortable it may make some people.

    As stated in UN reports, “Women will be the hardest hit by this pandemic but they will also be the backbone of recovery in communities”, so maybe investing in that diversity training isn’t such a bad idea after all!

  19. Chief Exec’s report Sep 2020

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    Welcome all to Scottish Engineering’s third quarterly review of this year, as we ask ourselves how to process a year like 2020, destined for the history books for all the wrong reasons, with no sector or demographic escaping impact to the way our lives are conducted.  If nothing else, it feels a little clearer now as to how we can expect the path of this pandemic to take, as we can see a pattern of release and control which will likely now be our operating pattern until or if a widespread vaccination programme is in place. How our economy, and for us our manufacturing engineering sector fares as a result is still less clear.


    Our opening series of metrics in this report I think sums up best where we are, the measures of order intake, output volume, exports, and staffing. Viewed in context against last quarter’s spectacular cliff edge drop, the first three could be cause for mild optimism, perhaps implying that the worst of the bleeding has been stemmed, albeit an average outlook of minus forty-three percentage points will never be a cause for celebration. It is still a step towards neutral by almost one third from last quarter, and as its always good to check if we are looking too hard to find positive paths, a comparison of our forecast metrics shows a similar picture. Our next three month forecast of orders and output volume show approximately minus 10 percentage points, a twenty-five points improvement from June.


    In mentioning these opening measures, you may notice that I have averaged only the first three (order intake, output volume and exports) leaving staffing out on its own. Here unfortunately is the benchmark where there is little optimism, and the most human of impacts. Staffing is the only one of these measures to have deteriorated in the last quarter falling by nine points, and this reflects accurately the conversations we have been having with members in these last few months as businesses turn to managing costs to ensure survival.  We should be clear however, that as necessary as these impacts are to ensure sustainable businesses, the numbers involved are a cause to pause and reflect. Over 60 percent of responding companies are currently planning or have begun redundancy programmes, spread in diminishing distribution between less than 10% to over 50% impact. Our survey estimates that overall job losses in our sector could average thirteen percentage points, with a significant proportion expected to enter retirement and unlikely ever to return to working in our sector.

    If this is our immediate skills loss rate, we have to return again to a forward view which assumes recovery of demand and asks whether we will have the resource to meet that, and here we have some concerning considerations. Skills Development Scotland last week released their Modern Apprentice Statistics to the end of March 2020, and we should be mindful that at that time most of us were still unsure as to how Covid-19 was going to impact our lives and businesses. Companies registering all sector Modern Apprentices in this quarter clearly had caution however, with an overall greater than 75% drop in registrations compared to the same period in the prior year, and an over 90% fall in Engineering and Energy registrations. Its important to underline that this is a quarter with traditionally low registrations, and this year would have included training groups, colleges and companies planning for temporary shutdown as the likelihood of lockdown approached. But whilst we should not over-react, the concern that we are entering a period of significantly reduced work-based learning apprenticeships cannot be ignored either.


    I said earlier that its essential that companies take the actions they must to ensure survival, knowing for many that means tough decisions on training budgets that lead to a Hobson’s Choice on whether to start a new intake of apprentices this year.


    So, if we are to be ready for a return of demand, we need to decide that this sector is strategically important enough to Scotland’s economy to warrant intervention at a Government level to ensure that. The recent announcement of £10m support to apprentice incentives by the Cabinet Secretary for Economy is welcomed, but honestly right now it lacks detail and it is simply not enough. The Department for Education in England announced in July an incentive scheme for new start apprentices, which at a maximum of £2000 I would argue is not enough to genuinely incentivise an employer where finances are the barrier, but it was at least clear and released in time to influence the traditional peak start date for new intakes in September.


    For Scotland, as September is upon us, we must genuinely hope that the details of incentives for apprentices will have been worth the wait.


    Paul Sheerin
    Chief Executive
    Scottish Engineering

  20. Chief Exec’s report Jun 2020

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    The contents of this quarter’s review should come with a health warning, as reading it will not be a pleasant experience, and those of a nervous disposition should perhaps look away now. It is widely anticipated that we are now in the second UK wide recession of this century, and its perhaps helpful to compare the corresponding Scottish Engineering quarterly report from the financial crash, a measure to gauge how concerned we should be. On those simple terms, our anxiety would be justified, as both the magnitude and the rate of change of key measures is shocking, perhaps reflected most acutely in optimism. In Q3 2008, technically the second consecutive quarter of recession, optimism fell from +3% to -10%, and went on to register a low point of -47% in Q1 2009. In this report, with recession not even technically confirmed yet, we record an 80% fall in optimism from +17% to -63% in the space of only three months.


    This pace of change reflects the depth of impact we have all felt both as companies and individuals since Covid-19 became central to our lives, and that speed is key to thinking about how we will recover.  The 2008 recession came from an unsustainable financial system, but what we currently face is clearly very different, an economic shock wave built wholly on a global health crisis.  Whatever the cause, the potential impacts to industry are all too familiar, and begs the question of what should our collective response be to minimise impact and maximise the speed of recovery?  Where should we spend the precious resources we choose to make available to get the maximum return?


    I feel confident that I speak for most of our members when I state that the first action on that list is for government guidance to manufacturers across the UK to re-align and stay aligned.  I also understand and agree with the Scottish Government’s focus on public health and have only praise for the leadership which has been consistent and clear in ways that others have not.   However, the potential for damage to the manufacturing sector is too great if Scotland earns a tag that it is closed for business whilst the rest of the UK is not, and I would argue that both the public health priority and guidance alignment can be jointly achieved without detriment to each other.  Since the start of this crisis, we estimate that 70% of manufacturers have remained open in Scotland, and in this survey, we now see over 90% operating at some level.  That these operations have been achieved whilst Scotland has seen a decline in Covid-19 cases, and especially the all-important R-number, underlines our belief that few industries are better placed to safely operate in these times due to high average area per person workplaces, and a risk assessment led approach to operating having been embedded for many years.  Our expectation is that Covid-19 will ebb and flow before vaccine or treatment options emerge, and so a supportive, coordinated, and matched message to manufacturers from both Scottish and UK Governments is essential to minimise damage.


    Our second ask comes from a view that outlines that recovery will likely come from the collective actions of excellence in organisations, those with a strong mutual will for survival, guided and included every step of the way by exceptional leadership.  Those businesses will take tough decisions, whilst seeking the digitally advantaged silver linings in the cloud that has been coronavirus.  The role of government in that playbook is to provide stimulus, and ensure that when recovery comes, as it surely will, we have incentivised actions that protect our future.   The job retention, grant and loan schemes have been lifelines for companies, and more will be needed to ensure that critical companies in the hardest hit sectors have the support they need to survive.   Beyond that, our industry cannot afford to lose the momentum building in apprenticeships that is essential to rebalancing the age distribution of skills in our sector.   Survival is everything, and those tough decisions will mean postponing, reducing, or cancelling engineering apprenticeships across Scotland, an outcome that would jeopardise our future.  For that reason, when we consider the options to reduce the impact of unemployment for young people, we must incentivise employers to maintain and where possible extend apprenticeships in the Engineering, Care and other sector workplaces.


    In a time of economic turmoil, we are grateful to welcome back Gary Gillespie, Chief Economist for the Scottish Government to share his thoughts for our current predicament and our potential routes to recovery, and we appreciate that he has taken the time to support Scottish Engineering members with this insight.


    Finally, to all our members, and your families, the team at Scottish Engineering wish you well in these exceptionally difficult times and stand ready to help you in any way we can.


    Paul Sheerin
    Chief Executive
    Scottish Engineering

  21. Guest Writer: The Economic Implications for Scotland from the COVID-19 pandemic

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    Gary Gillespie
    Chief Economist
    Scottish Government


    I was last a Guest Writer for the Quarterly Review in September 2018, in which I wrote about the challenges and opportunities for the Scottish economy on the back of a decade of economic and political developments, such as the global financial crisis and the UK vote to leave the EU.

    While these themes continue to have a significant bearing on the Scottish economy, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic this year has created an unprecedented global economic crisis and has fundamentally changed the way we are looking at the economic landscape and outlook for households, businesses and government.

    The COVID-19 pandemic is first and foremost a health crisis and the priority has been to protect public health. This has necessitated the shutdown of economic activity in many parts of the Scottish economy, impacting types of work rather than whole sectors given requirements to physical distance, which has impacted engineering activity alongside other sectors. Our analysis suggests economic output in Scotland could fall by around one third during the current period of physical distancing, similar to estimates for the UK and other economies.

    These estimates are unprecedented in scale and that is reflected in the level of support being provided via the various government backed schemes providing employment support, grants, tax (and debt) deferrals and wider support to the business base across the UK to maintain cash flow, incomes, wages and employment.

    This support is crucial to protect productive capacity in the engineering sectors and broader Scottish economy, but can’t fully mitigate the scale of the impacts being felt and the uncertainty relating to the recovery and shape of future demand both through domestic supply chains and internationally.

    The international nature of the engineering sectors also means that they have been particularly exposed to the disruptions in global markets, supply chains and the collapse in demand in international export markets.

    The recent unprecedented falls in the oil price illustrates the global extent of this crisis and the imbalance of supply and demand. Though driven primarily by the collapse in demand for energy relating to travel, this has had significant knock on effects on wider products and engineering services in Scotland, of which oil related engineering services remain an important part of the Scottish economy. Similar examples of extreme disruption to markets are evident across other sectors reflecting disruption to activity, demand or supply and the resulting imbalances which are making previously profitable businesses and markets no longer able to function.

    So what are the challenges to engineering in Scotland and globally? Firstly, the skills, technology and innovation within the sector mean it will be able to respond and has a significant role in driving the recovery in Scotland. Many of the challenges posed by COVID-19 will require different perspectives and approaches to workplaces, products and markets. All of these are essential skills inherent in Scottish engineering.

    Secondly, global supply chains may shorten across markets and we should see opportunities for the re-shoring of activity from Asia to Europe alongside opportunities through domestic UK markets to provide new products in response to both the public health pandemic and the need to ensure greater domestic resilience across key product groups.

    Thirdly, the links with our University base and continued reputation for excellence in engineering mean we remain attractive for inward investment. All of which is crucial to ensure we remain internationally competitive.

    Finally, COVID-19 has fundamentally changed many of the key assumptions relating to the operation of the global economy and how the economy and business operates.  We have seen a reversal in trends in weeks which had previously taken years to build up and develop. These changes will lead to an acceleration in behavioural change from consumers, which will drive new business models and wider markets. How business operate will also change significantly. Though this causes disruption and uncertainty at this time, it will also drive innovation and provides an opportunity to make a step change in many areas, such as the transition to net zero, which is driving new opportunities in energy supply and the circular economy. Therefore, despite the immediate challenges to the sector, engineering and the wider services the sector provide, are crucial in modern economies and Scotland must retain a strong and diverse sector.


  22. Chief Exec’s report Dec 19

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    It seems difficult to believe that not only are we approaching the end of year, but also the end of another decade, and soon will be talking about the 2020’s. As a child of the 70’s and 80’s the last “20’s” were ancient history even to me, although at some time the phrase “The Roaring Twenties” became a familiar phrase. It was so called in reference to a decade of economic and cultural prosperity principally for Western Europe and the USA, and heralded dramatic progression and usage of now everyday items like cars, telephones, film, radio and eventually aviation as a business. In a nod to the decade’s dynamic cultural and social growth it was also known in France as the “Années Folles”.

    In many ways the description of crazy years might feel a more appropriate description of the decade we are about to leave, but I can leave you to pick your own special adjective for these times. The indices within this final report of 2019 make for chastening reading, as it seems the resilience of our sector to the latest uncertainties have reached their limit. Whilst I can’t make those results look any better, what I can offer is a view forward on where we might place our collective efforts to make the 2020’s more roaring than crazy.

    Politically, the UK is within weeks of going to the polls for the fifth time in five years between our Europe Referendum, General and European elections, and so it’s understandable that fatigue for this uncertainty would lead us to say just get it done, and both I and the concerning negative trends in this report couldn’t agree more. But a note of caution is required, because for Brexit it’s clear that where for some business the outcome will have little or no effect, for others the detail of this is critical, and so when we look across our community of engineering manufacturing, I would urge patience that we seek the right deal, not the fastest one. A transition agreement is just that, and the current deal on the table for the UK leaves a very short window in transition before a full trading agreement is slated to be in place. The political declaration which accompanies the current transition agreement is noticeably absent of the language of “frictionless trade” or “closest possible alignment” and leads to concern for divergence on regulatory alignment which parts of our industry are dependent on.

    In 2020 Scotland will host the UN Climate Change Conference, (better known as COP26), and hopefully in due course another piece of common vocabulary will be replaced as “The Paris Agreement” becomes the “The Glasgow Agreement”. 2019 has been a year of sobering reflection as the data driven conclusions of scientists reported trends only sharpened by news reports of glacier ice loss around the globe and flooding closer to home. Climate change and the actions needed to offset it present a significant challenge to the status quo of our industry, however as Lindsay McQuade (CEO of Scottish Power Renewables), urged us when she addressed Scottish Engineering earlier this year, where better to look for solutions than the inherent problem solving and creativity of Engineering?

    My final plea for a collective effort for the new decade returns to everyone’s favourite subject: skills and the current and future shortages which concern us all. For that I’d urge that despite the uncertainty and probable bumps in the road coming our way, maintain your commitment shown in this report to the actions that seed the future talent pipeline our industry will need. Invest in the foundation, modern and graduate apprentices as you have done, more if you can, and try to continue to say yes to work experience and student summer placements to ensure that those leaving school, further and higher education have the experience they need to work effectively in our industry.

    Paul Sheerin
    Chief Executive
    Scottish Engineering

  23. Guest Writer: 100 years of Women’s Engineering

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    Lorna Bennet
    Mechanical Engineer
    WES Prize Winner 2018


    2019 has been a special year, marking the 100th Anniversary of the Women’s Engineering Society, inspiring numerous events across the country that have brought focus to our efforts to improve our diversity in Industry.

    So, as we close the year it seems fair to pose the question: how far have we advanced in 100 years? Well, we’ve come a long way since the days of blatant discrimination targeted at Women trying to enter the Engineering sector, and there are certainly policy and legislative support mechanisms in place which aim to “hold the gains”. Yet no matter how welcome these are, let’s not kid ourselves as even now there are still significant barriers to overcome. So, what steps do we next take to make significant progress?

    Those much longer in industry than me acknowledge that there has been much talk on the subject, with a fraction of that energy reflected in actual progress. We know that addressing the root causes of gender inequality in Engineering Manufacturing is no mean feat, but we also know that by working together with Governments, Education and Employers, reflecting on current practices and developing better cultures, change can be affected.

    Perhaps there has never been a better time to remind ourselves of the prize to be had from attracting more women in to Industry. Scottish manufacturing and engineering employers are acutely aware of the need for skilled workers, where many factors culminate in a current and future shortage of STEM talent. Anything that raises the current 11% of women represented in Industry is going to help that picture, and actions which make our industry more attractive to everyone will help encourage all young people to consider a career in STEM.

    Even with so much opportunity and demand, we are still struggling to attract young women to pursue a career in Engineering. Underrepresentation of women in our sector sadly deters many from even applying, as many young women and girls don’t feel they belong in the sector. Engineering is a fantastic career with a diverse range of areas to work in, however narrow perceptions that engineering is for men, or that engineering can’t be creative are dated and highly inaccurate. Young people want a career with a moral purpose that will contribute to improving society or saving the planet. We need to change the way we talk about engineering and show how it will transform the future. Engineers save more lives than doctors, as it is engineers who build hospitals, design the equipment doctors use to treat patients and provide access to clean energy, water and sanitation.

    It’s important to highlight that women don’t solely benefit from equality, as wider Industry reaps the benefits of having a more diverse workplace, and we know that diversity of thought is great for the bottom line. Having a balanced workforce in every respect enhances creativity, constructive debate and creates a better understanding of the ever-changing challenges and needs of our sector.

    In 2019 the Women’s Engineering Society welcomed the joint initiative for Diversity, Inclusion and Unconscious Bias training to industry brought by Equate Scotland, SEMTA and Scottish Engineering, and congratulations to those companies that participated in this. But it’s equally important that support such as this is not a one-off initiative. In that respect it is very welcome news that, having won funding from the Workplace Equality Fund, this initiative will expand and continue into 2020, with a wider remit of support enabled by a project officer based in Scottish Engineering.

    To return to my initial question: what progress have we made in 100 years? Well definitely some, and it’s clear that it has been delivered where actions speak louder than words, and a commitment to culture change has been embraced throughout an organization.

    In this respect, good intentions alone are not enough if we wish for a 2119 where this is simply no longer a talking point. For that we need actions, not good intentions.


    The views expressed by the guest writer are not necessarily those of Scottish Engineering

  24. Scotland’s Apprentice Network

    Leave a Comment Calling all past and present apprentices Are you a current, or past apprentice? Want to share your success story, tell […]
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  25. Transport bill

    Leave a Comment The Transport (Scotland) Bill was passed in Holyrood recently by 56 out of 129 MSPs with 29 votes against and […]
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  26. Changes to IR35 Regulations

    Leave a Comment IR35 – Change in Tax Implications for Employing Contractors through Personal Service Companies In April 2020 the Government is changing […]
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  27. Working with a Recognised Trade Union

    Leave a Comment In the UK, employees and employers make their own individual employment agreements with each other and collective employment ‘rights’ are […]
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  28. Legal update

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    Raj v Capita Business Services Ltd & Another

    Mr R alleged that his female team leader had sexually harassed him because she had on 2 or 3 occasions given him a shoulder massage. This was rejected by the Employment Tribunal at first instance. Mr R then appealed to the EAT and was unsuccessful. The Employment Appeal Tribunal found the Employment Tribunal had legitimately reached the conclusion that there was no case of harassment related to sex on the face of it. This was due to a number of factors including that as an underlying context to the female team leader’s behaviour, performance issues had led the team leader had tried to encourage his performance and that the incidents had occurred in an open plan office. The EAT also found that even if the burden of proof had shifted to the employer/team leader to provide a non-discriminatory explanation for the conduct, the Employment Tribunal had legitimately found that this had been proved, as the reason for the conduct was “misguided encouragement”. This decision may give employers some comfort that not all unwelcome physical contact will amount to sexual harassment. However, employers should be aware that every case will be judged on its own particular circumstances.

    Conisbee v Crossley Farms Ltd & Others

    An Employment Tribunal held that vegetarianism was not a philosophical belief qualifying for protection under the Equality Act 2010, applying the established tests. Mr C was employed for approximately 5 months before he resigned. He alleged that he had been discriminated against on the grounds of religion or belief, his belief being vegetarianism. At a Preliminary Hearing to consider this issue ie whether vegetarianism qualified as a philosophical belief, the Tribunal held that although the vegetarian belief was genuinely held by Mr Connisbee and was worthy of the respect in a democratic society, it failed to meet the other legal requirements for protection such as:-

    It did not concern a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour. Vegetarianism is not about human life and behaviour it is a lifestyle choice and in Mr Connisbee’s view he believed the world would be a better place if animals were not killed for food.

    It did not attain a certain level of cogency seriousness, cohesion and importance. The reasons why people are vegetarian differs greatly. They adopt the practice for many different reasons which include lifestyle, health, diet, concern about the way animals are reared for food and personal taste. On this aspect the Tribunal contrasted vegetarianism with veganism stating that the reasons for veganism appear to be largely the same and therefore there was a clear cogency and cohesion in vegan belief.

    A belief in vegetarianism did not have a similar status for cogency as religious beliefs.

    While this decision is only at first instance and is not binding on other Tribunals, it does at least provide an example of how Tribunals are approaching the question of religion or belief claims based on vegetarianism.

  29. Legal update – Kasongo v Humanscale UK Ltd

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    Kasongo v Humanscale UK Ltd

    In this case, the Claimant said she had been automatically unfairly dismissed and discriminated against on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity. During the course of the hearing, the employer chose to disclose documents containing summaries of legal advice about dismissal because it was said they demonstrated that the employer was unaware that Ms Kasongo was pregnant when it decided to dismiss her. However, the EAT held that the partial disclosure of privileged material (legal advice between Humanscale and their lawyers) caused a waiver of privilege in other documents containing advice about dismissal. In particular, this meant that comments in a draft letter of dismissal which had been redacted before the tribunal (and which the Claimant had somehow managed to see) could be relied on in evidence in hearing the claim.

    The case is a reminder of the potential risks of selective disclosure of privileged material as that can mean that any privilege in connection with the same matter is waived. The courts take the view that the partial waiver of privilege could lead to a situation where the employer or claimant was “cherry picking” which bits of evidence the tribunal should be allowed to see and therefore presenting an unbalanced picture of the evidence.

    Global Climate Strike

    Employers should be planning their position in response to employees who wish to take part in the global climate strike being planned for the end of September. The organisers aim to encourage the workforce to replicate the mass walkouts of school students which have attracted significant publicity and political engagement around the world. Climate change activists backed by Greta Thunberg are calling for a global climate change strike for the week starting on 20 September 2019. The stated purpose is to “show our politicians that business as usual is no longer an option”. There is currently media speculation that as many as 5 million workers in the UK could participate. Organisers hope to galvanise participants from 150 countries to take part.

    If you think your business may be affected it may be advisable to decide in advance (and also advise your workforce) what the company’s position with regards to any employees wishing to take part will be. There is clearly no “right” to take time off unless the employer agrees. If that is not your organisation’s position, it may be prudent to explain that to employees in advance and also to explain to them what their options are for taking time off if they wish to participate, e.g. holiday requests, e.g. unpaid time off, e.g. making up hours if time off is taken. You may also wish to emphasise that you do not wish anyone taking part to link their participation with your organisation or alternatively, if you do allow this you may wish to emphasise the standards of behaviour which will be expected of those participating.

  30. Guest Writer: Scotland’s Bravest Manufacturing Company

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    Andy Russell
    Operations Manager,
    Scotland’s Bravest Manufacturing Company


    The idea of creating Scotland’s Bravest Manufacturing Company (SBMC) was born after the release of a 2016 report, The Veterans Community Employability, Skills & Learning, by Eric Fraser – the previous Scottish Veterans Commissioner. It outlined the wealth of skills our veterans’ community has to offer and how it was a priority for the country to ensure there was specialised services in place that could nurture these skills, and help Armed Forces personnel into civilian workplaces.

    Having spent my entire working life in Scottish manufacturing, I understood the values that ex-military personnel can bring to an organisation, the undoubted skills and experiences they own, the outlook they have on life and a work ethic second to none. However, the few % that had mental and physical scars of service, were often overlooked, for a whole number of reasons, or maybe just put in the “too difficult” pile during the normal recruitment processes. To do that though, would be missing out on what is such a valuable resource, when we are struggling to get talented people into the industry.

    SBMC, as a social enterprise employs, as well as offers training and volunteering opportunities to, veterans and others, with disabilities, who have found themselves in a period of long-term unemployment. We aim to align ourselves with local companies who potentially can offer sustainable, real, long term employment. To do that we offer skills, over an 18 month period that can prove, not only to the employers, but to the operatives themselves, that they have the skills and aptitude to make it in their next career. We can tailor training ahead of employment, so they are as ready as possible to hit the ground running. My personal goal was to give anyone who comes through our door an appetite for “making things (better)”, and a desire to believe engineering can be a career of choice. I was privileged to work for a number of wonderful and thriving Scottish companies, and to see people, who have never even been in a factory before, produce quality product, create excellent print works or sign designs, operate a waterjet, produce cutting programs gives me a real sense of selfish pleasure.

    Having recently secured national contracts from bodies including BEAR Scotland and Amey Scotland, as well as a number of local authorities, and with support from organisations such as AFRC, and Hubbell, and of course the huge support and facilities offered from Erskine, SBMC aims to support 150 veterans – including their partners and family – over the next three years. This will allow the factory to expand, and provide more diverse work types, to increase opportunities across the industry.

    As part of the Royal British Legion Industries (RBLI), the UK’s leading charity helping ex-Armed Forces personnel into employment, we’re able to offer employment and volunteering roles, as well as training, in manufacturing, fulfilment and printing disciplines. What’s crucial when working with veterans is building a sense of worth and helping the individuals understand that their military skills are transferable – and they are incredibly versatile.

    Of-course it’s our goal to get these veterans into employment after completing our programme, but we want to ensure that the workplace that they end up in is enjoyable and ultimately a career they can progress in. It’s important to remember that as well providing new skills and employment opportunities, SBMC aims to grow the confidence of its service users. We understand that returning to civilian life can be daunting and even taking that one step in trying to find a job is difficult, so we’ve designed the 18-month employment programme to ensure we’re consistently up-skilling the workforce and helping build their confidence.

    We have been overwhelmed by the support of the Armed Forces community, charities, and of course manufacturing companies. It’s safe to say we are pleased that our social enterprise has been welcomed with open arms, as this has been fundamental to our growth.

    If you want to find more about SBMC, and how your company, and the veterans, can benefit from our works, please call 0141 471 0830, email, or find our website at


    The views expressed by the guest writer are not necessarily those of Scottish Engineering

  31. Brexit – End of free movementupdate

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    Following our update on this last week, the Home Office has recently changed its position on what will happen following its deadline of ending free movement on 31 October 2019 in the event of a no deal Brexit. Whilst the end to freedom of movement will still take place on 31 October, the Government has stated that EEA Nationals can still enter the UK freely post-Brexit and those wanting to remain beyond three months would have to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain (the details of this have still to be confirmed by the Government). It remains the position that those already in the UK can still apply for settled or pre-settled status. However, given the current political climate, nothing is certain at this stage and it is likely that other changes will take place…watch this space.

  32. Chief Exec’s report Sep 19

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    Halloween Horrors Await

    At our last quarterly briefing I talked of the joys of spring, the range of excellence we had just celebrated in our annual award winners, and the remarkable resilience of our sector despite never ending uncertainty. Clearly that was before our ‘summer’ arrived. In between wondering if a boat might be best for the daily commute, a new UK government was finally installed, and whilst the political pantomime shows no sign of abating, the mood music playing as an accompaniment has significantly changed.

    Under our newest Prime Minister, the entry requirement to join the Cabinet of Government seems to require exclusively a firm belief in the values, aims and impact of Brexit, combined with a promise not to blink or think of the children if called to push through on a no-deal disorderly exit. Businesses of all sizes up and down the country recognise the danger of forming a management team that lacks diversity of thought, or the conviction to challenge internally, and yet this is what we will have leading UKplc at a time of unprecedented difficulty, representing an electorate that is deeply divided.

    The stated policy of this Government at least publicly is that we aim to secure a deal with the EU. And how have they taken steps to achieve that? At the time of writing, this has publicly amounted to writing a four-page letter stating the UK Government’s position and expectations for change from the current backstop. Again, consider the response of any smart business leader, supervisor or employee across the country when asking how a dispute is to be resolved? Imagine receiving the answer of “Good News! – I have written a four page, possibly sarcastic, definitely patronising, email explaining where they have got it wrong”. Excellent, that ought to solve it then.

    Except its doesn’t. There is no evidence of softer unseen diplomacy at work, only a statement that the UK will withdraw from EU meetings that they don’t see as essential, another example of brinksmanship negotiation, which even if successful, will ensure any future partnership maintains the trust level exhibited in the manner by which it was secured. Companies already have remarked on the drastically deteriorated relations with European trading partners as a result of this approach.

    Meanwhile many businesses continue to outline that despite detailed planning for a no-deal outcome, including contingencies and alternate arrangements, the stark reality is that no-deal means wasted resource to secure work arounds, added costs for zero value and material uncertainty in business sustainability. On the same theme, this report includes responses on the importance of non-UK nationals to businesses to quantify concern around the UK government’s immigration white paper. Three in ten companies reported reliance on availability of this resource, and six in ten reject the proposed salary threshold of £30k for eligible roles. Our feedback to UK government is that we are deeply disappointed that the feedback given prior to the white paper seems to have been ignored, and this is underlined in 70% of our respondents voicing the need for flexibility in immigration policy which addresses Scotland’s unique needs.

    It should come as no surprise then that this deeply concerning situation is reflected in the reported results from our sector looking at the last quarter. Orders are down, significantly for export, as are confidence and output, and our metal manufacturing sector unfortunately looks to have endured the toughest of quarters. Brighter points to note are a continued commitment to training and investment plans which is both welcomed and essential to future recovery.

    For our back-page guest this edition, our contribution is from Scotland’s Bravest Manufacturing Company, an organisation that many members who make up a part of the supply chain to the UK’s Armed Forces I am sure will feel a connection to. I had the pleasure of visiting their manufacturing site with their Operations Manager Andy Russell, I hope you are as impressed to hear about it as I was.

    Paul Sheerin
    Chief Executive
    Scottish Engineering

  33. Manufacturing 4.0 review

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    The Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service (SMAS) will provide a comprehensive assessment of your business over two days to identify strengths and opportunities, giving you an aligned approach towards Manufacturing 4.0.

    The Review is conducted over two days and is fully funded, delivered by SMAS and Scottish Enterprise digital specialists.

    For more information, click on the link here

  34. Legal update – A Limited v Z

    Leave a Comment A LIMITED v Z The EAT held the Respondent did not have constructive knowledge of the disability in the particular […]
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  35. Chief Exec’s report Jun 19

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    Encouraging Forward Thinking For Skills

    Spring in Scotland is now well under way, and it’s a significant time for us at Scottish Engineering as we celebrated our annual award winners just a few short weeks ago.

    If spring is our best chance in the year for optimism, then our award winners did not disappoint, and we saw the range of excellence running from laser photonics through large scale high value metal manufacturing to mass volume drinks production. A tremendous range and diversity of engineering, with fantastic examples of strategic focus on improvement, investment and skills growth. Congratulations to all our award recipients, with a special mention for our overall winner, J&D Pierce (Contracts), whose mix of astonishing growth in business, infrastructure and skills captured the attention of our judging panel.

    Given that skills remain the number one conversation we have with industry, it’s not surprising that all of our award winners stood out for their commitment and approach to training and skills, with engagement in local education long before the hiring process begins. We have remarked before that our future supply of talent faces several challenges:

    • A currently historically low unemployment rate
    • An aging workforce with low training rates in the age group following
    • Competition for STEM candidates from other sectors and industry
    • A projection of decreasing net migration, exacerbated by Brexit impacts

    This quarter we asked members to share their plans for apprenticeship places in the next twelve months and mid-term timeframe, and encouragingly all areas show a planned increase. A healthy 47% of respondents plan an overall increase across all three streams of apprenticeships over the next three to five years, a level that underlines how seriously companies are taking the need to secure future skills. In the shorter term, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Modern Apprentice programme shows the most planned growth in the next twelve months, with over 43% of companies indicating plans for increased intake. The newer apprenticeship programmes for Foundation and Graduate streams showed lower increases of 16% and 21% respectively, and from that I think we can conclude that whilst the increase is welcome, we still have work to do to convince industry of the value of these work-based learning initiatives.

    If we were giving ourselves a report card, let’s be generous and say we give ourselves a ‘B’, what next to drive this in right direction?

    Well, if we start with supply of candidates, a continued theme in almost every forum and voiced by industry leaders is the need to concentrate our STEM resource in fewer and more effective projects – a ‘less is more’ approach. This will require compromise and some of us will have to stop what we currently do to join other programmes, but if we want a different outcome, choices like these will need to be made.

    Looking beyond that, our survey asked employers what factors restricted their plans to increase the numbers of training places, and the most common answer highlighted a lack of training resource and time within smaller organisations to do justice to the training of more young people. With no magic wands that’s not easy to fix, but it is something we can look at with the agencies who support industry in Scotland to seek a solution.

    And finally, we need to press the UK government to look again at the content of their Immigration policy proposal to take into account the differing needs of Scotland within the UK. The last thing that our manufacturing industry need is wider pressure across labour supply as a whole, whether that be for skilled engineering and technician roles, or just as importantly the operator group where we enjoy significant levels of EU nationals in our workplaces.

    For our back page view this quarter, I am pleased to note we have a contribution from a friend of Scottish Engineering, Paul Nelson, who fulfilled our role as Employer Auditor whilst working at member company Allied Vehicles. Paul is now helping Scottish Autism, an organisation that reminds us of the value that employees on the Autism spectrum bring to all aspects of working life, in some cases particularly for engineering and manufacturing.

    Paul Sheerin
    Chief Executive
    Scottish Engineering

  36. Guest Writer: Wider Inclusion Can Add Valued Employees

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    Paul Nelson
    Non-Executive Director
    Scottish Autism


    Securing satisfying employment, where you feel valued, can be challenging for anyone but for some autistic people, it can be seen as even more of a challenge. It wasn’t until I joined Scottish Autism that I realised how many autistic people there are in Scotland. I have also learned about the struggle many families face as they navigate education, society and importantly work.

    Autism is a lifelong developmental condition which affects the way a person communicates, interacts and processes information. The autism spectrum refers to the range of ways the condition can present in an individual which can vary greatly from person to person and throughout their life. While some people will have more subtle difficulties, others will have more complex needs requiring intensive support.

    No two autistic people are the same and we recognise that each person has a unique set of needs. We create support plans that are based on an individual’s own strengths, motivations and on achieving outcomes that are meaningful to them. This is the case whether in school, further education or the work setting.

    At Scottish Autism we recognise this and have developed a range of innovative services and support, all designed around the wellbeing of autistic people.

    Some of the skills that are well suited to a career in the STEM professions such as good maths, problem solving, attention to detail, persistence and excellent analytical skills are some of the skills that many autistic people can have particular strengths in. Although, since engaging more with autistic people, I have learned the importance of challenging stereotypes, and I have been privileged to meet autistic individuals who have potential in other areas of the workforce such as the arts, retail and horticulture, to name a few.

    However, it is common for autistic people to experience barriers to accessing employment because of differences in social communication and thought processing style. With the right support in place, employers could really benefit from the unique talents and skills autistic individuals can bring to their workforce. By adopting a more inclusive recruitment approach and improving understanding of autism amongst employers, autistic employees have a better opportunity to excel in a field where their skills are realised and valued as feeling valued is fundamental to everyone’s wellbeing.
    Employers can make some simple but helpful adjustments to create a more autism accessible workplace from the initial recruitment and selection process to the actual work environment itself. These can include making sure the application form and guidance are clear and that you encourage the applicant to inform you that they are autistic, so suitable adjustments can be made on appointment.

    Some small adjustments can also create a more autism accessible environment including a quiet room or space, desk adjustment, adjusted lighting, noise cancelling headphones, amended working hours or flexible working and a supportive manager/ mentor. Also, think of outside the office and help to support an autistic person with reduced travel or helping them to create a work and travel routine.

    At New Struan, Scottish Autism’s Day and Residential School for autistic pupils aged 5 to 19, we recognise the importance of instilling the belief that employment is a realistic and obtainable aim for our young people. We offer work placements within our own charity services; could you do likewise? We are planning to work with Primary Engineering and STEM to provide our pupils with an insight into the opportunities engineering might offer as a career but more importantly, what our pupils’ skills might offer the world of engineering.

    If you are looking to better support autistic individuals into work, Scottish Autism can provide tailored training and consultancy opportunities. We also offer corporate partnership opportunities which can bring great benefits to your organisation and help to raise awareness and understanding of autism amongst your staff. We offer free staff training to Charity of the Year partners as well as help to implement changes in your organisation to support autistic people.

    We develop a tailored partnership to meet your corporate social responsibility objectives, maximise staff engagement and inspire your customers. There are also lots of fun ways to get involved and raise funds to help Scottish Autism to continue to deliver much needed services and support across Scotland.

    If you want to find out more about the work or Scottish Autism, please visit, email or telephone 01259 720044.


    The views expressed by the guest writer are not necessarily those of Scottish Engineering

  37. Scottish Workplace Car Parking Levy

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    The Transport (Scotland) Bill is relevant for employers in Scotland, as proposals are currently making their way through the Scottish Parliament to enable Local Authorities to apply a levy on employers who provide car parking for their staff. This was agreed by the Scottish Government in order to get the support of the Scottish Greens for its budget. When this has been implemented it will be up to the employer to decide whether or not to pass on the cost to its employees. There has been a great deal of interest and commentary on the proposals and it has been confirmed that the Transport Bill’s passage through Parliament will be delayed, allowing for a public consultation which has not yet been opened. There is a similar scheme currently in operation in Nottingham – please click here if you are interested in finding out how that operates.


  38. Support for MakeUK

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    In the last few days, Scottish Engineering was contacted by MakeUK (EEF), asking for our support for the attached letter to Government and Opposition. We were aware that other UK Engineering and Manufacturing Member organisations were considering their support for this action also.

    We chose to support this action, specifically because it aims not to criticise the origin or thwart the democratic process of Brexit, but states that the current method of delivering Brexit is not conducive to business stability and progression. It asks that if no deal can be found within the current and imminent deadline, then Article 50 should be revoked to allow clear headed review and a halt to the damaging cycle of short-term delays that the current process to deliver Brexit is following.

    The full letter cam be found by clicking here, as well as a link to the Sunday Times article carrying this, here (please note the ST is unfortunately a subscription only site).


    Paul Sheerin
    Chief Executive




  39. HSE Safety alert

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    HSE has issued a safety alert about a change in enforcement expectations for mild steel welding fume.

    There is new scientific evidence from the International Agency for Research on Cancer that exposure to mild steel welding fume can cause lung cancer and possibly kidney cancer in humans.

    The Workplace Health Expert Committee has endorsed the reclassification of mild steel welding fume as a human carcinogen.

    With immediate effect, there is a strengthening of HSE’s enforcement expectation for all welding fume, including mild steel welding; because general ventilation does not achieve the necessary control.

    See the full report here

  40. Legal update – Confidentiality clauses

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    The Government has issued a consultation document seeking views on new measures to prevent the misuse of non-disclosure agreements in situations involving workplace harassment or discrimination. Generally, confidentiality clauses are used in two ways in the employment context, either as part of employment contracts to protect e.g. trade secrets, or as part of a settlement agreement to allow both sides to move on with a clean break. There are some limits on their use. Confidentiality clauses are ineffective if they purport to prevent someone taking a case to employment tribunal (unless within a COT3 brokered by ACAS or a settlement agreement) or making a protected disclosure.

    The Government is now consulting on further measures which include: –

    • Legislation to ban confidentiality clauses which prevent a victim reporting or discussing potential criminal acts to or with the police;
    • Ensuring any confidentiality clauses in employment contracts (as contrasted with settlement agreements) are included in the written statement of particulars of employment issued at the start of the employment relationship; and
    • Requiring all confidentiality clauses to highlight the disclosures which are not prohibited by the clause and making any confidentiality clauses which do not comply with this void in their entirety.

    The consultation document was issued on 4 March 2019 and responses must be lodged by 29 April 2019. To access the consultation document, click here.



    The Claimant was on maternity leave and during that period she was one of a number of staff who were placed at risk of redundancy.  She was sent a number of emails to her work email address which was not accessible to her during her maternity leave with details of redeployment opportunities.  Ms Jackson did not find out about these opportunities for several days and although this caused no substantial harm, it was a legitimate concern and her claim for unfavourable treatment under the Equality Act was successful with the Tribunal upholding her claim as she didn’t get the email “because” she was on maternity leave.

    The EAT has now heard the case and remitted the case to the Tribunal for further findings.  The EAT held that although the unfavourable treatment would not have happened “but for” taking the maternity leave, the Tribunal should have given consideration as to the reason why the email was sent to the Claimant’s work email address. As it had declined to make any findings on this point, the matter was referred back to the Tribunal for further consideration.

  41. Brexit Support Grant

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    SME’s May Be Eligible For A Grant Of Up To £4K To Help Manage Brexit Impacts

    The Brexit Support Grant, funded by the Scottish Government, provides up to a maximum of £4,000 to help small to medium-sized enterprises in Scotland manage a wide range of Brexit impacts.

    To find out if you are eligible, read more by clicking here.


  42. HSE Safety Alert

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    HSE has issued a safety alert about a change in enforcement expectations for mild steel welding fume.

    There is new scientific evidence from the International Agency for Research on Cancer that exposure to mild steel welding fume can cause lung cancer and possibly kidney cancer in humans. The Workplace Health Expert Committee has endorsed the reclassification of mild steel welding fume as a human carcinogen. With immediate effect, there is a strengthening of HSE’s enforcement expectation for all welding fume, including mild steel welding; because general ventilation does not achieve the necessary control. Read the full article here.

    Fee for Intervention (FFI) rate increase – 6th April 2019

    Please be advised that HSE’s cost recovery rate for Fee for Intervention (FFI) will increase to £154 per hour with effect from 6th April 2019. This means that businesses that are found to be in material breach of health and safety law will be charged at this new rate. As now, those businesses that meet their legal requirements will not pay anything for HSE’s regulatory activity. HSE must set the FFI rate with the aim of recovering its full cost and in recent years it has operated at a deficit (i.e. cost more than recovered in income). A combination of this and cumulative inflationary pressures support the increased hourly rate.

    If you require further information about FFI, please contact:

    Health and Safety Executive
    FFI Team
    1.G Redgrave Court
    Merton Road
    L20 7HS
    Telephone: 0300 0033 190

    Interested in Occupational Health and Safety information?
    Please visit the HSE website at the following address to keep yourself up to date

  43. Chief Exec’s report Mar 19

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    Groundhog Day

    Welcome to our first Quarterly Report of 2019. We start not as we would wish with an optimistic view forward, but instead trapped in the never-ending Brexit cycle where immediate clarity is desperately needed, but never actually expected. The gift that keeps on giving simply cannot be ignored, for as Brexit blunders on, the timeline to avert a cliff edge withdrawal is scarily close and therefore uncomfortably real.

    I attended this week the manufacturing conference of Make UK (renamed from EEF) and Brexit concerns were the returning headline topic throughout the day. Andrew Neil, fresh from his decision to end his weekly politics show and in uncharacteristically entertaining form, took no prisoners in analysing where we were and where we may be going. He commented that a case can be made that it’s not unusual to have an incompetent government, and it can equally be argued that there have been plenty cases of ineffective opposition. He suggested however that, unlike buses, for both to come along at the same time was highly unusual and a key reason for the chaos we are experiencing. In warming to his theme he stated that “Brexit would have been tough enough with competent people who knew what they were doing”. After painting this panic inducing picture, he added the now common observation that politics and particularly voter intentions no longer follow the established rules and entertained us with reference to a new billionaire class reminiscent of Donald Sutherland in The Hunger Games.

    Against this almost dystopian view of our political landscape his view forward was for me surprising, an expectation that the most likely outcome was a late in the day compromise to get behind a form of the current deal on offer, with a backup possibility to extend from the end of March date still more likely than a no deal exit. This scenario was repeated through the day by those speakers representing the UK Government, albeit with more emphasis on the qualifying phrase ‘we are working as hard as possible to achieve…’. At the time of writing further distraction continues with resignation of MPs from the two main UK political parties, although it has to be acknowledged that these are for a variety of reasons. Nonetheless, it all adds to the noise, and subsequently I have to admit that it’s hard for me to see how the current political pantomime will stop in time to let such sense break out. It is however exactly what is needed and therefore we must once again hope for the best, whilst continuing to ready ourselves for all possible eventualities.

    Against that background our Quarterly Review figures at first glance look broadly positive, with orders, output and staffing all showing significantly positive both in review and forecast. Concern exists that these figures may be boosted by understandable contingency planning that is raising inventory across supply chains. This view underlines that whatever inventory is being built, we all understand that this will need to be unwound to return working capital to optimum, and that unwinding may feel like a dip even if the real end user demand remains steady.

    Regardless of what happens next, the world will keep turning and our Industry will do what it has done through every challenging period since industry began: rise to the challenge, make the most of the strengths and attributes our business communities undoubtedly have, and look to improve to increase competitiveness regardless of the obstacles arriving. In that respect its good to see that Capital and Training Investment plans remain positive, with Training Investment the highest as companies look to increase productivity through training.

    For Scottish Engineering, a key addition to our training offer this year is our partnership programme with Equate Scotland and SEMTA, and I’m delighted that Talat Yaqoob, Director of Equate Scotland, has explained that programme in detail as our guest back page contributor. Improving our gender balance in Engineering and Manufacturing is compelling not because it’s the right thing to do but because it will improve our productivity and sector sustainability. Scottish Engineering see this programme as a key part of enabling that improvement, because in this respect, good intentions are not enough, change will require commitment to training and company culture to achieve this.

    Paul Sheerin
    Chief Executive
    Scottish Engineering

  44. Guest Writer: New project to support sector with equality

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    Talat Yaqoob
    Equate Scotland


    Employers across the engineering sector, no matter how big or small, will be well aware of the continuing efforts to diversify the workforce and bring in a new era of young people, people from different ethnicities and women into engineering. Given that the majority of the jobs of the future are likely to require some science, technology or engineering related qualification or training, it is surprising that we are yet to see a shift in diversity, especially in terms of the number of women in this sector.

    According to labour market data, women make up around 16% of the engineering sector, and only 11% of these women have senior technical roles, yet their equal participation is worth billions to the UK’s economy. According to Engineering UK we need over 180,000 more engineers by 2022, to meet this target we need more women to pursue this career. But it is not all doom and gloom. In the last five years we have seen the largest increase in the number of women studying civil and renewable engineering, we have seen increased interest from employers who want to pursue equality and diversity and we have seen a renewed push by Government to make change happen.

    Engineering is an exciting pathway with a diverse range of areas to work in, but unfortunately this message is not making its way to enough girls and women. The idea that engineering only happens in a hard hat, that engineering is for men or that engineering is not a creative vocation are dated and inaccurate misconceptions which get in the way of the sector recruiting a diverse workforce. These myths need to be tackled and realistic and accurate accounts of engineering need to become the norm. 2019 is the centenary of the Women’s Engineering Society and provides the perfect opportunity to highlight the brilliant women who have been or currently are engineers. It is also the perfect opportunity for employers to showcase that they are committed to gender equality.

    To support these ambitions Scottish Engineering, SEMTA and Equate Scotland have teamed up to deliver a “women in engineering” bespoke project to bolster the equalities related efforts by employers. The project is working with the national expert organisation on gender equality, Equate Scotland, which specialises in supporting employers across STEM through training and consultancy. The project, which launched in January of this year, is providing engineering employers with the skills they need to deliver equalities strategies and actions that are not only practical but will make genuine change. From unconscious bias training, to on the phone expert advice, this programme of work will be a “go to” for employers who want to be leading in this area.

    Through this project, it is hoped that the engineering industry will be able to attract more applications from women, showcase their work to a future generation of employees and create inclusive workplaces; where not only women can flourish, but workplaces which are welcoming to all.

    The project has already been supported by Jamie Hepburn MSP, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills and we are looking for employers who want to take part in our programme of training. Often we hear that employers care about these issues, but they do not know where to start or what activities would be most beneficial to them. This project hopes to demystify the area of equality and diversity and support employers to take positive steps forward. First and foremost, this project will create a training and development space to allow industry to reflect on current practices and develop better cultures.

    Engaging more women in engineering is not as simple as giving a one-off talk at a local school, instead it is about strategic and sustainable efforts. Through this work, we know we can make a difference, all we need are progressive thinking employers to help lead the way.

    Get in touch with us to get involved


    The views expressed by the guest writer are not necessarily those of Scottish Engineering

  45. Legal update – Free advice for social workers

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    The Aberdeen Law Project (ALP), led by students, is to offer free legal advice to social workers who have been taken to tribunal and whose fitness to practice is under scrutiny. This is an initiative with the Scottish Social Services Council aimed at increasing access to justice. The aim is to be able to assist SSSC registered workers.


    This case dealt with payment for sleepovers and whether or not a flat rate paid was sufficient on the basis that the employee was expected to sleep and was being paid simply for being present.  The employee contended she was entitled to the hourly national minimum wage for the duration of the sleep-in shift.  The Court of Appeal, overturning previous decisions of the Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal, decided that sleep-in carers should be classified as available for work rather than actively working when they were asleep.  As the minimum wage was only payable for time when the employee was required to be awake for the purposes of working under Regulation 32 of the National Minimum Wage Regulations 2015, Ms Tomlinson-Blake was not entitled to be paid national minimum wage for the entire shift but only for any periods when she was awake and called upon to work. The Unison legal team who represent Ms Tomlinson-Blake have now been granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court and we will keep Members updated once this case is heard by the Supreme Court. This case may ultimately have an impact on what employers require to pay to comply with National Minimum Wage Regulations and also the HMRC Social Care Compliance Scheme which closed on 31 December 2018.

  46. Legal update

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    The government has announced plans to implement certain of the recommendations contained in the Taylor Good Work Report issued earlier this year. The written statement of employment particulars will have to be given from day one of employment, rather than within 8 weeks of commencement as at present. The rules for calculating a week’s pay for holiday pay purposes are also to be altered by means of increasing the reference period for variable pay from 12 to 52 weeks.

    These two changes will be implemented by means of the Employment Rights (Employment Particulars & Paid Annual Leave) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 and will come into force on 6 April 2020. It is also planned to abolish the Swedish derogation for agency workers which in certain circumstances allows agency workers to be employed on cheaper rates than permanent counterparts, beyond the 12 week limit. This is to be enacted by the Agency Workers (Amendment) Regulations 2018 and also comes into force on 6 April 2020. The Employment Rights (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 will extend the right to a written statement to workers, not only employees, and also increases penalties for aggravated breaches of employment law by employers from £5,000 to £20,000. These regulations will also lower the percentage required for a valid employee request for the employer to negotiate an agreement on informing and consulting its employees from 10% to 2%. Other changes liable to be implemented are as follows: –

    Legislation to streamline the employment status tests so they are the same for employment and tax purposes; A ban on employers making deductions from staff tips (presumably this will happen by extending the existing unlawful deductions laws although this is not clear);

    The government is also proposing a right to request a fixed working pattern for those who do not have one after 26 weeks on a non-fixed pattern.  This might be tackled in the same way as flexible working requests i.e. a series of procedural requirements an employer must follow, but with discretion for the employer to refuse and financial penalties if breached. Implementing legislation is awaited.



    If Britain leaves the EU without agreeing a deal, the government has announced immigration provisions to be applied to EEA and Swiss Nationals coming to the UK after that date. The government will seek to end free movement as soon as possible in the event of a no deal Brexit and there will follow a transitional period until the UK’s new skills based future immigration system comes into force on 1 January 2021. Within the transitional period, EEA and Swiss Nationals plus their family members will be able to come to the UK for up to 3 months without applying for any immigration status or visa. However, if they wish to stay longer than 3 months they will need to apply for and obtain European temporary leave to remain. European temporary leave to remain will be valid for a 3 year period which is not extendable. This will not lead to indefinite leave to remain in the UK or to status under the EU settlement scheme. In these circumstances, to be able to stay for longer than 3 years the individual will require to make a further application under the UK’s new skills based future immigration system after 1 January 2021. Applications will be subject to identity, criminality and security checks and will result in an application fee, the level of which is not yet known. Non-EU family members who wish to accompany or join an EU citizen under these arrangements will have to apply in advance for a family permit but only close family members which include spouse, partner and dependent child under 18 years will qualify. The announcement does not affect EEA and Swiss Nationals who are in the UK before the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019. These individuals will be eligible to apply for settled or pre-settled status under the EU settlement scheme irrespective of whether the UK leaves the EU with a deal or not but must apply by 31 December 2020 in the event of a no deal situation.



    The Home Office has updated its Code of Practice in preventing illegal working which sets out the prescribed checks that an employer should conduct to avoid a civil penalty in the event of illegal working. In particular, the new code provides that employers can establish a statutory excuse against liability for an illegal working civil penalty by conducting an on-line right to work check, using the Home Office on-line right to work checking service. Click here for more.



    Government Consultation on Extension of Rights for Women following Maternity Leave and New Parents.

    A consultation paper has been published by the government in response to a recommendation in the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices. Regulation 10 of the Maternity & Parental Leave etc Regulations 1999 currently stipulates that if a woman on maternity leave is selected for redundancy, she must be given priority over other redundant employees in respect of offers of suitable alternative employment by her employer. The proposal made in the consultation is to extend this right to women who have returned from maternity leave in the previous 6 months and not only those who are currently on maternity leave. Further, the government is considering extending this right to women who have advised their employer that they are pregnant. Lastly, the consultation is seeking views on extending the right to those on adoption leave, shared parental leave and longer periods of parental leave. The consultation period closes on 5 April 2019.


    APRIL 2019

    Increases to Statutory Maternity, Paternity, Adoption, Shared Parental Leave and Sick Pay

    As from 7 April 2019, the payments in respect of statutory maternity pay, paternity pay, shared parental pay and adoption pay will be increased from £145.18 per week to £148.68.

    As from 7 April 2019, the rate of statutory sick pay will increase from £92.05 to £94.25 per week.


    The Court of Appeal has reaffirmed that in discrimination cases the initial burden to prove a prima facie case rests with the Claimant before the burden of proof shifts to the Respondent. Mr E was a black Nigerian who held post-graduate qualifications in information systems and forensic computing. He was employed by Royal Mail as a postman but wished to move into a management or IT role. He made many applications but was unsuccessful in all of them and eventually complained to an Employment Tribunal of direct race discrimination. During the hearing Royal Mail did not put forward any evidence about the identity or qualifications of the candidates who had been successful and nor did Mr E (who represented himself) seek that information from Royal Mail under Tribunal procedures. The Tribunal found that Mr E had not shown facts from which discrimination could be inferred and the claim therefore failed. The Employment Appeal Tribunal had concluded that the Tribunal should have considered whether it ought to draw inferences from Royal Mail’s failure to provide information about the successful candidates. However, the Court of Appeal disagreed and found that the burden was on Mr E to prove his case at the first stage and that he had failed to do so.

  47. Adverse Weather Advice

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    Member companies should consider the following advice in deciding whether or not to pay employees who are absent during any periods of adverse weather.

    Firstly, if the company has a policy in relation to adverse weather and pay then the company should follow that policy. Also consider any custom and practice – how has the company dealt with these issues in the past?

    Legal Position
    If you do not have a policy, the legal position is that to retain an entitlement to pay, employees must be ready, willing and able to work. However, employers must also act reasonably in deciding whether to pay employees or not, and employees have legal protection against unlawful deductions from wages. Companies need to look at any instructions issued to employees. If the company issued an instruction that they were closed after a certain point in time or closed on a particular day then that amounts to an instruction to employees not to come to work, or to go home, and employees are entitled to pay for the full day. There would be no evidence in that situation that employees were not ready, willing and able to work. Similar principles apply if employees were told only to travel to work if it was safe to do so and they advised that it was not safe for them to do so – if, for example, there was a red weather warning in place. Again, in that situation the employee would require to be paid.

    Another factor to be considered is emergency time off for dependants for any employees who have children, who were unable to attend school or nursery due to the weather. Those employees have a statutory right to time off albeit it is unpaid time off. However, there should still be a discussion with the employee – they may say that irrespective of childcare issues they would have been unable to travel anyway. If employees have opted in the absence of an instruction, to remain off work, then on the face of it they are not entitled to be paid as they were not ready, willing and able to attend work. However, as indicated above employers should act reasonably and discuss what the options are with employees. These options may include taking annual leave, unpaid authorised absence, including emergency time off for dependants if applicable, or making the time up, which could happen either at work or at home (if practicable) over a reasonable period.  Employers should be clear that it is not going to be regarded as a disciplinary matter and will not be counted as poor attendance for disciplinary or any other purpose.  If employees work up the time during time normally paid at overtime they should work up the time at the overtime rates not basic rates.

    If you do not have a policy, you may wish to consider introducing a policy to avoid confusion in future over adverse weather events.  If so, please contact us and a sample policy can be supplied. If you have any other questions, then please contact your usual adviser at Scottish Engineering.

  48. Chief Exec’s report Dec 18

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    Skills Snobbery is a Wasted Opportunity

    Welcome to Scottish Engineering’s final Quarterly Report for 2018, and as we write, it’s the time of year when wish lists are being written, and decisions are to be made on good behaviour or otherwise. With the political shenanigans currently never ending, I fear there will be a lot of coal in the stockings of our elected representatives this December. Those like me who expected clarity on our future relationship with Europe long before now, can surely now with confidence say: definitely next year.

    So, while that uncertainty continues, lets return then to the second most popular topic our members have raised this year, skills and labour capacity in general. Last week it was reported that unemployment fell yet again in Scotland to 3.8%, and as evidenced in this report export and domestic orders continue to remain strong at least into the beginning of next year. There is no doubt that the first negative signs of Brexit have been felt by companies losing EU nationals from their workforce as they avoid uncertainty or the effects of weak Sterling and return home. Just to cap this picture, those employees moving from company to company on average can expect to receive 3 times the salary increase of those staying with their current employer. All these factors have placed a squeeze on companies having the labour resource they need, and companies report that difficulties to recruit are not just in skilled roles but extends to operator roles too.

    At the risk of sounding unnecessarily downbeat, a further concern occurs to me. Industry 4.0 is here, and companies across the board are now implementing workstreams to make sense of the vast amounts of useful data being collected. Data driven innovation is active and increasing now, and manufacturing and engineering are not the only sectors that need these skills. In fact, the concern is that the growing demand for the people with the necessary skillset to train for these roles will inevitably come from the same ‘pot’ as we currently have, and that already is not enough to meet demand.

    The solution must be a bigger ‘pot’ and one way to do that is changing the way we think about work-based learning, for which the entry point in Scotland is our Foundation Apprentice (FA) programme. Here S5 and S6 pupils undertake a mix of school, college and workplace-based learning, and on completion will hold a qualification equivalent to Higher grade, with a pathway to work, modern or graduate apprenticeship, or Further Higher Education.

    So, what’s the problem? To put it bluntly, as a society we seem to hold a view that looks down on FA’s as the lowest rung of the ladder and are missing an opportunity as a result. FA’s give us the ability to engage early and steer young people into Engineering, and crucially allow us to capture the attention of young people where school for whatever reason doesn’t click for them but the world of work does. Many of us are or know colleagues who became excellent engineers, with less than stellar school exam results. Right now, modern apprentice and graduate routes leave those future talents behind and that’s a dreadful waste that we can’t afford. If that doesn’t convince you, look outward to Germany, a manufacturing and engineering example of best practice, where in 2015 the calculated share of population starting an apprenticeship was 52%, compared to less than 10% of school leavers in Scotland for the same period. As a final point to underline here, can I add Scottish Engineering’s congratulations to 18-year-old Fraser Wallace who this month was named Scotland’s Apprentice of the Year. Fraser was one of the first young people in the country to complete a Foundation Apprenticeship with Ayrshire College alongside work placements at aviation experts GE Caledonian, and having already impressed is now enrolled in a Modern Apprenticeship, with no doubt a bright future ahead.

    Paul Sheerin
    Chief Executive
    Scottish Engineering

  49. Guest Writer: Ports Plan For Resilience To Keep Supply Chains Moving

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    Charles Hammond
    Group Chief Executive
    Forth Ports Limited


    At Forth Ports we have a strategy of investing in supply chain solutions for our customers and we are well-placed to deal with the changing nature of trade and its effect on these supply chains. Over the past few months, I have been regularly speaking to customers and industry organisations about the readiness of UK ports for the changes that Brexit will require. At the time of writing this (November) we don’t know what will be agreed as we seek to leave the EU, however what we can be certain of is that, as an island nation, we are always going to have to move goods through our ports.

    Currently 95% of all UK trade is handled through the country’s ports with 75% of this being handled by the UK major ports of which Forth Ports is a member. At Forth Ports we have not stood still. We have been working with HMRC, Border Force and Chambers of Commerce to ensure our customers understand the changes they need to make to minimise customs delays post Brexit.

    As one of the UK’s largest port groups, with seven ports in Scotland – including Grangemouth, Leith, Rosyth and Dundee – and London’s major port in Tilbury on the Thames, we handle over 40 million tonnes of cargo annually and we are adept at tackling complex business challenges. We are prepared for any outcome when the UK leaves the EU Single Market and Customs Union – deal or no deal.

    We have capacity across all our ports, border facilities, Approved Economic Operator accreditation, I.T. systems in place, flexibility in our workforce and decades of expertise working with our supply chains to ensure a smooth service for customers.

    Grangemouth is our largest port in Scotland and is a main export hub for the country’s biggest exports including chemicals, food & drink, agriculture and the oil and gas sector. The Food & Drink sector is an important and valuable asset and we have expanded our reefer (refrigerated containers) capacity to create an all year round offer for fresh and frozen fish, bakery goods and other produce that require temperature control during transit.

    Also in Grangemouth our new multi-million pound ship-to-shore crane is already improving turnaround times at the container terminal by delivering greater service flexibility to the many short-sea routes connecting Scotland to Continental Europe. Grangemouth already trades successfully outside the EU through effective customs systems and will continue to trade with the EU post Brexit.

    Across our other ports in Scotland we are investing in a diverse range of activities. In Dundee, we are collaborating with many complementary businesses to create a strong North Sea oil and gas decommissioning hub and offshore wind offer to the marketplace. Our new upgraded quayside is complete and one of the UK’s largest fixed quayside cranes has been installed to satisfy both offshore wind and the decommissioning markets.

    In Rosyth, we have secured a new long-term contract for the creation of an agricultural hub with Cefetra serving their Scottish market, complementary to their ongoing activities at the Port of Leith. Also in Rosyth, following investment and a successful conversion of the passenger handling facilities at the port, the cruise business has continued to grow with Fred Olsen Cruises home porting one of their vessels for part of the season. In Leith we have concluded the sale of Waterfront Plaza to CALA Homes which will see a substantial residential development completed in phases and there are two further phases of mid-market rental properties being developed in conjunction with Retties and Hart Builders.

    Our most important investment at Forth Ports is in our people. It is vital that through excellent Training and Development that we have a skilled workforce for the future. We have this month opened our new Skills and Business Centre in Grangemouth which is a facility being used for our own teams but also for external businesses. For example we are working with CalMac trainees on a Modern Apprenticeship course to create the port operators of the future.

    In these uncertain times, it’s important that we all don’t stand still, but that we adapt now to the changes which are guaranteed to come. I would urge Scottish Engineering members to review their supply chain now to seek the shortest route to market, making any customs changes and renegotiating where required in advance of Brexit. We are actively engaging with our customers, many of whom will be reading this, and the relevant authorities on changes that will be needed post-Brexit but whatever happens, our ports will continue to trade globally.


    The views expressed by the guest writer are not necessarily those of Scottish Engineering

  50. Guest Writer: The Economic Challenges and Opportunities for Scotland

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    Gary Gillespie
    Chief Economic Adviser
    Scottish Government


    The past decade has seen an array of economic and political developments from the global financial crisis of 2008/09 to the UK vote to leave the European Union. The former had a significant impact on the Scottish and UK economy, which is still being felt, and the latter has the potential to lead to wholesale changes in UK trade and market access.

    We have also seen a weakening in productivity growth in the UK and other advanced economies, since the financial crisis which is challenging established views on the sustainability of current economic models.

    From a historical perspective, the economy always evolves reflecting a range of factors such as changing legal or regulatory structures, new technologies, changing business models, changing preferences or changes to the trade environment and market access. The sectoral composition of the Scottish economy has changed significantly over the last 40 years, moving to a much more service based economy, including related production and engineering services. Over this period the economy has nearly doubled in size, growing on average by around 2 per cent per year.

    The main driver of this change has been globalisation with an internationalisation of product markets and global supply chains. This has provided opportunities for Scottish firms, particularly in the Engineering sector, to benefit from new (and deep) markets either through supply chains or direct.

    The Engineering sector in Scotland has always had a strong global reputation and outward focus. Competing in international markets requires the ability to continuously innovate and change in response to market conditions. The Oil and Gas sector in Scotland has just come through a period of significant adjustment following the global fall in oil prices from 2014. This had a notable impact on Scotland’s economic performance in 2015 and 2016 as the on-shore production and supply chain had to adjust to lower margins and different operating models.

    The structural improvements made by the industry since 2015, has put it on a stronger footing to take advantage of the continued upswing from improving oil prices (and exchange rate). This has had a positive impact on the Engineering Manufacturing sectors, including those providing related services. This recovery is also reflected in the wider production sector which has returned to stronger growth due in part to increasing exports.

    Scotland’s labour market continued to perform well during this period and has returned to near record levels of employment and low rates of unemployment. However, the tighter labour market conditions are creating challenging recruitment conditions for specialist skills across a range of areas. A reduction in EU workers coming into the UK (and Scotland) as a consequence of Brexit will exacerbate these challenges. This will require a system-wide response, including workplace investment in skills and innovation.

    The impact of changing market access to the single market and the EU four freedoms (people, goods, capital and services) has been well documented. In the short term, the uncertainty associated with a Brexit agreement remains an ongoing challenge for many businesses and households and is impacting business confidence and investment planning. The lower value of Sterling, has created exporting opportunities for firms, however has placed increased input cost challenges.

    Continued uncertainty relating to the final shape of any agreement and transition period may also result in increased volatility this year if firms bring forward activity, such as stock purchases to hedge against disruptions to supply chains or investment to consolidate supplies.

    In the longer term, Brexit risks increasing barriers to trade and international investment. The importance of this should not be underestimated. The EU is the largest single market for Scotland’s international exports, with exports worth £12.7 billion in 2016. Alongside this, Scotland is currently the most popular destination for international foreign direct investment in the UK, outside London. Retaining this attractiveness for trade and investment will be a key priority in the coming years.

    Change and uncertainty also provide opportunities. The foundations of the economy in Scotland are strong, whether it is skills, digital, innovation, technology, infrastructure or our world class universities. We see continuous emergence of new firms across the economy. The policy and institutional environment is also responding to the emerging challenges we face. For example the new investment (£65 million) in the creation of the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS), will provide an industry-led international centre of manufacturing expertise in Scotland.

    The UK industrial strategy and the focus on grand challenges provides opportunities for firms across Scotland to build on their expertise. The creation of a Scottish National Investment Bank, alongside the Innovation centres and existing support from the national development and skills agencies, provides a key platform for business development in Scotland and the continued growth of high value businesses across the economy.


    The views expressed by the guest writer are not necessarily those of Scottish Engineering