A construction firm has warned “extreme pressure” is being placed on the industry due to the lack of detail over the Covid-19 job retention scheme.
Advance Construction Scotland, which employs more than 1,600 staff, claims the failure to publish a timescale for furlough payments had left many companies fearing for their future.
It comes after Nicola Sturgeon ordered companies in the industry north of the border to cease work to prevent the spread of the virus.
Seamus Shields, who established the family-owned firm 25 years ago, has now called on the UK and Scottish governments to look at an emergency funding package similar to that announced for the hospitality and tourism sectors.
He said: “This is an unprecedented situation and despite the many high and lows of the construction over past decades, as with many other industries it is difficult to draw any sort of comparison to what we are dealing with now.
“Our company is working across more than 200 live construction sites and has a payroll stretching to seven figures per week.
“The job retention scheme was welcome news at first but the lack of detail is staggering.
“The claims system will apparently be open by the end of April but no-one can tell us when payments will be made after a claim is entered. We need that clarity now.
“Any decision we take to furlough staff has to be made with the knowledge of how claims will be handled by government and precisely when the payments will arrive.”
The coronavirus job retention scheme allows an employer to pay 80% of a furloughed worker’s regular wages through the Treasury, up to a monthly cap of £2,500.
Mr Shields added: “The Scottish Government has told the sector to cease activity in line with social distancing guidance.
“We are supportive of their direction as stopping the spread of Covid-19 and helping our brilliant NHS is the fundamental priority.
“South of the border, however, many construction sites are still operating.
“That is creating issues in the industry and raises questions about why some companies will need financial support and others will not.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We appreciate that there is frustration regarding the details of the UK Government’s furlough scheme and we would urge them to provide answers to business as soon as possible.
“The Scottish Government are providing clarity where possible and continue to explore how best we can help businesses during this unprecedented economic challenge.
“The Scottish Government’s priority is saving lives and fighting Covid-19 but we recognise that this is an extremely difficult time for businesses of all kinds.
“To this end, all construction sites should close unless they are essential to the health and welfare of the country during this crisis. Earlier today the Economy Secretary issued guidance for companies on what construction work can continue during the Coronavirus crisis.”
Meanwhile, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called on the Scottish Government to establish a new emergency grant and loan scheme for smaller businesses and the self-employed.
It has highlighted that home-based and vehicle-based firms are currently excluded from the coronavirus grant programme, newly self-employed people do not benefit from the UK Government’s help for this group and some small Scottish chains are set to receive much less help than their counterparts south of the border.