Scottish Stone Group, MSPs, Historic Environment Scotland and Scottish Enterprise met in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, 22 November, for what is hoped will mark a greater collaboration of interests.
Scottish stone producers of the newly formed Scottish Stone Group were feeling confident after meeting with the country's Minister for Business, Innovation & Energy, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday (22 November).
The Scottish Parliamentary building was a success for Scottish stone when it was constructed in 2004 because the originally proposed Chinese granites to be used there were replaced with Scottish Kemnay granite from Aberdeen for cladding on the outside and for interior floors. There had been a public outcry at the plan to use Chinese granite.
Although 22 November was Budget day in the UK, the Minister gave the group well over an hour of his time to talk with them about the natural stone industry in Scotland and the UK, coming up with some suggestions of how the best interests of the indigenous stone industry could be served. Also present were representatives of Historic Environment Scotland and Scottish Enterprise.
The Scottish Stone Group was formed by three of Scotland's leading stone producers: Denfind, Tradstocks and Hutton Stone, who complain that in spite of the rhetoric, buying decisions are often based on purchase price rather than ethics, environmental considerations or even lifetime costs, whether it is the private or the public sector that is making the procurement.
The group wants more support for indigenous stone from planners and conservators, as well as in procurement for the public sector's own projects. And the response from the Minister sounded positive at the meeting.
The Managing Directors of the three companies - Marcus Paine (Hutton Stone), Peter Stewart (Tradstocks) and Brian Binnie (Denfind Stone) - had a sympathetic hearing from all those at the meeting. There was no dissension. They all wanted to see more of Scotland's own stone used. And the stone producers hope that if such a move is led by a Minister, it can be as successful as the food and drink industry in Scotland was when it was championed by Richard Lochead, Minister for Rural Affairs, Food & Environment from 2007 to 2016.
The new Scottish Stone Group was formed in response to a review of Scotland's building stone industry by the British Geological Survey (BGS) last year (2016). It says that the country should give greater consideration to the low carbon product on its doorstep in order to grow the industry and create more jobs and apprenticeships in Scotland.
The producers say local natural stone structures are part of Scotland’s national identity. They note that the demand for this signature building material is starting to grow again, for new buildings, streetscapes and restoration work, but point out that 85% of stone used in Scotland is imported. That demonstrates a potential for the indigenous industry to grow, which gives the Scottish Government an incentive to support it, as Paul Wheelhouse helpfully pointed out.
The group is working with Stone Federation Great Britain but felt the climate was changing in Scotland, which made the creation of a group specifically for the country worthwhile.
Peter Stewart of Tradstocks spoke to NSS about the need for Scotland to use more of its own stone when he opened an extension to his factory in 2015. You can read what he said here.