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11 March
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5 August

SNIPEF team members continue to play key roles in Scotland’s Construction Industry Coronavirus Forum with launch of key health and safety guidelines


Members of the Scotland and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers Federation (SNIPEF) executive team continue to play key roles in the vital work being done by Scotland’s Construction Industry Coronavirus (CICV) Forum to represent the industry’s views on the Covid-19 crisis  to the Scottish and UK governments, the media, and all other engaged parties.


Now, as Scotland’s construction sector continues its recovery, the Forum has issued a raft of new health and safety guidance to help steer workers through the phased return. Seven new pieces of open source collateral offer in-depth industry advice on topics including face coverings, hand washing, domestic working and what to do if there is a case of COVID-19.


In addition, the Forum has updated its comprehensive 42-page document, COVID-19 Construction Operating Guidance, which underpins the Safe Operating Guidance produced by Construction Scotland, Scottish Government and the wider industry.


SNIPEF chief executive, Fiona Hodgson, is not only a leading member of the main Forum board, but also of its commercial, future planning, skills and client sub-groups.


She said: “The Forum’s Health and Safety sub-group has worked collaboratively to produce clear and practical guidance that is easy to follow and which can be used immediately by businesses of all sizes to help in their ongoing return.


“I am proud of the key role my colleague Martyn Raine, Technical and Skills Manager at SNIPEF, has played in formulating the new health and safety guidelines. He has been instrumental in the development of the documents and our entire sector will benefit from his insight and exceptional contribution.”


The seven new guidance documents are available to download from the Forum website and cover:


  • Advice for businesses carrying out non-essential domestic work
  • Health and safety checklist before work is carried out
  • Effective use of face coverings
  • Good hygiene and hand washing
  • A questionnaire for clients before site visits
  • What to do if someone displays symptoms of COVID-19
  • Template letter for confirmed cases of COVID-19


In addition, the COVID-19 Construction Operating Guidance has been updated to reflect the latest developments on face coverings, physical distancing, travel and prevention of cross-contamination, with all new content clearly signposted.

Mr Raine said: “As the construction industry moves to the next stage of the phased return, it is vital that everyone works together to continue the excellent work done so far.


“Health and safety will be vital in the weeks and months ahead, and it’s paramount that we don’t compromise ourselves or our customers at this crucial time.


“The sector is relieved to be returning at last, but workers everywhere must be aware that there can be no let-up in health and safety awareness.”


Made up of more than 70 trade associations, professional services bodies and companies, the Forum has maintained a steady supply of information and practical advice to the sector as well as carrying out surveys, producing animations and posters, hosting webinars and making appeals to Government Ministers.


In addition to Fiona and Martyn, SNIPEF’s HR Manager, Stephanie Lowe, is active on the Forum’s employment sub-group, SNIPEF Communications Manager, Alicia Allen, is a member of the CCIV Forum communications sub-group and Dale Thomson, SNIPEF’s Training Manager, sits on a sub-group concerned with the Health & Safety provisions for apprentices.

Ms Hodgson said: “I continue to be proud of the way my SNIPEF colleagues are playing their part throughout; all of us determined to give our utmost to pave the way for a rapid, and safe return to work.


“The continuing uncertainty over a second wave of the Covid-19 Virus means that close adherence by all SNIPEF members to the health and safety measures set out by the Forum are more important than ever.”


24 July

SNIPEF welcomes HS2’s decision to support its supply chain by using project bank accounts

The decision of HS2, to support its supply chain across its massive rail contract by agreeing to project banks accounts (PBAs) for key projects in Phase 1, has been welcomed by the Scotland and Northern Ireland’s Plumbing Employers’ Federation, SNIPEF.

The use of PBAs provides more transparent and speedier payments for companies at all levels of the supply chain. Payments are made from one pot and do not have to cascade through multiple tiers of contractors.

Fiona Hodgson, Chief Executive of SNIPEF, said: “This is excellent news and something that the construction industry in Scotland has been calling for over many years. It is especially welcome since the HS2 project will generate an estimated 400,000 contracts across its supply chain and that two thirds of these will be with SMEs.

“It is our hope that the acceptance of PBAs by such a flagship project will act as an exemplar for all construction projects, major and minor, in future.

“The announcement is also, I believe, an acknowledgement of the hard work done by the Specialist Engineering Contractors (SEC) Group, of which SNIPEF is a member, which has been lobbying for PBAs over recent years.”


16 July

CICV Forum animations urge construction workers to be COVID-19 smart in free time and work time


As the easing of lockdown measures continues, the Construction Industry Coronavirus (CICV) Forum, of which SNIPEF is a key member, has launched a new social media campaign urging workers to stay safe in their social lives.


Using two engaging animations, the collective is calling on staff to protect colleagues by following physical distancing guidelines in their private lives as well as in the workplace.


Designed to be shared on social media, the campaign coincides with the reopening of bars and restaurants in Scotland, and makes it clear that any good work achieved through on-site best practice could be undone if habits are relaxed in pubs or other social gatherings.


Rebecca Crosland, Health and Safety Advisor at Forum member the Building Engineering Services Association, said: “It is important to hammer home the message that this dangerous bug has not gone away and that we all need to remain vigilant at home as well at work to prevent a resurgence.

“Once again, we are presenting the key points in a simple and entertaining format, which is eye-catching as well as informative. Operatives have responded magnificently to guidance in the workplace and we are sure they will respond positively to this further reminder.”

The first short film features a construction worker called Campbell and the message: “Campbell is COVID-19 smart. Campbell keeps to the physical distancing rules. Campbell doesn’t break those rules in his spare time. Be like Campbell. Be COVID-19 smart.”


A second animation features another construction worker called Fiona, who also observes physical distancing in her spare time to help protect her colleagues when she returns to work. The message is repeated on open source posters, designed to be printed out and displayed in workplaces.

Iain Mason, Director of Membership and Communications at SELECT and Chair of the Forum’s Communications Sub-Group, said: “We have made huge strides in getting core safety messaging accepted and applied on site, in depots and in construction offices.


“Now we need to reiterate that, and urge our workforces not to relax their guard in their  time away from work. I’m sure that everyone will understand that it would be dispiriting to throw away the gains we have made by not abiding by the distancing rules at all times.”


Iain added: “This latest campaign continues the Forum’s key message that we are all #InThis Together and the importance of workers taking personal responsibility to protect themselves, their colleagues and the wider community.”


The latest campaign follows a recent animation in which the Forum outlined the key health and safety steps that all staff should take during the return to work.


It also reinforces the Forum’s reputation for proactive innovation, which has seen it at the forefront of clear and concise information distribution throughout the Covid-19 crisis.


As part of the Forum, SNIPEF is among the 50 trade associations, professional services bodies and companies who have collaborated to issue advice on how to operate safely while carrying out emergency or essential work.


The Forum has maintained a steady supply of information and practical advice to the sector as well as carrying out surveys, producing animations and posters, hosting webinars and making appeals to Government Ministers.



15 July 2020

SNIPEF joins with Certification Scheme providers to back new animated film about certification services as the construction industry gets back to work

To support a working environment which increasingly recognises the vital role of certification in construction in Scotland, plumbing employers’ association SNIPEF is helping produce a new animated film explaining why the industry should use approved certifiers.

The clear and simple message being rolled out by the influential campaigning body will stress the importance of certification in a post-pandemic construction landscape.

The initiative follows a Scottish Ministerial intervention last month (June) when Kevin Stewart, MSP, Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning, wrote to local authorities to highlight the positive impact of certification.

He said then that certificates of design and construction provided by qualified building professionals could dramatically reduce the need for local authority verifiers and streamline the construction process.

The new animation also comes at a time when the major industry scheme providers in Scotland have changed the banner under which they operate from the Scottish Building Services Certification to the Scottish Building Standards Certification (SBSC), to more accurately reflect their core competences.

Fiona Hodgson, Chief Executive of SNIPEF, said: “We are producing this film to shine a spotlight on the many benefits that certification services bring, including public health and safety, greater efficiency and productivity and better peace of mind.

“It creates a straightforward, easy-to-understand message that use of SBSC services can make construction safer, more secure and more skilled, and lead to a quicker and more efficient sector in Scotland.

“This is another step forward in proving that the various elements of the industry can work together for the common good, and that certification can help ensure best practice and uphold the highest possible building standards.”

The film is backed by SNIPEF; Structural Engineers Registration; certification body BRE Global; RIAS Services; Certsure, trading as NICEIC; and SELECT, the trade association for the electrotechnical industry in Scotland.

SNIPEF has joined with other certification scheme providers to work with the Scottish Government’s Building Standards Division Resilience Group to address short, medium and long-term issues created by the coronavirus outbreak.

It is also working with other organisations in the Construction Industry Coronavirus Forum (CICV) to release a series of animations which have helped guide firms through the easing of lockdown process.


  • Watch the new video here.



6 July 2020

New consultant subgroup created as important work continues within CICV Forum

The Construction Industry Coronavirus (CICV) Forum has set up a new specialist sub-group to gather and share expertise from some of Scotland’s leading consultants, as well as welcoming a new member.


Trade association DHF has become the latest organisation to become a full-time member, while the creation of a new Consultants sub-group has seen 12 professional bodies swell the collective’s ever-growing roster of experts.

Their arrival means the Forum now has 25 full member bodies from across Scotland and beyond – including Government agencies, private companies and professional services – plus eight sub-groups receiving input from more than 40 separate organisations.

Fiona Hodgson, Chief Executive of SNIPEF, said: “It’s great to have new members join the Forum and give their expertise and knowledge to help the industry. Now that the industry is restarting and getting back to work, it is important that we continue to work together to provide support and guidance for the construction sector."

Since its creation in mid-March, the Forum has been at the vanguard of the battle to save the construction sector in Scotland, distributing information and becoming the first port of call for clarity of advice.

Its latest initiatives include the release of an animation about returning to work safely and a free downloadable restart pack containing posters, checklists and fact sheets advising how to manage the restart while keeping staff safe.

It also recently provided health and safety underpinning guidance, furloughing information for employers, a consultation about the future of the industry in Scotland and vital advice for apprentices and staff preparing to return to college.

The Forum has also carried out a series of surveys, hosted popular webinars on health and safety, financial and employment issues, and maintained regular dialogue with the Scottish Government to help ensure a safe return to work across the sector.


13 May 2020

Microbiologically controlled water secured for new Louisa Jordan NHS Hospital in Glasgow thanks to expertise of SNIPEF member DMA Canyon


The rapid conversion of Glasgows SEC into a new NHS hospital was secured by an array of skilled Scottish tradespeople but few have been more critical than those from the Lanarkshire business which ensured the new facility was supplied with vital sterilising grade water.

Wishaw-based DMA Canyon, an eight-year member of the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation, (SNIPEF) were called upon to use the expertise it had already demonstrated in water management work at various Scottish hospitals.

At NHS Louisa Jordan, the company, which employs 30 people and has a current turnover of £2m, were tasked with ensuring the former concert and exhibition centre’s water was delivered at high dependency care standard.

David Watson, a director of DMA Canyon, said: “Over the years we have refined our expertise in detecting and controlling Legionella and other waterborne pathogens in water supplies.

“Hospitals are, of course, a special case since their water needs to be microbiologically controlled at the highest standard to minimise the presence and release of waterborne pathogens.  To achieve this, we fitted Pall Medical Point-of-Use Water Filters throughout the Louisa Jordan site. These must be monitored closely and replaced every 31 or 62 days to ensure compliance with the required standards.

“The entire project was a huge collaborative success with a completely new plumbing system installed in record time and our job was to add the vital finishing control measures, ensuring the water environment is fit for an intensive care facility.

“At peak there were seven of us on site, some of us working seven days a week, continually installing, testing and reporting to get the job done. Even though there are currently no patients on site the process of continual monitoring must be undertaken

“I am very proud of the contribution we have made and I have pointed out to my younger colleagues, including John Fraser, 25, one of our adult apprentices, that they have participated in a project, the scale and importance of which they may never see again in their working lives. It really is something they can tell their grandchildren about.”

Fiona Hodgson, chief executive of SNIPEF, said: “It is with great pride that we recognise the expertise and experience of our SNIPEF member, DMA Canyon, and their ability to deliver high-quality, reliable resources on behalf of the entire community.

“I never cease to be amazed by the professionalism of our members and their determination, often under massive pressure, to get the job done to the highest standards, on time and on budget.”



11 March 2020

SNIPEF pays tribute to its fantastic cohort of award-winning apprentices on World Plumbing Day

The Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation (SNIPEF), the leading trade body for the plumbing and heating sector in Scotland and Northern Ireland, has chosen to mark World Plumbing Day today (March 11, 2020) by highlighting the young people who represent the industry’s future.

The member organisation has tirelessly advocated the value of apprenticeships in sustaining quality and professionalism in this vitally important sector as well as creating a pipeline of continually improving skillsets.

And, as the international event initiated by the World Plumbing Council celebrates the role plumbing plays in societal health and welfare, SNIPEF has paid tribute to a number of young trainee craftsmen who have proved that they are ready to take on the best in the world.

The organisation pointed to the successes of Moray College student Connor Cruden, 19, from Cowie Plumbing and Heating, who took home a gold medal from last year’s WorldSkills UKcompetition held over three challenging days in Birmingham.

He was joined by Perth College student Kyle McGeoghie, 21, from William Combe and Son who took the silver, Inverness College student Alexander Clouston, from Pipedream Plumbing, Tullos Training Ltd student Sam Henderson from Derek Scott Plumbing & Heating and Dundee & Angus College student Cameron Clark of James Lammond Ltd.

WorldSkills UK, is a partnership between businesses, education and Government designed to accelerate young people’s careers.

SNIPEF chief executive Fiona Hodgson, said: “On this day, it is fitting to recognise the skills, dedication and enthusiasm of the talented apprentices who are working towards a fulfilling and rewarding career in the plumbing and heating industry.

“Their skills are the foundation for the future of our industry and they are a credit to the lecturers who teach them and the forward-thinking employers who provide them with training on the job.”

Connor and Sam are now eligible for selection to the squad that will be narrowed down to Team UK and will compete at the international WorldSkills Shanghai 2021 in China.

Connor said: “WorldSkills UK was really good fun. All the competitors got on really well and we’re good friends now. If anyone is thinking about entering the next competition, I’d definitely advise them to do it.”

World Plumbing Day allows people from the plumbing fraternity to come together to learn, share knowledge, build connections and find opportunities to collaborate to improve the quality of, and access to, fresh water and safe sanitation.


19 February 2020

Former SNIPEF President Takes the Helm at SEC Group Scotland as Industry Continues the Battle Against Late Payments

Former SNIPEF president Gordon Matheson has stepped up to a new industry role where he will continue his focus on bringing an end to payment abuse in the specialist engineering sector.

Previously president of the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation (SNIPEF) for the 2018/19 term, Gordon has now been appointed the new chair of the Specialist Engineering Contractors’ (SEC) Group Scotland.

SEC Group is an umbrella organisation made up of a number of bodies, including SNIPEF and SELECT – the electrical contracting trade association – in Scotland. The group is campaigning for legislation to bring an end to late payments, mandate the use of project bank accounts and protect cash retentions.

Gordon, who owns Matheson Plumbing of Falkirk, has replaced Eddie Myles of the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), who has stepped down after seven years as chair of SEC Group Scotland. Gordon is joined in his new role by former Clydesdale Bank chairman Ken Lewandowski, who has been appointed executive chair.

Gordon, 58, founded his own business in 1992 after several years working for his father and grandfather in the plumbing trade. Currently employing 11 people, Matheson Plumbing has been a SNIPEF member for 27 years.

In addition, Gordon has been involved with the SEC Group for the past six years.

He said his own company is not as badly affected as some by payment abuse, in large part because his firm carries out credit checks on all contractors before accepting any work. However, it is a major problem in the plumbing trade and the wider specialist engineering sector.

“This is the biggest issue affecting the operation of any company – but particularly sub-contractors – in the construction industry,” Gordon said. “Think about it like this: what other businesses offer unsecured credit at such high values?

“Owners of these firms need to lobby their MPs and MSPs to make them aware of the strain that payment abuse places on individual businesses and the industry as a whole. SEC Group Scotland is here to help – one of my primary goals in my new role will be to achieve statutory protection of retention monies and legislate for all contractors to pay within 30 days.”

Retentions are monies withheld from sub-contractors to ensure that all work is completed properly. This cash is meant to be repaid once work is finished and confirmed compliant with industry standards.

SMEs in the industry regularly report late release or non-payment of cash retentions. In addition, research carried out by the UK government suggests that smaller firms in the construction supply chain are haemorrhaging almost £1m worth of retentions per working day due to upstream insolvencies.

The Scottish Government is currently carrying out an industry consultation on the abuse of retention payments in the sector. Both SNIPEF and SELECT are working closely with SEC Group Scotland on this and a range of other issues.


17 February 2020

SNIPEF Continues Pushing for Changes to Devastating Pensions Legislation

Scotland’s leading trade body for plumbing and heating professionals has met MPs as part of its continuing campaign to amend pensions legislation that is having devastating consequences for hundreds of UK businesses.

Established in June 2018, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Plumbers’ Pensions was re-convened on February 5 following the General Election. The group continues to be chaired by Pete Wishart MP, who along with other politicians met leaders from SNIPEF and the Plumbing Employers Action Group (PEAG) to reconstitute the APPG.

SNIPEF – the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation – has been pushing for changes to pension legislation, which has left businesses participating in the otherwise financially sound Plumbing and Mechanical Services (UK) Industry Pension Scheme, with potential staggering liabilities.


The Scheme was established in 1975 and is a multi-employer scheme covering businesses throughout the UK. Under section 75 of the Pensions Act 1995 as subsequently amended, participating employers become liable for what is known as a section 75 employer debt under certain circumstances, including when they withdraw from the Scheme.

SNIPEF chief executive Fiona Hodgson – who was at last week’s cross-party gathering of MPs and Lords with an interest in this issue – said she was extremely frustrated that despite continued lobbying to change legislation, the  proposed 2019-20 Pension Schemes Bill does not address the unintended consequences of Section 75 legislation.

“This debt legislation places a huge financial liability on employers if, for example, they want to retire, sell or cease operating their business,” she said. “This is even though they have paid all contributions properly due to the scheme, which is well-funded and able to pay out its benefits.

“This is highly detrimental to these businesses as it means they have no incentive to take on apprentices, create jobs or grow their operations.

“We welcome this opportunity to engage with lawmakers on this issue, and hope to find a speedy resolution to a situation that has taken a grave financial and mental health toll on our employers.”

Garry Forster, spokesperson for PEAG, added: “Trustees of the Plumbing Pensions Scheme are also seeking debt payments from people who retired many years ago, the size of which mean they are at serious risk of losing their homes and life savings.

“More recent legislation has provided some easements for limited companies, but none are available to sole traders and retired plumbers, hence they face personal bankruptcy.”

Others at last week’s meeting included: Wendy Chamberlain, MP for North-East Fife; Baroness Ros Altmann; Patricia Gibson, MP for North Ayrshire and Arran; Alan Brown, MP for Kilmarnock and Louden; Richard Thomson, MP for Aberdeenshire; and Drew Hendry, MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey.



15 January 2020

The human cost is too great. The scandal of payment abuse in the construction industry must stop now

As a disturbing new survey revealed the tragic human cost of payment abuse in the construction industry, the head of a leading trade association called for action to outlaw practices which are damaging individuals as well as businesses.


Fiona Hodgson, chief executive of the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation, said issues such as payment retentions, late payment and even NO payment had been exposed by the survey as taking an unacceptable toll.


She called for immediate consideration by the Scottish Government to extend the use of project bank accounts, introduce a retention deposit scheme and mandate 30 day payments in order to create a resilient and sustainable construction sector.


Ms Hodgson, whose organisation represents more than 750 member firms employing more than 5000 operatives, was speaking following a survey released last month (December 2) by leading engineering services trade bodies ECA and BESA.


It showed that business owners suffer an array of significant mental health problems as a consequence of late or unfair payment, including:


  • Stress                                                        80%
  • Anxiety and/or panic attacks                     40%
  • Extreme anger                                          38%
  • Depression                                                36%
  • Insomnia                                                   36%
  • Suicidal feelings                                       10%


She said: “It is completely unacceptable that such a significant proportion of business people are driven to extreme lengths such as considering taking their own lives as a result of being denied monies which are legitimately owed to them.


“Along with other trade bodies, we have been campaigning for a long time on the issue of payment abuse, but this survey brings it into the spotlight and any reasonable person must accept that action is necessary – now.”


Ms Hodgson said that the main argument put forward by companies supportive of retentions was to ensure remedial work was undertaken, However, she believes that professional, accredited companies would always undertake such activities for simple reputational reasons.


She also pointed out that delayed or denied payments had knock-on effects, with business owners unable to pay themselves a salary, having to delay payments to others, including employees, or having to scale back operations.


She went on: “The Carillion failure, in which secondary companies lost in the region of half a billion pounds in retentions, has to be a wake-up call. If there is another failure of this magnitude, it could explode the whole sector.”


While SNIPEF welcomes the Scottish Government announcement of an industry-wide consultation on the use of cash retentions in construction she stressed the need for the results of the consultation to be acted on and quickly. Over the years there have been numerous consultations and reports about payment issues which have not resulted in action but, she insisted, “this time it has become too bad. Something must be done”.

The consultation comes after a review of the system of cash retentions carried out by consultants Pye Tait for the Scottish Government and ends on 25 March 2020.


10 December 2019

SNIPEF welcomes Scottish Government consultation on retentions in construction


One of Scotland’s leading trade bodies has hailed the Scottish Government’s announcement of an industry-wide consultation on the use of cash retentions in construction as a significant step forward.

SNIPEF, the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation, has campaigned consistently, in conjunction with the Specialist Engineering Construction (SEC) Group, for Holyrood to take action on the issue of payment abuse.

As part of its recent manifesto, published during the 2019 General Election, the organisation – which represents plumbing and heating professionals – asked for new laws to deal with cash retentions and for a fairer competitive landscape in which smaller firms can thrive.

It welcomed the consultation exercise, which closes on 25 March, 2020, and encouraged all firms engaged in Scotland’s construction industry to participate in it and support legislation to ring-fence the monies involved in retentions.

SNIPEF chief executive Fiona Hodgson, said: “Cash retentions have been a thorn in the side of small to medium companies involved in the construction industry for many years and, at the very least, they must be put in a ring-fenced account or scheme.

“The research by the consultants behind the Scottish Government’s initiative identified evidence suggesting that many companies deliberately avoid business in which retentions are involved and that the system operates to the disadvantage of SMEs.”

Cash retentions are deducted from due payments, ostensibly as security in case a firm fails to return to remedy non-compliant work.

In practice, the monies – which belong to the firms from which they have been withheld – are used to bolster the cashflow of large companies and even public sector bodies such as local authorities.

Various estimates put the loss of cash retentions from the Carillion collapse in 2018 as between £¼ billion and £½ billion.

SNIPEF’s position on cash retentions is one of a number of stands it has taken on behalf of member companies with a focus on critical changes needed to create a resilient and sustainable construction sector.

The organisation which, with its counterpart in England and Wales, APHC, represents 1,770 businesses and 25,155 plumbing and heating operatives, has also made representations on late payment, pensions, green economy targets and skills.

Trade organisations are urging legislation to impose penalties on serial late payers, while establishing the use of project bank accounts in the public sector.

The full SNIPEF and APHC election manifesto can be accessed here.


3 December 2019

Scottish Skills to the Fore at UK-Wide Industry Competition

Scotland’s top plumbing apprentices completed a near-sweep at last week’s WorldSkills UK competition, with two of the four award winners up for selection to contest for international glory in China in 2021.

And perhaps not surprisingly, all of the apprentices are employed by companies which are members of the Scotland and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation (SNIPEF).

Moray College student Connor Cruden, of Garry Cowie Plumbing and Heating received the Gold Medal at the close of the three-day event in Birmingham to be named SkillPLUMB Champion 2019. Kyle McGeoghie of Perth College, who works for William Combe Plumbing & Heating, received the Silver Medal.

Alexander Clouston of Inverness College, Cameron Clark of Dundee & Angus College and Sam Henderson of Tullos Training also competed at the three-day competition held in the NEC, Birmingham home to the UK National Finals for more than 70 WorldSkills UK Competitions. Alexander who is an apprentice with Pipedream Plumbing & Heating and Sam who is employed by Derek Scott Plumbing & Heating were Highly Commended for their efforts.

All earned their places at the National Finals following a series of challenging regional heats throughout the year. The SkillPLUMB Scotland heats are organised by SNIPEF – and the BPEC industry training network.

In addition to the plumbing candidates, Lewis Sim of McDonald & Munroe took part in the electrical competition at WorldSkills UK, and won the Silver Medal.

Connor and Sam are now eligible for selection for the squad that will get narrowed down to Team UK, which will travel to compete internationally at WorldSkills Shanghai in 2021.

Fiona Hodgson, CEO of SNIPEF, said the success of all involved was testament to the high quality of apprentice training available in Scotland.

“The skills and training of these young people are the foundation for the future of our industry, and it’s fantastic to see their achievements recognised on a national stage,” she said.

“They are a credit to the lecturers who teach them, and to the forward-thinking employers who provide them with training while on the job.”

In its recent election manifesto issued jointly with the APHC, SNIPEF called for further government support for apprenticeships to help address the on-going skills shortage in the plumbing and heating sector. Apprentice levels have not recovered from those pre-recession, during which they dropped by half.


2 December 2019

Don't allow Brexit to undermine the construction industry


Plumbing and heating professionals across the UK are calling on politicians to make room amid the Brexit tumult to focus on critical changes needed to create a resilient and sustainable construction sector.

A joint election manifesto issued by the leading trade bodies for plumbing and heating professionals in Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales has highlighted four key areas where change is required: payment abuse; pensions; green economy targets; and skills. The changes are aimed at creating a fairer competitive landscape where firms can develop and thrive.

The call to the incoming government has been issued by SNIPEF – the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation – and  APHC, the equivalent trade body for the industry in England and Wales. Together they represent 1,770 businesses and 25,155 plumbing and heating operatives.

SNIPEF has already given its backing to a campaign by the Specialist Engineering Contractors’ (SEC) Group calling for all general election candidates to commit to ending the widespread practice of late payments in the construction sector. SEC Group warns that this is having a damaging impact on building quality and mental health.

Continuing that theme, SNIPEF and  APHC say the bane of payment abuse is causing insolvencies across the sector, while encouraging poor standards of work and a reduction in investment. In addition, it is affecting the mental health of business owners worried about when or even if they will ever be paid for their work.

The trade organisations are urging legislation to impose penalties on serial late payers, while establishing the use of project bank accounts in the public sector. They also want new laws to protect cash retentions.

They are additionally pushing for amendments to current pensions legislation which is having devastating consequences for hundreds of UK plumbing and heating businesses.

Owners of firms that have provided pensions to their employees through a multi-employer industry scheme are being hit with staggering bills under what is known as Section 75 employer debt.

Calculated on a buy-out basis which is expensive, these payments – which are not necessarily required by the pension fund – are burying otherwise financially strong businesses under a mountain of unaffordable liabilities.

“This is taking a grave personal toll on the individuals involved,” SNIPEF chief executive Fiona Hodgson said.

“In the most extreme cases, we are seeing firms fold as a result of these liabilities. But with no incentive for businesses to grow, there is a further economic drag as many more are downsizing, cutting back on investment and declining to take on new apprentices.

“For those now in retirement, these Section 75 payments are putting them under threat of personal bankruptcy. The 2019-20 Pension Schemes Bill does not address any of these unintended consequences, which is why amendments are required to take account of multi-employer industry schemes.”

SNIPEF and  APHC have welcomed UK government targets to move to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, but warn that clear guidance is needed for these to be successful. They are seeking assurances that support will be available to upskill the current workforce, along with the introduction of a Licensing Scheme to ensure those working in the plumbing and heating industry have a minimum level of competence.

To address the on-going skills shortage in the sector, the trade bodies are calling for government support for apprenticeships. This includes backing for older entrants, where the costs for employers are higher.

“Plumbing and heating apprentice levels have not recovered from those pre-recession, during which they dropped by half,” APHC Chief Executive Officer John Thompson said. “We are now faced with a skills shortage, and in the light of Brexit the position is only likely to get worse.

“Skills are at the core of our industry, so there are serious long-term consequences for our industry if we don’t address this issue now.”

The full SNIPEF & APHC election manifesto can be accessed here.


25 November 2019

SNIPEF supports launch of new campaign to protect water quality in Northern Ireland

SNIPEF, the Scotland and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employer’s Federation, is supporting the launch of a new campaign to help keep customers’ tap water fresh by signing up qualified plumbers in Northern Ireland to a UK-wide plumbing register.

Northern Ireland Water and WaterSafe, the UK-wide accreditation body for competent and qualified plumbers, want to tackle the poor plumbing in the home or workplace which can create such problems as strange taste, discolouration, and leaks, by signing up all of the Province’s plumbers to its WaterSafe register.


Legally speaking, when water leaves Northern Ireland Water’s mains and enters the pipes supplying a property it becomes the owner’s responsibility to keep it safe and free from contamination. By working together with skilled professionals, however, many of these issues can be avoided altogether or rapidly resolved.

Plumbers on the register are fully trained in the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations (Northern Ireland 2009), designed to keep water safe, and not waste it, as well as being appropriately insured with a customer redress scheme in place.

In addition, plumbers on the WaterSafe register can self-notify their work to Northern Ireland Water – and issue a certificate stating that the plumbing work complies with the regulations, which protects customers from any legal comeback.

Fiona Hodgson, CEO of SNIPEF said, “As an approved WaterSafe scheme provider SNIPEF is all about promoting high standards, quality work, professionalism and regulation in the industry.

“We want to ensure that only qualified professionals can carry out plumbing and heating work so that the water is kept safe. Being WaterSafe registered is a way to do this and we encourage qualified Northern Irish operatives to join the register by contacting SNIPEF.”

Becoming a SNIPEF member allows qualified plumbers to become WaterSafe registered for no extra cost. Other benefits from becoming a SNIPEF member include access to specialist advice, industry discounts, free listing on its Need a Plumber website and much more.  

Julie Spinks, director of WaterSafe, said: “Being a member of WaterSafe is a great way for competent plumbers to provide immediate reassurance to their customers that they are qualified to do the job and keep their drinking water safe.

“WaterSafe is supported by all the water companies in the UK, as well as the water industry regulator, the Drinking Water Inspectorate. Membership comes with many benefits and we urge plumbers who are proud of their work and want to find out more about joining, or taking the final training steps to join, to get in touch today.

Members of WaterSafe will benefit from; free promotion and branding, customer reassurance and a direct link to Northern Ireland Water.

To join WaterSafe, plumbers must be qualified, have a water regulations certificate, and be a member of an existing approved contractors’ scheme. In Northern Ireland this can be the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation or the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering. Once a member of one of these schemes, plumbers can join WaterSafe for free. Plumbers interested in finding out more can visit watersafe.org.uk/howtojoin or call 0333 207 9030.

For more information on a SNIPEF membership call 0131 556 0600 option 1.


23 September 2019

Have your say on the Plumbing & Heating SVQ and Modern Apprenticeship Framework

As a key partner in BSE Skills Ltd, SNIPEF is undertaking a consultation on the Plumbing & Heating SVQ and Modern Apprentice Framework (MAF).

Part of this consultation will see SNIPEF working with partners and engaging with employers, colleges and training providers, sharing the consultation documentation and receiving and coordinating all feedback.

An online consultation is now open to gather the views of as many industry stakeholders as possible about the revised National Occupational Standards (NOS) to ensure they reflect industry best practice.

As part of this consultation, you are invited to review the three documents below:

  1. Plumbing & Heating SVQ and MA Consultation Framework 2019 D01
  2. Plumbing & Heating MA Framework 2019 D01
  3. Assessment Strategy for BSE (2015)

Download the first PDF: Plumbing & Heating SVQ and MA Consultation Framework 2019 D01. You can then use this to fill in your details and make any comments.

Please think about the qualification and framework from the point of view of whether you have any current issues with it. For example – do they deliver the key core skills needed by aspiring, competent operatives? Are there any aspects of the job role that are not reflected in the SVQ and/or MAF? If you do have any comments, please identify what you think should either be removed or should be added. If you’re content, please tick the Fit For Purpose (FFP) box.

Please complete the consultation document and return it to alan.mcdonald7@ntlworld.com by Friday 18 October 2019. If you have any queries, contact martyn.raine@snipef.org


9 August 2019

SNIPEF calls for delay to VAT changes

SNIPEF has joined 14 other leading UK construction trade bodies in writing to the Government to share serious concerns regarding the implementation of reverse VAT charges, due on 1st October, calling for a delay in implementing the new rules.

If introduced, reverse charge VAT will have a significant negative impact on the industry, further increasing the burden on construction employers and seriously restricting cashflow in an industry that already suffers from late payment.

The reverse charge VAT could lead to a loss of productivity and reduced cash flow, leading job losses and tipping some companies over the edge. Small businesses are most vulnerable to potential damage, as they do not have the means to cope with further financial difficulties.

The letter to the Chancellor calls for the VAT changes to be pushed back by at least six months.

SNIPEF CEO Fiona Hodgson said:

“We are extremely worried about the impact of the impending changes to reverse VAT and the subsequent affect it will have on SNIPEF members.

Many businesses in the construction industry are already suffering due to rising material prices, high labour costs associated with skill shortages not to mention payment issues. The introduction of the reverse charge VAT will only add to this burden, particularly for small contractors that may be forced to shut down if they do not have the resources to cope with the proposed change in legislation.

The Government have introduced this change with little or no consultation and need to listen to the industry and at the very least delay the implementation of the charge.” 


27 June 2019

Perth apprentices top Scottish SkillPLUMB competition

Apprentices from Perth College UHI took home the top awards at the SNIPEF SkillPLUMB competition on Friday 21 June.

First place in both the lead and copper competitions were won by third-year apprentices attending Perth College UHI. Shaun McTavish, employed by McDonald & Buist Ltd, took home the first prize for lead, while the top prize in the copper competition went to Kyle McGeoghie, employed by William Combe & Son Ltd.

The lead competition saw second place go to Iain Winnard who attends Glasgow Clyde College and works for Blair Plumbing & Heating Solutions Ltd. Daniel McNeill of Forth Valley College and employed by Matheson Plumbing Co Ltd took home third place.

Second place in the copper competition was awarded to Samuel Henderson of Tullos Training Centre, employed by Derek Scott Plumbing & Heating. Third place was won by Connor Cruden of Moray College, who works for Neil Murray Housebuilders Ltd.

Following the competition, Shaun said, “I feel like I did really well and I enjoyed the whole competition experience; it was good to work under pressure like that. I found it a great experience competing and meeting lots of different people. I am really chuffed that I won.”

Kyle said, “I’m really happy to have won this year, it was a really tough competition and to end up in first place after coming second last year feels really great. I’m hoping I have done enough to have qualified for the UK final in Birmingham in November, but I will have to wait and see.”

Gordon Nisbet, Plumbing and Gas Lecturer at Perth College UHI was thrilled with the results. “We are very proud of the way Kyle and Shaun conducted themselves during the competition. The work they produced was to a very high standard and they both were worthy winners. They’re very good ambassadors for Perth College UHI and their respective employers.”

Fiona Hodgson, SNIPEF CEO said, “Our apprentices have demonstrated an exceptionally high standard of skills at this year’s SkillPLUMB competition, and we are honoured to showcase the high quality of apprentice training in Scotland. The apprentices’ skills are a credit to the lecturers who teach them so well, the employers who take them under their wing, and most importantly to themselves for showing such determination to become the best they can be at their chosen trade.”

The prizes were presented by Alan Brown, MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun, along with SNIPEF Past President and Copper Judge Gordon Matheson.

A total of 31 apprentices from colleges and training centres across Scotland gathered at West College Scotland’s Paisley campus to showcase their skills and knowledge in the competition. The competitors had four hours to complete either a copper pipework exercise or a sheet lead exercise.

As the Scotland regional heat for SkillPLUMB, the highest scoring competitors in the copper competition may go on to represent Scotland in the UK final at WorldSkillsUK LIVE at the NEC Birmingham in November. Only the top eight competitors from the six UK Heats are invited to the final.

SkillPLUMB is an annual skills competition designed to promote standards and skills across the plumbing industry, developing competence into excellence. SkillPLUMB can bring invaluable benefits to students, colleges and employers. Competitors can gain recognition for exceptional skills, injecting dynamism and excitement into training. Employers can enhance their business reputation and improve the skills of their workforce.

Catch all the action from the day in the event video here.

Photo: (L-R) Alan Brown MP, Daniel McNeill, Iain Winnard, Shaun McTavish, Kyle McGeoghie, Samuel Henderson, Connor Cruden and SNIPEF CEO Fiona Hodgson


7 June 2019

SNIPEF partners with CHAS

The Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation (SNIPEF) and the Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme (CHAS) are pleased to announce their new partnership to raise health and safety standards in the UK and make the world of work safer.

The partnership will also help to improve the acceptance and use of the common assessment standard in construction related procurement and aims to reduce the cost duplication and administration involved in the procurement process across the UK. 

From June, SNIPEF members will be able to take advantage of a wide range of discounts and benefits by registering with CHAS.

SNIPEF members should contact the Membership team on 0131 556 0600 or membership@snipef.org for more information.


4 June 2019

SNIPEF welcomes 97th President

SNIPEF, the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation is pleased to announce that their new President for 2019/20 is Mr Neil Hadden of Elgin.

Elected at the organisations’ Annual General Meeting on 24 May 2019, Neil is the 97th President of SNIPEF. A long-serving plumber, he joined SNIPEF in 1985 and has represented the Banff & Moray Local Association on the SNIPEF Council since 2010.   His firm, Neil Hadden Plumbing & Heating, is based in Elgin.

Upon taking on the role of President, Neil urged members to get more involved with their local association and the wider industry.

“I am honoured to take on the role of SNIPEF President for the next year. Like our members, I have experienced first-hand the challenges facing plumbing and heating businesses and look forward to working with SNIPEF staff and Council members on new initiatives to engage members and provide them with quality representation and services to help their businesses grow.

“I believe we need to continue to find better ways of engaging with our membership base and I strongly encourage our members to become more involved with their local association and decision making in the industry. Our organisation and the industry will only get stronger if we have actively engaged and involved members.” 

Along with Neil’s appointment, the following Office Bearers were elected:

Vice President: Robin Hall

Junior Vice President: Jim Butter               

Immediate Past President: Gordon Matheson

14 September 2018

Trade associations win historic skills bid

Three trade bodies have joined forces to secure an historic agreement from the four UK governments to manage and develop apprenticeships, qualifications and National Occupational Standards for the building services engineering sector.

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA); SELECT and SNIPEF have created a joint body called BSE Skills Ltd, which has now been appointed to oversee vocational training in electrical, plumbing and HVAC.

This sets an historic precedent as it is the first time that trade bodies have received a government commission to carry out this work.

The government sponsored sector skills council SummitSkills was the managing body until it ceased trading in 2017 due to insufficient funding. Now, following a four-nation tender process, the central and devolved governments have turned to the three organisations in order to ensure a secure future for vocational training in these crucial specialist sectors.

As member bodies, the trade associations were able to demonstrate close links with employers as well as UK-wide capacity as part of the bidding process. They are now poised to work with their respective memberships – comprising more than 43,000 businesses representing around 342,000 operatives – to manage the delivery of a training framework for the whole sector.

“This sets a wonderful precedent for the future of vocational training across the UK,” said BESA chief executive David Frise. “We are very grateful to the UK governments for having the foresight to recognise the value industry bodies can bring to the management and delivery of vocational training in vital technical sectors.

“It is also extremely heartening to see three complementary bodies working closely together in partnership to achieve a result that should go a long way to addressing the skills shortages being experienced by building engineering employers. Congratulations to my own staff at BESA and to their counterparts at SNIPEF and SELECT for putting together such an excellent joint bid.”

Fiona Harper, head of employment affairs at SELECT, said it was vital that the sector retained control over the development of its own National Occupational Standards.

“They are the starting point for all the work we do in developing the training undertaken by our workforce,” she added. “Securing the agreement was testament to the hard work put in by all of the trade bodies involved. It will be exciting to see how we can develop this work and shape the training needs of the sector as new technologies and working practices develop,” she added.

Fiona Hodgson, chief executive officer of SNIPEF, welcomed the agreement. She said the successful bid demonstrated the strength of trade associations “working together to ensure that the sector and its employers continue to have the occupational standards, qualifications and apprenticeship frameworks they need to maintain and develop a skilled workforce for the future”.

BSE Skills will now set about consulting with its combined memberships as well as relevant government departments and training providers to update National Occupational Standards for the sector right across the UK.

It has also undertaken to align and co-ordinate all end dates for UK qualifications and modern apprenticeship frameworks in line with the rapidly changing landscape for apprentice recruitment and funding.

The industry bodies have also identified a need to establish mutual recognition and transportability of all BSE qualifications across the UK and to recognise the specific needs of each industry and in all regions.


20 June 2018

SNIPEF skillPLUMB  2018 Winners announced


Apprentices from Tullos Training in Aberdeen who both work for Aberdeenshire firm Derek Scott Plumbing and Heating took home the top awards at the 44th Annual SNIPEF SkillPLUMB competition.

The event was hosted by West College Scotland at their Paisley Campus on Friday 15 June.  

The first prize in the copper competition was won by James McCall Smith of Tullos Training, employed by Derek Scott Plumbing and Heating. Second prize went to Kyle McGeoghie of Perth College, who works for William Combe & Son Ltd and third prize went to Alexander Clouston of Inverness College, who works for Pipedream Plumbing Ltd.

The first prize in the lead competition was won by Samuel Henderson of Tullos Training, employed by Derek Scott Plumbing and Heating. Second prize went to John Taylor who attends Glasgow Clyde College and who works for Evolve Plumbing Services Ltd and third prize went to Cameron Stewart of Moray College who works for DD Plumbing Services.

The prizes were presented by Jamie Hepburn, MSP, Minister for Employability and Training and SNIPEF Past President Gerry Woods.

In his Guest Address Mr Hepburn said:  “…[Scotland’s young people] are offered a fruitful and rewarding experience through apprenticeships and I need you to go out and tell others what a great opportunity an apprenticeship can be.”

Jamie Hepburn MSP, James McCall-Smith First Place (Copper) and Gerry Woods

:Jamie Hepburn MSP, Samuel Henderson First Place (Lead) and Gerry Woods



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