Credit: Andrew Cowan/Scottish ParliamentPhotograph ©2005 Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body
Philip Law, Director-General of the British Plastics Federation, discusses the importance of Scotland’s plastics industry, gives insight into the latest findings from its Business Conditions Survey and reveals how a leaked political document suggests the industry’s voice is being heard.
This week saw the BPF team north of the border in Edinburgh and Glasgow. In conjunction with PlasticsEurope and the Scottish Plastics and Rubber Association, we staged a reception in the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood on the subject of ‘’Plastics -Challenges and Opportunities in a Circular Economy”. There was a large audience for our message. We were complimented by Scottish Parliamentarians on the great turnout from the local industry.
I made the point that the Scottish Plastics Industry is crucial to the overall UK sector. it has some 255 companies and a turnover of £1.5 billion which has grown 8.5 percent since 2012. It also employs nearly 9000 people. I said that as well as an impressive array of processors, Scotland has a centre of strategic importance internationally in Grangemouth, and indeed, Scotland produces around 30 percent of the polymer made in the UK.
In a month of heightened negative press attention on our industry and its products, I was able to profile the positive role plastics plays in society and highlight the excellent work our members are doing to prevent pellet loss from their facilities. We now have over 170 BPF member sites signed up to the Operation Clean Sweep programme, which between them handle more than 40 percent of all the plastics raw material processed. I would urge all companies (members and non-members) to consider joining this momentum to demonstrate our environmental responsibilities. Companies can sign up at www.operationcleansweep.co.uk
We were privileged to have present Scotland’s Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse, who showed a keen interest in our activities and believes that a circular economy approach should be central to policy in Scotland. All Parliamentarians were very keen that we repeat this event in a year’s time. We owe a debt of thanks to Angus MacDonald MSP for hosting the event, which was also supported by local NGO, Fidra, which has developed a strong interest in assisting in the roll out of Operation Clean Sweep to non plastics industry parties, such as logistics companies.
Our latest Business Condition Survey is showing a largely positive expectation about the development of the industry in the next 12 months. We have had approximately 100 responses and firms are expecting a significant increase in overall sales turnover, including export sales, and profitability. Inevitably, with this business growth, 44 percent of companies are looking to increase their staff, however, and there is some inevitability here, there is an even greater increase in the number of companies finding it difficult to recruit staff with the right skills. This survey showed that some 65 percent of firms are now experiencing difficulties., up from 46 percent just six months ago.
Interestingly, there is a slight increase in companies proposing to ‘invest significantly’ in the coming year, perhaps muted by the weakness of sterling and the increased costs of imported equipment.
Finally, the BPF and its members are succeeding in raising the profile of the industry with the political community at a time when Brexit is uppermost in our consciousness. Recent meetings with MPs have included Andrew Bridgen MP, at Plastribution, and Sir Julian Brazier at Hellyar Plastics. BPF staff were able to engage with Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Therese Coffey, at M&H Plastics. A leaked government document recently published in ‘The Times’ indicated that the plastics industry, alongside the chemicals sector, is seen as a priority industry sector for upcoming Brexit negotiations. I was pleased to see that all four requirements specified by the BPF on behalf of the industry as essential in these exchanges were mirrored in the leaked document.