Electrician as a profession – The case for Regulation

Setting the scene

The last year has been a rollercoaster in our campaign to regulate the electrical industry. We are seeking “Protection of Title” for the profession of electrician, a process which already applies to many sectors, from accountants to farriers.

When we explain to people that anyone can call themselves an electrician and carry out electrical work without holding any form of qualifications, they are horrified. Late last year, we undertook a number of vox-pop events across Scotland which reinforced the view that the majority of people would welcome some form of regulation to safeguard them from unsafe or potentially dangerous electrical work.

A Working Group

As a result of our lobbying, the Scottish government set up an “Electricians Working Group” late last year to explore the challenge of ensuring the safety of electrical installations.

In addressing the challenge, the Scottish Government was committed to three key outcomes:

  • protecting consumers
  • protecting scrupulous traders and creating an inhospitable environment for miscreants
  • maintaining an environment that allows competition within the provision of electrical services to thrive

The group met on three occasions but regrettably it proved impossible to reach a consensus on a way forward. As this Annual Report goes to press, the minister responsible for the subject, Keith Aitken, Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, had been sent a series of proposals for consideration by his civil servants.

Other political action

In February, Jamie Halcro Johnston, Scottish Conservative and Unionist MSP for the Highlands and Islands, laid down a “Motion for Debate” in the Scottish parliament which asked Holyrood to:

“Note the calls supporting the principle of the regulation of electricians and asks the Scottish Government to consider how the Parliament’s powers over protection of title could be utilised to reassure the public of the safety of electrical work, in domestic and non-domestic premises”.

The debate has achieved cross party consensus and will feature in parliament if we don’t get a satisfactory answer from the Cabinet Secretary’s deliberations.

The economic case

SELECT commissioned a report from 4-Consulting on the economic impact of regulating electricians in Scotland. The report estimated that the “human cost” of faulty electrical work is around £120M per year. It was also pointed out that regulation would offer an opportunity to grow the industry by attracting more aspirational entrants, where reward and reputation is enhanced, and the value of an electrical apprenticeship is more widely accepted.

The authors cautiously estimated that the net reward to the Scottish economy of regulating the electrical industry would be £58m

Getting the message over

To help raise the profile of our campaign we have undertaken a series of media events. We have a separate Twitter account to promote the regulation message, @Regulate_SELECT and we have issued a series of press releases, which have featured in the national and trade press.

Our most recent action is to provide members with a series of promotional material to help raise the impact of the regulation message.