Electrician as a profession – The case for Regulation

Setting the scene

What we, and a number of partner bodies, including The SJIB and Unite the Union are seeking is “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. In 2017, we undertook a number of interviews with the public 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.

Call for Evidence 

To consider the case for regulation, the Scottish Government is seeking to gather evidence on the extent of substandard electrical installations in Scotland and the risks posed to the general public. Scottish Government has commissioned Pye Tait to conduct this research.

This Call for Evidence is the industry’s opportunity to send a clear message to the Scottish Government that action is required and that Regulation should be introduced. It is therefore vital that as many Members as possible take part in the survey to demonstrate the industry’s belief that Regulation should be introduced.

The survey should take no longer than 5 minutes to complete and you can participate by visiting: www.pyetait.com/Regulating-Electricians-in-Scotland.

A Working Group

As a result of our lobbying, the Scottish government set up an “Electricians Working Group” 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 has so far met on three occasions but regrettably it proved impossible to reach a consensus on a way forward.

A further meeting of the WG is due to take place on 24th of January which will be chaired by  Jamie Hepburn, the Scottish Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills. We hope that the outcome of this meeting will see a positive step in safeguarding the public by introducing protection of Title.

Other political action

A debate was held on the 25th of October 2018 on the issue, and in a wide-ranging discussion, MSPs from all parties debated the call for the privilege of calling a person an electrician to be limited only to those who are qualified in this highly-skilled profession.

The Holyrood debate was opened by Jamie Halcro Johnston, Scottish Conservative and Unionist MSP for the Highlands and Islands, who has backed the campaign in the interests of public safety from its early stages.

During the debate, Mr Halcro Johnston told parliament that he had been staggered to learn that the people who entered our homes and businesses to install and maintain our wiring, fuse boxes and appliances need have no qualifications at all and yet they can still call themselves electricians.

Responding to the debate, Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, thanked MSPs for their contributions and said that discussions would continue with the aim of bringing a ministerial view to parliament in due course.

Mr Halcro Johnston pointed out that, while more than 100 regulated professions exist in the UK – including gas engineers and even door supervisors at clubs – there is no protection afforded to electricians.

His motion asked Parliament to recognise that improperly-installed electrical work creates a significant risk of fire as well as other harm to householders and that the installation of electrical work by unqualified or part qualified individuals carries a major safety risk.

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.

More recently ,we have run a series of radio adverts across Scotland:

We have also created a “Wall of Support“, which shows that our campaign is backed by surveyors, housebuilders, professional bodies and trade unions.

Bodies which have contributed a brick in the Wall include,: the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS); the Scottish Association of Landlords; the Specialist Engineering Contractors’ Group; the Association of Electrical Safety Managers; Energy Action Scotland; BAM Construction; the Scottish Building Federation; the Federation of Master Builders; and the Energy Saving Trust.