THE UK Government has been urged to press on with major housing, infrastructure and skills development projects - in spite of the political uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote.

Housebuilders in Scotland insist the industry’s ability to provide sustainable employment depends on the government remaining committed to labour intensive projects.

The message from the Scottish Building Federation (SBF) came as its latest quarterly survey found that confidence among construction employers north of the Border has sunk to a three-year low in the wake of last week’s Brexit vote.

The Scottish Construction Monitor, which surveyed 65 Scottish construction firms this month and allowed members to update their views after the EU referendum, dropped by 22 points to -19.

It paints a picture of deteriorating confidence across the industry over the last year. From a peak reading of +35 in the second quarter of 2015, the monitor dropped to +3 in the first quarter of this year, before sliding significantly in light of the referendum.

It is the first time since the second quarter of 2013 that the Scottish Construction Monitor has recorded a negative overall confidence rating since from industry employers.

The findings come after the previous survey found that one in three SBF members said they thought a vote in favour of the UK exiting the EU would be bad for their business.

Vaughan Hart, managing director of the SBF, said sentiment among Scottish construction firms had improved slightly during the week as the markets began to stabilise following the shock referendum result. Mr Hart said the prevailing mood among Scottish builders was now one of “caution” having initially reacted to the Brexit vote last Friday by telling him they planned to ditch plans to invest and take on apprentices.

But he emphasised the importance of the government continuing to invest in big projects to allow the industry to maintain employment numbers, noting that the number of apprentices employed by the construction sector was still some way off the total prior to the financial crash of 2008.

Having peaked at around 2,700 in 2007, apprentice numbers slumped to 1000 at the height of recession, before steadily rebounding.

It is hoped the total will climb to the 1,600 this year, however Mr Hart said there are fears that the “process of negotiating the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union could result in paralysis within Government”.

On the possible risk to apprenticeship recruitment, Mr Hart said: “My fear is that we could go back the way. And I think if it does that would be a huge retrograde step the industry does not need.

“We need the government to focus on projects that will enable our businesses to grow. We can’t lose sight of the training and development and the investment in housing, because again [if we do] all we are going to do is go back to where we were several years ago.”

Mr Hart added: “The most important thing to a lot of our members… is that we want projects that are going to local sustained employment.”

Noting plans by financial institutions planning to relocate operations abroad as a result of Brexit are “the last thing we want to see”, he added: “We want to be an industry that gives employment and sustainable employment.”

“We can’t lose sight of the projects we are currently on, and the objectives of the government before the EU referendum.

“The most important thing is that people don’t panic and take stock of where we are in order to move forward in a proper way.”