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The production cycles of the Scottish construction industry, 1802-2002

Baker, Nina and Agapiou, Andrew (2006) The production cycles of the Scottish construction industry, 1802-2002. In: Proceedings of the 2nd International Congress on Construction History. The Construction History Society, Cambridge. ISBN 0-7017-0203-6

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The revival of Scotland's national Parliament has focussed attention on potential differences in institutions and industries north of the border, compared to the rest of the UK. The Scottish construction industry, as with its counterparts anywhere, has developed enormously over the past two centuries and has experienced fluctuations due to internal and external influences. Much has been written about business cycles and building cycles relating to the construction industry in England, but this does not give a useful context for studies of the Scottish industry. This analysis of long-term time-series data is part of a larger project, looking historical aspects of the construction industry in Scotland, particularly the place of women in the industry, in order to establish aspects of the context and economic climate in which women found roles in the industry. This paper aims to use a wide range of data over the period in order to consider the Scottish experience. Has the Scottish construction industry's output demonstrated a cyclic nature in the last two centuries? What influences any such cycles? How do the cycles and any influences compare with the rest of the United Kingdom? Whereas most previous commentators, such as Cairncross, Rodgers and Glendinning , have mainly used housebuilding statistics as a tool for discussing the business cycles of the construction industry, this paper has gathered statistics for a wider range of construction activities. These are employed to show how the Scottish construction industry has its own pattern of long and short cycles. The patterns of boom-bust cycles associated with external events (such as wars or financial depression) or government intervention (such as housing policy or subsidies) can clearly be identified and compared with cycle patterns and shapes due to other effects such as industry structural features and credit availability.