Getting regulation right
In a recent exclusive video interview with SELECT, MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston outlined why regulation of the industry is so vital – and why the recent consultation on his proposed Member’s Bill could finally help make it a reality
Hi Jamie, how did you become interested in the issue of regulation?
It’s an issue I’ve been aware of for some time, even before I was an MSP. I knew that electrician wasn’t a regulated profession and that many people had concerns about it, so I was happy to take it forward. It’s a key issue and one that a lot of people aren’t aware of.
So why is regulation the answer to some of the issues facing today’s industry?
Electrical problems cause real issues such as fires, damage to homes, injury and even death, so there’s the safety issue for a start. But it’s about confidence and awareness too. A lot of consumers aren’t aware that if they see an advert for somebody claiming to be an electrician, they can’t know if that person has any qualifications. Most people just assume it’s already a regulated profession, so that’s why we need a clear and single register of electricians and perhaps a company-buyer single market so that consumers can feel confident that they’re getting somebody who’s got training. It’s also important that electricians are recognised for the huge amount of effort they put into their skills and training. We don’t want to put extra burden on electricians, so we’re not looking for a complicated solution with extra red tape. We want a very simple approach that will allow electricians who are trained and are on this register to carry out their work easily.
How important was the consultation on regulation that recently closed?
Consultation is a very important step in the process of introducing a Member’s Bill. It allows MSPs from outside the government to show their support for a particular issue, but is also a way that proposals can be discussed and scrutinised and any practical concerns raised. The consultation process is part of making sure that we get that proposal right – that’s why we wanted to hear from as many people as possible, including SELECT Members. To paraphrase someone far more famous than me, this is one small step, but it’s an important one.
“Most people just assume it’s already a regulated profession, so that’s why we need a clear and single register of electricians”
What do you hope the Bill will achieve?
Protection of title will give consumers the confidence that the person they employ is an electrician who has the necessary qualifications. It also protects those electricians that have those qualifications and means that they will benefit by trust in the sector being improved. And of course, that means we’ll hopefully see a reduction in serious incidents because people will have proper training. If you’re not on the register you won’t be able to call yourself an electrician and legal enforcement will be in place.
Will regulating the profession make it more attractive to would-be electricians?
We know the profile of electricians is getting older, so having protection of title will hopefully make it a more attractive profession to some extent. There has to be more encouragement for people from different backgrounds and I hope any legislation will be accompanied by a real push to get more people into the sector.
So what are the next steps?
The responses from the consultation will all feed into our final proposal, and obviously we’ll need all MSPs to get behind the general principles. Unfortunately, due to everything that’s going on at the moment, it’s not likely to go through parliament this session, but one of the most important things is taking those steps forward. If I’m returned next May, I hope I could pick up where we’ve got to, but if I can’t, a huge amount of work will have been done and we’ll be a lot further forward, either for myself, another MSP or the government itself.
Finally, the SELECT Wall of Support shows a great many MSPs in favour of the Bill, so what are its chances?
There is support from all parties across the chamber, and there have always been warm words from the Scottish Government and a general appreciation that this needs to be done. It’s frustrating because if we had more time we would get it through, but I’m very confident that in the next session of parliament it will be picked up and will be achieved, which will be fantastic for the sector, for consumers and for electrical safety.
Find out more about our campaign for regulation and the Wall of Support at www.select.org.uk/safer