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U-TURN ...

A final government U-turn on reintroducing blue-collar CCT in Scotland has left it open to a European legal challenge by private firms on anti-competitive grounds.

George Kynoch, Scottish Office minister for local government, announced last week that CCT for most building and roads works would be restored on 1 July next year, and that roads maintenance work would continue to be exempted.

Only very small jobs, worth £25,000 or less, would start from 1 April 1997, he said.

The news was welcomed by Scottish councils, which had been given start dates variously from July 1997 back to January 1997, and then forward again following a successful legal challenge to a phased reintroduction between February and July.

The latest announcement of a single start date of 1 July was 'an absolute U-turn which we are more than delighted with', said Keith Geddes, president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

The newly formed Scottish Construction Association, which represents around 80 small to medium sized small businesses, is expected to meet on Monday to discuss its own reaction to the announcement.

The construction companies got together in September to lobby against the CCT moratorium on the grounds that it had cost them millions of pounds in lost business since it was imposed in 1994 on contracts worth less than £500,000.

Michael Graham, a partner in Glasgow law firm Patterson Robertson & Graham, said original plans for a petition to the European Commission on anti-competitive grounds were still on the cards.

'But I don't want to say anything too provocative ahead of Monday's meeting,' he said.

The possibility of a joint action in the Scottish courts was more remote, he said.

Mr Graham implied that the association was divided between those who wanted to take their opposition to the CCT moratorium further and those who had been heartened by a conciliatory meeting two weeks ago with Cosla.

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