Scottish Stone is in demand. Bizzarely, as a nation we export it at three times the price we import stone from abroad.
So the good stuff, sorry the great stuff, the high quality, deep, dense, beautiful stone is being used to build fabulous buildings – but not here. Not in Scotland.
For clarity: somewhere else.
Instead we use the cheap, imported stuff. But stone is stone right?
We are neither foolish nor inadequate, however, buying chunks of another country, shipping them 15,000 miles to put it on top of our own land is just silly.
Cheap, incongruous Chinese slabs are the welcome statement to the famous Scottish parliament building in our capital city. What’s wrong with this picture?
Ironically, from that very vantage point you can actually see the mountain from which the stone could have been quarried. So near and yet so far.
European Union Procurement Directive ‘2014/24/EU on public contracts’, which is intended to open public procurement to fair competition within EU member states, requires that “technical specifications shall not refer to a specific make or source” of product (the relevant original wording is presented in Table 3 of Appendix 2). This implies that building stone from a particular quarry, district or country cannot be specified for any public project in an EU member state.
However, some exceptions are allowed, for example, to meet certain “performance or functional requirements”. This means that Scottish stone legally can be specified for repairs to (at least some) traditional buildings or historic environments.
What is less clear is the extent to which Scottish stone can be specified for new construction, for example, where a new building, extension or paved area needs to be ‘in keeping’ with a surrounding historic environment.
Uncertainties over the way the directive should be interpreted, and reluctance amongst specifiers to risk a legal challenge from other stone suppliers or from the European Parliament, has resulted in a situation where Scottish stone is virtually never specified for new construction in public projects.
As a result of the directive, Scottish stone producers (and all other stone producers in EU member states) must compete mainly on the grounds of cost in the procurement process, and in general this does not favour Scottish stone. The directive does not prevent projects from using stone sourced from outside the European Union, so many publicly funded new construction projects in Scotland use cheap stone imported from elsewhere in the world.