Opinion – Red Dawn, Red Dusk

So the Russian bear has awoken with a sore head from its hibernation and is once again threatening those around it.

For those of us that lived through the 1980s – a period in which every movie villain spoke with a thick Russian accent – this surely comes as no surprise even though it appears to have caught politicians and military experts unawares.

Of course, the conflict currently raging in Ukraine is a global tragedy that will see the deaths of thousands and the displacement of millions more. And to picture that through the lens of the UK demolition industry places me on a treacherous path that veers dangerously close to the path marked offence and towards the precipice marked outrage.

Yet the war – let’s call it what it really is – will unquestionably have implications for the UK demolition and construction sector. And though we will hopefully be spared the bombs and bullets, the hike in fuel prices exacerbated by the Ukraine conflict looks set to claim its own share of victims.

Prices at the pumps have already hit record highs to reflect the economic jitters currently gripping the world. And in roughly three weeks’ time, that situation is set to get a great deal worse as fuel subsidies come to an end after 60 years in which red diesel has been the sector’s fuel of choice.

I was originally struck by the fact that the demise of red diesel was scheduled for April Fool’s Day. I am now viewing the complete lack of irony as Ukraine battles a red era just as the demolition sector marks the end of one.

The comparisons do not end there. Just as many in Ukraine will lose everything in a conflict not of their making, many in the UK demolition and construction industry face a similar fate as fuel price hikes and inevitable fuel thefts drive them to the brink.

Furthermore, despite previous warnings, the world failed to heed the threat from Russia just as the demolition sector failed to heed the threat from HMRC.

There have been valiant attempts to pull us back from the brink – most notably from Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Ukraine and from the Scottish Plant Owners Association trade body here in the UK.

Sadly, noble as their simultaneous (but very different) struggles have been, I fear that both will ultimately be defeated by more sinister, damaging and powerful forces.

Perhaps if we had all responded a little more quickly to the join threats of thinly-veiled Russian aggression and the UK Government’s desire to refill national coffers depleted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps if we had all shown a little more unity; demonstrated a little more resistance. Perhaps if we had responded a little more quickly and a little more forcefully.

But the die is cast. For all the dignity and fortitude demonstrated by President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people, I fear that they will ultimately be overrun by a larger and more powerful adversary. For all the brave last-minute attempts to apply the brakes on the removal of red diesel subsidies, I fear the UK demolition and construction sector will also succumb.