This ministerial working group on building and fire safety has met since June 2017 to oversee reviews of building and fire safety frameworks, regulations and guidance, and any other relevant matters, to help ensure that people are safe in Scotland's buildings.
The initial focus of the group was on high rise domestic buildings, following the Grenfell Tower fire in London. It has also considered other buildings including housing, the NHS estate, schools and prisons.
Actions taken by the Ministerial Working Group include the following:
- introducing requirements for smoke and heat alarms to be fitted in all homes, from 2021. Given the impact of COVID-19 and the difficulties this is likely to create for people seeking to install new smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, we will be seeking the Scottish Parliament’s approval to delay the implementation of this legislation for a period of 12 months
- setting up a review panel on fire safety standards, which has now resulted in changes to fire safety standards. These include the cladding requirements on buildings over 11m, escape provision in buildings over 18 m and the introduction of sprinklers to a wider range of housing (from 2021). The review panel included both UK experts and an international expert subgroup, it has now completed its work
- setting up a review panel on compliance and enforcement, which has resulted in the strengthening of procedural guidance related to safety critical issues. The review panel has now completed its work, but further implementation is being addressed through the futures board
- setting up a Building Standards Futures Board (from December 2018) that will take forward longer term changes to the building standards system to improve compliance with regulations
- setting up a fire safety regime review advisory group to ensure comprehensive protection to residents of high rise domestic buildings
- developing an inventory of high-rise domestic buildings in Scotland
- setting up a Technical Working Group to develop a Scottish Advice Note on determining the fire risk posed by external wall systems in existing multi-storey residential buildings
- setting up a panel of experts through the Building Standards Fire Safety Review Panel 2021 to consider introducing a ban of the highest risk cladding products, the continued role of large scale fire testing for facades and the competence of those designing, installing and verifying façade systems
Building standards in Scotland are not retrospective and unless evidence arises to the contrary buildings that have a building warrant and valid completion certificate complied with the regulations at the time. Where evidence of non-compliance or fire safety concerns arise, for whatever reason, then building owners should take immediate action to investigate and manage the situation.
The Scottish Government is liaising with local authorities and building owners to ensure that where unsafe cladding materials have been used that they are replaced. This work has focussed on aluminium composite material with a polyethylene core, the type of cladding used at Grenfell Tower.
The ministerial working group will ensure that Parliament is updated and respond to any requests as appropriate.
In undertaking the work of the ministerial working group, the Scottish Government has worked, and continues to work, closely with the UK Government and devolved administrations, using research evidence, test results and technical advice as required to inform its considerations.
The UK Government established the building safety programme after the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017. The UK Government’s Independent Expert Panel on Fire Safety was also established at this time. The expert panel published consolidated advice on 20 January 2020 dealing with the fire performance of cladding, fire doors and other construction details. The advice is intended to assist building owners in managing risk, but has no legally established status in Scotland and does not take precedence over Scottish building and fire regulations, standards and guidance.
The ministerial working group welcomes the publication of the report of the first phase of the public inquiry into the fire at Grenfell Tower. The Scottish Government is studying the findings set out in the report and assessing if there are lessons from which we can learn to further improve the safety of our buildings.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has distributed leaflets regarding safety in high rise domestic buildings.
- Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government (chair)
- Ash Regan, Minister for Community Safety
- Patrick Harvie, Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights
- Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
- Scottish Government officials
- NHS representatives
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