Building and fire safety working group minutes: August 2017

Minutes of the meeting of the Ministerial Working Group on Building and Fire Safety, which took place on 9 August 2017.

Attendees and apologies


  • Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities (Chair)
  • Cabinet Secretary for Health & Sport (by teleconference, from Item 2)
  • Minister for Local Government and Housing
  • Lesley Fraser, Director, Housing & Social Justice
  • Kenneth Hogg, Director, Local Government & Communities
  • Bill Dodds, Head of Building Standards
  • Luke Macauley, Head of Housing Standards & Quality
  • Wendy Wilkinson, Deputy Director Safer Communities Division
  • Linda White, Fire and Rescue Unit, Safer Communities Division
  • Martyn Emberson, HM Fire Service Inspectorate
  • David McGown, SFRS Assistant Chief Officer
  • Alasdair Black, Head of Health Financial Accounting & Planning, Health Finance
  • Tom Steele, Director of Facilities, Health Facilities Scotland
  • Bill Connolly, NHSScotland National Fire Advisor, Health Facilities Scotland
  • Alison Gilfillan, Communications
  • Jeanette Campbell, Special Adviser
  • Stephen Pathirana, Deputy Director, Building and Fire Safety Coordination
  • Jessica McPherson, Building and Fire Safety Coordination
  • Karen Mechan, Building and Fire Safety Coordination


  • Minister for Community Safety & Legal Affairs
  • Christine McLaughlin, Director Health Finance
  • Stephen Garland, Head of Housing Sustainability Unit
  • Stuart Stevens, SFRS Area Manager

Items and actions

1. Welcome and action points from previous meeting

Note of the previous meeting were agreed.

Update on previously agreed action points:

  1. Cabinet Secretary to write to the Secretary of State about strong collaboration between the Scottish and UK Governments. - COMPLETED
  2. Thank you letter to Local Authorities to be sent from the Director of Local Government & Communities including a request for examples of best practice. COMPLETED
  3. Agreed that the next phase of information gathering can be progressed. COMPLETED – discussed under item 2
  4. Q&A to be agreed and published on SG website. On track for publication later in August.
  5. Engagement sessions to be scheduled with priority for meeting with tenants. COMPLETED – Discussed under agenda item 2 & 4
  6. Next meeting to focus on consideration of automatic fire suppression systems. Discussed under agenda item 5

The group agreed that notes of these meetings should be published on the Group’s web pages, as should Q&A material.

2. Update on information gathering current position

An update on the information gathered to date was discussed. Officials noted the continued cooperation of all involved and noted the progress being made to extend the information gathering exercise to other sectors: care homes, hotels, hostels, student accommodation and the prison estate.

  • 30 local authorities had confirmed that no private high rise housing had identified the use of ACM cladding. Work continued in the remaining two local authorities: Edinburgh had identified around 140 buildings and Glasgow around 60 buildings that still required building warrants files and drawings to be checked.

  • From the returns for low rise school buildings, ACM was identified on 30 buildings across 12 local authorities, which represented 1% of the schools estate. These would be appropriate if installed correctly and in accordance with building regulations. The Deputy First Minister had issued a letter to local authorities asking them to confirm: (i) That they were content that their school buildings were considered safe in terms of building regulations and fire safety; and (ii) Where they had identified any action(s) to be carried out, what action(s) they were taking and the timescales involved.

  • The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) had confirmed that ACM is not present on any of the buildings within the SPS Estate.

  • With respect to universities and colleges, the Scottish Funding Council had identified 23 responses which required further exploration due to their technical nature. In conjunction with the Scottish Association of University Directors of Estates, SFC would take work forward to engage the relevant professional expertise to quality assure the responses.

A further update would be given at the next meeting.

SFRS updated the group on the progress made by the fire and rescue service in carrying out fire safety visits, and home fire safety visits in high rise continued to be prioritised. An additional 700 operational assurance visits had been carried out since the Grenfell Tower fire, along with over 900 additional home fire safety visits to residents in high-rise buildings.

The Minister for Local Government and Housing shared information from his recent engagement session with tenants in Aberdeen. A range of issues had been raised including what to do in the event of a fire, evacuation procedures and signage in buildings. The Group agreed that information and views from tenants should help shape the proposed fire safety campaign and noted that work was already underway to engage tenant associations, housing providers and representative bodies on this matter. It was also noted that SFRS had produced leaflets with advice on what to do in the event of a fire in a high rise property which could be shared and distributed further. SFRS would continue to liaise with local authorities and COSLA about the provision of advice including further sharing the already prepared leaflet advice.

Health Facilities Scotland (HFS) gave an update on the series of robust further forensic checks that were continuing to take place across the NHS estate. An ACM product had been found on a section of the cladding system of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow. Further detailed investigations were being undertaken to enable the Health Board to assess the information and determine the next steps. Ministers requested a further update as soon as these discussions had taken place. The SFRS noted that as part of its regular risk based audit programme it had carried out fire safety audits within the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital which were found to be satisfactory.

3. Update on the position in the UK

An update was provided on the situation across the UK:

  • The large scale fire safety tests were continuing and Scottish Government officials had been present.
  • On 28 July 2017 the UK Government had announced that Dame Judith Hackett had been appointed to oversee a review of building regulations in England and Wales. Dame Judith would report to the Communities Secretary and Home Secretary.
  • The UK Government was considering membership of their Expert Panel and Scottish Ministers request devolved administrations representation.
  • Scottish Government officials were appropriately represented on various working groups.

4. Work programme

A coordination team was now in place to lead the programme management and governance arrangements surrounding the MWG’s programme of work going forward.

  • Review of building standards An outline of the review programme and how it would be taken forward was proposed. Three working groups were being set up and work was underway to finalise the terms of reference and identify appropriate membership. A further update would be given at the next meeting.

  • Consultation on smoke & fire alarms A brief outline of the proposed consultation was discussed, which would consider fire and smoke alarm standards across all tenures. The consultation would be published in September and would be relevant to a forthcoming fire safety awareness raising campaign.

  • Communications (tenants/landlords)

Discussed at agenda item 2.

5. Fire suppression systems (sprinklers and other measures)

The Group discussed evidence on automatic fire suppression systems:

  • It was noted that suppression systems including sprinklers were part of a range of fire safety measures. A risk based approach should be taken to building safety, including consideration of targeted fire safety advice, and fire management systems.

  • The number of dwelling fires in Scotland in all building types had decreased significantly in recent years. The number remained higher, in relative terms, than the figures for England and Wales.

  • The number of fatalities from (all types) of fires was decreasing and Scottish figures were in line with in England and Wales.

  • Vulnerability was a key consideration in fire safety measures. Work by the Wheatley Group had demonstrated a successful risk based approach to fire safety. SFRS and Wheatley Group were already working together to share information to minimise fire deaths.

  • Information about sprinklers was helpful, including how they are installed, activated, their effectiveness and where they can be used. Retro-fitting, challenges and alternative options to increase fire safety in high rise residential buildings were also discussed.

  • A visit to the SFRS safety house would offer the group a greater understanding of the range of fire safety measures available for consideration including portable sprinkler systems and innovations in fire safety technologies.

It was agreed that further research would be carried out to evaluate specific risks in high rise domestic buildings, consider the most vulnerable groups, and consider recent advances in technology. The first aspect of this work would be to commission a detailed inventory of the design of all high domestic buildings in Scotland.

AP4: SFRS to prepare a paper for the MWG on information sharing with partners including Wheatley Group and Police Scotland.

AP5: Officials to organise September meeting at SFRS site at Cambuslang.

6. Date of future meetings

  • Meeting date in September to be confirmed, but anticipated to be held at SFRS, Cambuslang.
Information Paper from Wheatley Group.pdf
Automatic Suppressant Systems Presentation.pdf



Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

Back to top