Building and fire safety working group minutes: December 2021

Minutes of the meeting of the ministerial working group on building and fire safety that took place on 22 December 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government (Chair)
  • Minister for Net Zero Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights
  • Minister for Community Safety
  • Robert Scott, HM Chief Inspector of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
  • David Dourley, SFRS Area Commander
  • Wendy Wilkinson, Deputy Director, Safer Communities
  • Tom Hardy, Safer Communities Division
  • Chris Booth, Safer Communities Division
  • Phillip McLean, NHS Facilities and Environmental Sustainability
  • Bill Connolly, Health Facilities Scotland
  • Vicki Harris, Better Homes Division
  • Stephen Garvin, Head of Building Standards Division
  • Neil Mitchell, Building Standards Division
  • Hardip Devsi, Building Standards Division
  • Colin Hird, Building Standards Division
  • Colette Templeton, Building Standards Division
  • Scott Young, Building Standards Division
  • Cameron Murdoch, Building Standards Division
  • William Hamilton, Building Standards Division


  • Alasdair Perry, SFRS Deputy Assistant Chief Officer
  • Sean Neill, Director for Local Government and Communities
  • Shirley Laing, Director for Housing and Social Justice
  • Catriona MacKean, Head of Better Homes Division
  • Naeem Bhatti, Better Homes Division

Items and actions

Welcome and action points from previous meeting

Virtual introductions were made for all those attending. It was noted that the minutes of the previous Ministerial Working Group (MWG) meeting held on Thursday 11 March 2021 were agreed and published.

Update on previously agreed action points:

  • Scottish Government (SG) officials to review the ‘next steps’ in regards to publication of the Scottish Advice Note (SAN) and update ministers frequently - completed 
  • SG officials to provide ministers with a submission detailing immediate action that can be taken in regards to the highest risk MCM cladding and the large scale fire test BS 8414 - completed 
  • Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) to consider further and the Minister for Community Safety to be advised in due course - completed
  • SG officials to look at ways to disseminate information between the SG and relevant Local Authorities (LAs) - completed
  • weekly summaries of phase two to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry evidence sessions to be shared with the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning and the Minister for Community Safety - completed

Purpose and background of the working group

SG officials provided an overview and summary of the work that has already been taken forward by the Ministerial Working Group on Building and Fire Safety (MWG). The initial focus of the MWG was on gathering information on the use of Aluminium Composite Material Polyethylene core (ACM-PE) type cladding on high rise domestic buildings in Scotland. The MWG also sought information on ACM on other buildings including the NHS estate and schools.

The MWG commissioned three review panels; fire safety, compliance and enforcement, and the fire safety regime. The compliance and enforcement review considered four key themes in the building standards system, verification, certification, enforcement and sanctions. These considerations resulted in the establishment of the Futures Board programme consisting of seven workstreams.

The fire safety regime review took place to ensure that the fire safety regime and regulatory framework in Scotland provided comprehensive protection to residents of high rise domestic buildings and is robust and fully fit for purpose. Five objectives identified for consideration and delivered by the review panel.

These have all now reported to the MWG with key outcomes to date including:

  • the review panel on fire safety standards, which has now resulted in changes to fire safety standards
  • the review panel on compliance and enforcement, which has resulted in the strengthening of procedural guidance related to safety critical issues
  • the fire safety regime review advisory group to ensure comprehensive protection to residents of high rise domestic buildings
  • on 1 October 2019, the Scottish Government introduced new regulations that made Scotland’s high-rise buildings even safer. These included:
    • lowering the height at which combustible cladding can be used from 18 metres to 11 metres to align with fire-fighting from the ground
    • tighter controls over the combustibility of cladding systems on hospitals, residential care buildings, entertainment and assembly buildings regardless of building height
    • introducing evacuation sound alerts, floor and dwelling indicator signs and two escape stairs in all new high rise domestic buildings
  • introduced a mandatory requirement to install sprinkler systems in all new build flats, certain multi-occupancy dwellings and social housing for which the regulatory change came into effect on 1 March 2021
  • a database to capture and maintain safety-critical information for existing high rise residential buildings has been developed and the summary report was published in March of 2020 with the second iteration published on the 8 November 2021
  • the new minimum standard for smoke and fire alarms, extends the high standard currently required in private rented housing to all homes to ensure everyone has the highest level of protection
  • to assist social landlords in meeting the new standard for fire and carbon monoxide detectors, the Scottish Government provided an interest free loan fund, re-payable over five years
  • the five recommendations from the Review of the Fire Safety Regime for high rise buildings in Scotland have been delivered:
    • these include a single source of Fire Safety Guidance for those responsible for these buildings and delivering a fire safety leaflet to residents in all high rise buildings in Scotland
    • this was developed by Scottish Government and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service with input from residents of high rise buildings throughout Scotland

Single Building Assessment and Cladding Remediation Fund

SG Officials provided an update on the Single Building Assessment (SBA), advising this is being undertaken in a phased approach. Building owners were invited to submit an ‘Expression of Interest’ (EOI) to participate in the pilot phase, and to submit fire and cladding assessments for buildings where there is a risk to life. A total of 338 ‘Expression of Interest’ to participate in the pilot were received. From this a total of 122 EOI’s submitted all the required documents.

The pilot phase is looking at a range of different building sizes and issues to ensure the SBA process is robust. A total of 25 buildings were selected and included in the pilot phase. Of these 25 buildings, 24 have secured specialist services from fire engineers and surveyors with a further 14 having secured specialist contractors completing SBAs. Five buildings do not require further inspections. Eight completed applications have been received. Three buildings have been issued a grant letter and one building has completed physical inspections and their final SBA report is being prepared. 

It is expected one full Single Building Assessment will be completed by the end of 2021 and a further six completed by the end of the 2021 to 2022 financial year. The pilot scheme will move to a full scheme in 2022 to 2023 with the aim of accelerating programme delivery across Scotland. The UK government has provided £97.1 million in funding with further consequential funding expected in 2023 to 2024.

The update was noted by ministers.

Replacement cladding – proposed change to building regulations

SG officials advised that the building regulations makes provision for certain types of new work that can be done without going through the process of applying to the local authority for a building warrant but on the provision that the work must still meet building regulations. The issue being that replacement cladding could be construed as a repair and be replaced on a ‘like for like’ basis, without the need for a building warrant so does not require to meet current fire standards.

There is now a need to differentiate between entire cladding system replacements and minor repair work. The extent of what constitutes ‘minor or small scale repairs’ and ‘replacement cladding’ will be established through working with key stakeholders, and undertaking research.

If legislation was made to be more explicit, requiring replacement cladding systems to go through the building warrant process and independent checks by local authorities, this would increase costs as owners would need to seek a competent person, such as an architect, to submit the application on their behalf and pay the associated professional and building warrant fees. Officials consider this is outweighed by the public interest and would benefit from the oversight that local authority verification process provides that the design and construction would meets current standards. It would also align with the work around Single Building Assessments and the Cladding Remediation Fund that seek to support the identification, and subsequent replacement of cladding on existing buildings to meet current standards.

Changes to legislation would be included in a single statutory instrument (SSI) to be laid in Parliament next year. The legislation would cover amendments to the fire standards for external wall systems, proposed changes to energy standards and amendments to schedule three of the building regulations covering replacement and minor repair work. The legislative vehicle is therefore likely to be the Building (Scotland)(Amendment) Regulations 2022.

Extensive engagement with relevant key stakeholders will take place in the new year to ensure any changes to schedule three are competent and industry are made aware of the implications. This will include industry, the 32 local authority verifiers who administer the building standards system in Scotland and the fire safety expert review panel.

Ministers agreed in principle:

  • to the review of schedule three to determine where replacement cladding installations should meet current standards of the building regulations and may be subject to building warrant approval
  • that the change is not subject to formal public consultation other than through targeted engagement with relevant stakeholders including industry, local authority verifiers and the fire safety expert review panel

Action point: further advice regarding the review of schedule three to be provided to ministers in due course.

Ministers noted the update advice to follow in due course.

Metal composite material cladding ban and BS 8414: Fire Safety Review Panel; and Scottish Advice Note on cladding

SG Officials provided an overview of the actions to have taken place to date in regards to building fire safety across the UK nations.

It was noted at the last MWG in March 2021, that the then Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning identified a need to take additional precautionary action as an interim measure pending the outcome of second technical review considering banning the highest risk cladding material and the use of the large scale façade test known as BS 8414 that had been cited in regulatory guidance since 2002.

The new expert panel have met on three occasions and agreed a consultation package that comprised five parts, as follows:

  • part one – mandatory standard 2.7 (spread of external walls)
  • part two – definition and Ban of Category 3 Metal Composite Material (MCM), i.e. the material found on Grenfell Tower (worked with UK Government)
  • part three – large Scale Fire Test, BS 8414
  • part four – consequential matters relating to combustible exemptions
  • part five - impact assessments

When the consultation closed on 11 October 2021, 76 responses had been received.

The next expert review panel meeting will take place in late January 2022 where the independent analysis of the responses will be considered in more detail. Officials advised that they were currently considering aligning changes to legislation and guidance with the building standards energy review which is ongoing and expected to come into force in the Summer 2022.

Further options and advice to ministers will be provided in February to March 2022 following the expert review panel meeting.

Action point: advice to be provided to ministers following analysis of the fire safety review consultation and recommendations to be taken forward.

SG officials then provided an update in regards to the Scottish Advice Note (SAN) that provides advice on how to determine the fire risk posed by external wall systems on a wide range of existing multi-storey residential buildings, such as domestic blocks of flats, student accommodation, hospitals and care homes, hotels etc.

The MWG previously asked that the advice note be developed following publication of the Consolidated Advice Note for England and Wales in January 2020 to take account of the different regulatory regimes and guidance here in Scotland. The document was developed in partnership with colleagues in the Fire and Rescue Unit and a targeted stakeholder consultation exercise was carried out over the Summer 2020 which included three public webinars to promote the consultation.

Independent analysis of the responses was carried out by EKOS which helped inform revisions to the guidance. This resulted in the advice note being re-structured and amended significantly with part one for owners and managers (user-friendly and less technical) and Part two for fire engineers and fire risk appraisal experts (more technical and detailed). 

The final version of the SAN was published on 4 August 2021 following consideration by the expert technical panel and members of the Ministerial Working Group on mortgage lending and cladding. The SAN forms part of the guidance issued in support of the Single Building Assessment scheme and has been well received, receiving no criticisms.

A brief update in regards to PAS 9980 ‘Fire risk appraisal of external wall construction and cladding of existing blocks of flats – code of practice’ was provided by SG officials. It was advised that the PAS (meaning Publicly Available Specification) is a fast-track standardization document produced by the British Standards Institution (BSI) via an expert consulting service in consultation with a steering group of stakeholders, selected from relevant fields.

The PAS is being funded by the UK Government and as a result, is oriented towards English legislation and guidance. It provides guidance and recommendations on how to undertake a fire risk appraisal of external wall systems and includes advice on the competence of those undertaking the assessments.

The guidance applies principally to blocks of flats of any height in England but can be used in devolved administrations within the context of their own fire safety legislation. Depending on the circumstances, the PAS can also be applied to student accommodation, sheltered and other specialised housing.

The document is aimed primary at those competent professionals tasked with assessing the fire risk of external wall construction and cladding, but will also be useful to building owners/managers, architects, contractors and local authorities.

Whilst the PAS relates to the life safety of occupants of blocks of flats and those in and around the building, a cladding appraisal carried out in accordance with PAS 9980 may serve as a suitable report to support or inform an EWS1 form used by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors for property valuation purposes.

It is expected that the PAS will be published early in 2022. Once officials have had the chance to fully review the document, further advice will be issued to ministers including any potential impact on the SAN.

Action point: officials to provide ministers with further advice after the publication of PAS 9980 to any potential impacts on the Scottish Advice Note.

Ministers noted the updates and actions to be taken forward.

High rise building inventory

SG Officials provided an update on the High Rise Inventory (HRI) covering information on number of buildings, sprinklers and fire doors in high rise buildings. It was noted that the first iteration was published in March 2020 and although this was to take place on an annual basis, the second iteration was not published until November 2021 due to COVID-19. Data collection was however the same as the previous year. 

It was noted that Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) panels were identified in a small number of buildings (5%, 38 buildings) where information was provided. Of these, 23 buildings reported polyethylene type ACM panels, a combustible material. The decrease of 13 from 2020 was due to a re-analysis of the information on the panels used on these 13 buildings, which were subsequently classified as composite panels and not ACM types. Discussion took place on remediation work currently under way and linkages to the SBA covered at agenda item three.

It was also advised that work is currently underway to explore options for the HRI to be expanded and/or improved. Further advice would be provided to ministers in due course.

Action point – advice to be provided to ministers in due course in regards to how the HRI can be expanded and/or improved

Ministers noted the update and advice to follow in due course.

Fire and carbon monoxide detectors

SG officials provided an update to ministers on the marketing campaign for raising awareness of the new fire alarms standard and planned activity for the new standard due to come into effect from February 2022.

It was noted an intensive public awareness campaign was launched in August 2021 by the Cabinet Secretary. It was promoted through various social media platform along with leaflets being distributed to libraries. Other information sources include a web based tool kit for key stakeholders to support the changes, a page on the SG website and a dedicated mail box which has received over 1,000 pieces of correspondence to date. It was noted the SG website has received over 300,000 visits so far.

The Scottish Government has made £500,000 of funding available for Care and Repair Scotland to support older and disabled home owners in council tax bands a-c make the required changes. The group discussed whether the second marketing campaign planned for early 2022 should be postponed in light of likely ongoing stock issues and pandemic developments and refocused on reminding people of the need to make changes to ensure compliance with new regulations. It was noted there has been a lot of media attention on the matter with the Cabinet Secretary highlighting the need to ensure that any marketing campaign required to get the tone right.

Ministers noted the update.

Building Standards Futures Board

SG officials provided an update regarding the background to the establishment of the Futures Board explaining that some changes had been made immediately following the 2018 Compliance and Enforcement and Fire (Safety) consultations leading to changes in the Procedural Handbook.

The futures board remit is considering the longer term recommendations made by the review panels. The underlying theme is that the building standards system is not broken but requires strengthening. Work is being taken forward under seven workstreams:

  • Compliance Plan Approach
  • Workforce Strategy
  • Delivery Model
  • Digital Transformation
  • Certification Strategy
  • Technical Strategy
  • Verification Standards

A detailed update was provided on four of the main work streams. It was also noted that SG officials would be meeting the Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights later that day to provide more detail on the Futures Board programme.

Ministers noted the update.

Progress updates

SG officials proceeded to provide oral updates to ministers in regards to workstreams associated with the work being taken forward through the MWG. This included an update on the HPL data collection exercise that was published in September 2021 and an overview of the UK Government Building Safety Bill that has progressed through first and second reading as well as committee stage in the House of Commons, currently being at the report stage. It is expected that the Bill will pass into legislation by summer 2022 and come into effect from Spring 2023.

Oral updates were also received in regards to work being taken forward regarding both Phases one and two of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. For phase one, although the SG response had been published, work continued for example on information plates where The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) have undertaken a review of High Rise Domestic Building information plates across Scotland. It was also noted that the Home Office/ National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) research into stay put and evacuation was still awaited and that may inform further consideration going forward too. Grenfell Inquiry Phase two monitoring may also inform further updates to Scottish Government Fire Safety Guidance.

SFRS representative reported good progress in implementing their action plan (that includes their response to the 31 recommendations for fire and rescue services to come from the Grenfell Inquiry phase one report) and recently undertook a number of high rise exercises, including a large scale exercise to test simultaneous evacuation procedures. The HM Chief Inspector of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service also advised an Inspection of Firefighting in High Rise Domestic Buildings is underway and is expected to report in May 2022. 

For phase two of the Grenfell Inquiry which is substantially through the modules, it is expected that evidence will be completed by Spring 2022, although COVID-19 has caused substantial delays to evidence to date and there is guarantee that further delays will not arise. The final report on phase two is likely to be published in the Spring of 2023. In March of this year the MWG requested that officials carry out analysis of phase two as it progresses rather than waiting for the final report. Whilst we cannot be sure of the recommendations that the Inquiry Chair will publish there are a number of issues arising that may require earlier action.

A phase two working group was therefore set up to address the analysis and learning from this phase as it progresses. Officials from Building Standards Division, Fire Policy, Housing Divisions, as well as the SFRS, HMFI, Local Authority Building Standards Scotland (LABSS) and NHS and possibly other policy areas are represented on the Working Group.

An oral update was provided in regards to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH), noting that work will begin early in the new year to remove cladding from the atrium of the QEUH in Glasgow, with work being undertaken for the best part of 2022. The SG are working with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde with regular updates being provided.

Ministers noted the oral updates.


No further points were raised by members to the group. 

It was noted and agreed that the MWG should continue to meet on a six monthly basis with the caveat of meeting sooner should it be required. The next meeting would therefore take place on the 15 June 2022.

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