Publication - Consultation paper

Fire and smoke alarms in Scottish homes: consultation

Published: 8 Sep 2017

Consultation seeking views on possible changes to standards required for fire and smoke alarms in Scottish homes.

Fire and smoke alarms in Scottish homes: consultation
Part One: Background

Part One: Background

Building and Fire Safety Ministerial Working Group

2. On 14 June 2017 a major fire spread rapidly through Grenfell Tower, a 24 storey residential high rise building in London. It is understood that at least 80 people lost their lives in this tragedy. Following the Grenfell Tower fire, the Scottish Government established a Ministerial Working Group to oversee a review of building and fire safety regulatory frameworks, in order to help ensure that people are safe in Scotland’s buildings, and to provide reassurance to residents and communities about their safety.

3. Members of the Building and Fire Safety Working Group include:

  • Angela Constance MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities (Chair)
  • Kevin Stewart MSP, Minister for Local Government and Housing
  • Annabelle Ewing MSP, Minister for Community Safety
  • Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
  • Scottish Government officials

4. Documents relating to the Working Group’s activity are published online. [1]

5. At its meeting on 9 August 2017, the Group agreed that a public consultation on fire and smoke alarms should be published. This consultation focuses on fire and smoke alarms in domestic properties. Information on wider issues that the Scottish Government will want to consider as part of our work on fire and building safety is provided in part six of this consultation.

Casualties from Fire

6. In 2015/16 there were 5,673 fires in dwellings in Scotland, from which there were 39 fatal causalities and 1,045 non-fatal causalities. [2] Over the last two decades there has been a downward trend in the number of fires in dwellings in Scotland – with a 38% decrease in the number of reported dwelling fires in 2015/16 compared with 1994-95.

7. Of the 39 people who died in dwelling fires, 33 were in accidental fires, and six were in deliberate fires. While the number of fatalities varies from year to year, the data shows that over the last seven years the fatality rate in fires in dwellings which had an operational smoke alarm has been lower than in dwellings without an operational smoke alarm. [3]

8. Of the 45 total fatalities in all fires in Scotland in 2015/16, 24 (53%) were people aged 60 and above [4] , which is significantly higher than the share of this age group in the overall population (24%). This equates to a rate of 18.5 fire fatalities per 1 million people aged 60 and above, compared with 8.4 fatalities per 1 million of the overall Scottish population.

9. These figures demonstrate that older people are at greater risk from fire. Other groups who might similarly be at a greater risk include people with mobility difficulties and those who live alone. The fire service is working with partners, including health authorities and the voluntary sector, to develop new ways to identify those individuals in communities who are most at risk, and to make early interventions to ensure they are protected.

10. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service provide free Home Fire Safety Visits for anyone concerned about fire safety in their homes. [5] The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service have also prepared general fire safety advice for people who live in multi-storey flats. [6]

Common Housing Quality Standard

11. In Scotland the three main tenure types are: [7]

  • Owner occupied housing (including housing being bought on a mortgage) – about 1.5 million homes, including 310,000 flats
  • Social rented housing (rented from a local authority or a housing association) – about 600,000 homes, including 340,000 flats
  • Private rented housing (rented from a private landlord, including housing provided with a job or business) – about 380,000 homes, including 244,000 flats.

As they have developed separately over time, meet differing needs, and have different regulatory regimes, there are differences in the housing standards which apply in different tenures.

12. The Scottish Government established a Common Housing Quality Standard Forum in February 2015. The role of the Forum was to enable discussion with and between stakeholders on key issues affecting house condition, including where it may make sense to better align existing standards. The Forum received contributions from a range of interested parties, with working papers published and available online. [8]

13. One of the proposals considered by the Forum was to extend the standard for fire and smoke alarms currently applied in the private rented sector ( PRS) to social rented housing. Another proposal was to consider whether a minimum standard should apply to all flats in a block, across all tenures, because of the potential impact on other occupiers. In our recent consultation on energy efficiency and condition standards in private rented housing we indicated our intention to consult on these and other condition issues affecting housing across tenure from winter 2017/18. [9] However, in line with the recommendation of the Building and Fire Safety Working Group the elements of the proposed consultation dealing with fire and smoke alarms have been brought forward. The remaining non-fire safety parts of the proposed consultation will therefore be covered separately in a subsequent consultation later in 2018.


Email: Simon Roberts,

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road