Building and Fire Safety: Cameron House Hotel short life working group minutes - February 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 2 February 2023.

Attendees and apologies

Scottish Government officials

  • Stephen Garvin, Deputy Director, Building Standards Division (SLWG Co-Chair) – chair for this meeting
  • Maureen Rooney, Deputy Director, Safer Communities Division (SLWG Co-Chair)
  • Lisel Porch, Safer Communities Division
  • Chris Booth, Safer Communities Division
  • James Clark, Safer Communities Division
  • Helen Stephenson, Sponsorship and Historic Environment Division
  • Scott Young, Building Standards Division
  • Benny Rooney, Building Standards Division
  • Steven Scott, Building Standards Division

External members

  • Sam North, National Trust for Scotland
  • Elizabeth McCrone, Historic Environment Scotland 
  • Clare Winskill, Scottish Tourism Alliance
  • David Dourley, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS)
  • Alan McAulay, Local Authority Building Standards Scotland (LABSS)
  • Peter Drummond, Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS)
  • Leon Thompson, HospitalityUK Scotland


  • Colin Hird, Building Standards Division
  • Callum Grigor, Sponsorship and Historic Environment Division
  • Tom Hardy, Safer Communities Division
  • Steven McCallum, National Trust for Scotland
  • Marc Crothall, Scottish Tourism Alliance
  • Karen Stevenson, RIAS

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions 

The chair welcome everyone and invited members and officials to introduce themselves.

Conflicts of interest 

The Chair confirmed that he had received one prior note and asked other members to declare any conflict of interest in writing by 3 March.  

Action point (AP) 1: members to advise in writing of any conflict of interest by 3 March.

Aims, objectives and draft terms of reference (ToRs) of the group

The chair provided background to the short life working group (SLWG), as follows:

  • the SLWG was intended to be put in place for a short period of time to examine the Cameron House Hotel FAI report and recommendations
  • it will advise on the full response from Scottish Ministers, industry and Scottish Fire and Rescue Servce (SFRS) to the recommendations, helping to frame them in a way that they can be taken forward effectively
  • noting that Scottish Ministers need to respond to FAI report, in the first instance (recommendations 4 and 5), in the first instance, by 8 March
  • ultimately the output of the SLWG’s report will also include short and long term changes and management of risk

The annex to the draft terms of reference (ToRs) sets out six recommendation; three are directed to the hotel industry, two to the Scottish Government and one to SFRS.

Chair invited any comments on terms of reference:

  • clarity on roles and responsibilities was raised; section 2 on responsibilities in the ToRs is relevant
  • the SLWG itself would not be broken down into smaller expert groups for each recommendation, but longer-term work would be required in some cases and specific expert panels may be set up for this purpose
  • research may be undertaken in the longer term, but it was not planned as part of the SLWG work

The chair added that the remit of the SLWG is largely around framing the recommendations and being clear who is responsible. For example, for recommendation 4, on one level SG can look at the case for suppression in historic properties, but how we do this needs careful consideration. The purpose of the SLWG being to set out a plan around this and other recommendations. 

AP 1.2: members feedback on the terms of reference by 3 March.

Overview of the Fatal Accident Inquiry report findings

Officials gave an overview of the background of the timings, events, cause and outcomes, including responsibilities, findings and recommendations. Members had been provided with a copy of the FAI report and the slides used are attached to these notes.

PD considered that the spread of fire and smoke was extremely rapid, extending 3 to 4 stories in less than 13 minutes. The lath and plaster ceiling outside the cupboard failed almost immediately, made worse possibly by downlighters being in place. The fire moved through cavities in floors and partitions. Part of the roof collapsed around 15-16 minutes, shortly after some trapped occupants were rescued by firefighters. The SFRS subsequently reported fire spread at some distance from the seat of the fire.

In his report, PD noted that flammable material and poor fire resistance with sleeping risk combined to increase the risk. Escape routes become untenable at a very early stage. Fire risk assessments apparently failed to identify risks such as lath and plaster and downlighters. As a consequence the hotel was unaware of these special risks. These areas are worthy of further attention.

The building complied with the regulations at the time. By 1990 the lath and plaster had been removed from regulations. In addition, regulations for cavities had also changed. Flammable material and poor fire resistance with sleeping risk combined to increase the risk. Fire risk assessments failed to notice the risk of lath and plaster and downlighters. The hotel was unaware of these special risks. These areas are worthy of further attention.

Further comments were made:

  • HES had no issue with principle of fitting suppression. Suppression is dealt with in guidance documents for listed buildings. Application takes place to the relevant local authority who ultimately make the decision. No objections have been made for fitting suppression into listed buildings
  • on lath and plaster this is an issue for existing historic premises, where there might be an increased risk of ongoing works, such as those causing holes and or applying flammable rot treatment. Owners need help identifying these risks. These issues not so apparent to fire risk assessors and that may require some further consideration
  • industry representatives noted plans to update guidance in accordance with the FAI’s recommendations. Information sessions and webinars for members as a reminder of processes to follow, including staff training, were being considered
  • adequate training and fire-fighting equipment is a requirement for all relevant businesses. Businesses should be reviewing this regularly with SFRS 
  • there is a need to readily access the guest list in an emergency
  • rural hotels where open fires are part of the experience need particular attention on these issues
  • older buildings have changed hands and owners may not be fully aware what is within the walls, ceilings and floors
  • consideration is needed for tools that can help the business owners in considering the building fabric and how to manage any risks
  • challenges for businesses are on staff training on evacuation, industry is looking at how that can be addressed
  • it is sometimes difficult to see where smaller business sit in guidance and this may require further work to assist smaller businesses and short term lets

It was noted that industry’s focus was on members, but these resources are made available to others. Larger businesses have more resource and typically good practice which we can use to roll out to others. A collective approach is required to get out to all owners and properties. It was suggested that smaller business and short term lets interests should be brought in for future meetings.

It was also noted that short term lets do not currently indicate a risk to target more SFRS resource. The SFRS cannot train businesses as this is a conflict of interest with their enforcement role. It is the duty holder that has responsibility for their building and fire safety. SFRS do have enough resource for high risk, but there is no evidence to target more towards short term lets.

On the SFRS recommendation it was noted that changes were already being planned. A tear off slip is now given to the duty holder once inspections have been completed. Work is ongoing with SFRS legal team on the overall process. Once in place SFRS will have CPD days for relevant staff. It was noted that there is a need to maintain quality for quicker turnaround times.

Timescales and outputs

The Chair suggested that there may need to be another three or four meetings of this group. The first three in successive months to consider the recommendations in turn, as follows:

  • March - industry to prepare a paper for the next meeting on Recommendations 1 to 3. The paper should be around 3 to 4 pages and discuss each recommendation and how they will be addressed. It is for industry to define the scope and breadth of hotels and other accommodation included
  • April - would address the two recommendations for Scottish Government, again a paper would be prepared
  • May - SFRS recommendation addressed and a paper prepared and also to consider the report of the SLWG

AP 1.3: members to prepare and deliver papers according to their relevant meeting.

Actions and next steps

See action points 1.1 to 1.4, with conflict of interest (AP 1.1) and terms of reference (AP 1.2) actions due by 3 March.

Any other business

No items raised.

Date of next meeting(s)

Meeting dates will be sent out for future meetings.  

AP 1.4: officials to send dates for following meetings.

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