Building and fire safety working group minutes: December 2023

Minutes from the meeting held on 13 December 2023.

Attendees and apologies


  • Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice 
  • Patrick Harvie – MSP
  • Minister for Housing
  • Stephen Garvin - Head of Building Standards Division 
  • Neil Mitchell - Building Standards Division 
  • Andrew Gunn - Building Standards Division 
  • Colette Templeton - Building Standards Division
  • Benny Roony - Building Standards Division
  • Steven Scott - Building Standards Division
  • Stuart Morrison - Building Standards Division
  • Tom Hardy - Safer Communities Division
  • Erin Stewart - Building Standards Division
  • Ayisha Hussain - Building Standards Division
  • James Clark - Safer Communities Division
  • Lisel Porch -  Safer Communities Division 
  • Andy Daily - Schools Infrastructure Unit
  • Alan Morrison - DD Health Infrastructure and Sustainability
  • Bill Connolly, Health Facilities Scotland
  • Robert Scott, HM Chief Inspector of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
  • Brian McKenzie - Assistant Inspector, HM Fire Service Inspectorate
  • Chris Getty, SFRS
  • Ian MacLeod, SFRS
  • Amy Stewart, Cladding Remediation Directorate
  • Rachel Sunderland - DD Cladding Remediation Division
  • Ruth Whatling – Better Homes Division 
  • Emma Innocent – FM Policy Unit Division
  • Emma Laurie – Workforce, Infrastructure and Digital 


  • Minister for Victims and Community Safety
  • Sean Neill, Director for Local Government and Housing 
  • Mo Rooney, Deputy Director, Safer Communities 
  • Colin Hird, Building Standards Division
  • Naeem Bhatti, Better Homes Division

Items and actions

Welcome and Introductions: Summary and update on actions from previous meeting on 21 June 2023.  

The Chair welcomed everyone to the session noting it was the 23rd meeting of the Ministerial Working Group on Building and Fire Safety. The Chair continued by noting that the purpose of the meeting was to provide an update on the work of the Building and Fire Safety work streams since the last meeting of the Ministerial Working Group on the 21 June 2023.  The Chair also observed that the revised Terms of Reference, considered at the previous meeting, had been updated and were now published online. 

The minutes of the meeting on 21 June had previously been agreed and were published on the Scottish Government (SG) website.  

Updates were provided on previously agreed action points: 

Action point 1 

Complete – as noted above changes to the Terms of Reference had been made and were now published on the website. 

Action Point 2

Complete - a submission with the RAAC paper annexed was submitted to relevant Ministers in June 2023. 

Action Point 3 

Complete – a further submission on RAAC including on next steps was provided to Ministers in July 2023 with a co-ordination team subsequently being established to support more proactive work. A substantive paper would set out more detail in today’s meeting. 

Cameron House Hotel 

The Scottish Government established the Short Life Working Group (SLWG) as a forum to consider the recommendations from the Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) report. A final SLWG report was published on 2 October 2023 outlining actions to be taken against each recommendation from the FAI. 

Recommendations 1, 2 and 3, directed to the hotel industry are ongoing in respect of ensuring regular communications across networks on fire safety; the introduction of revised operating procedures, and reviewing processes about accessing information and resources. 

Recommendations 4 and 5, directed to the Scottish Government: amended guidance on automatic fire suppression systems will be complete by the end of December 2023; amendment to the Section 34 letter to Local Authority Chief Executives under the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 has been actioned; in respect of voids and cavities, this action is ongoing with the Government working with partners to promote key fire safety messages; actions in respect of establishing an expert working group have been completed.    

Recommendation 6, directed to SFRS, is complete with updated Fire Safety Audit Procedures and Guidance in place. 

Separately, Historic Environment Scotland (HES) have also taken forward a number of actions. 

The Building and Fire Safety Expert Working Group met for the first time on 28 November 2023 and, while focussing on recommendations 4 and 5 of the FAI, will consider issues including 

  • the application of mandatory Building Standard 2.15 Automatic Fire Suppression Systems to alterations, extensions and conversions of buildings within scope of the standard
  • historic Environment Scotland publications in relation to the management of fire safety in traditional buildings, conversions and practitioner guidance
  • current Scottish Government guidance including but not limited to: Fire Safety in Existing premises with sleeping accommodation
  • the use of non-combustible cladding for non-domestic residential buildings including hotels, boarding houses and hostels
  • miscellaneous issues in Section 2: Fire of the domestic and non-domestic technical handbooks including external on-site fire premises information plates on high rise domestic buildings

Membership, terms of reference and minutes of expert group meetings will be published on the Building and Fire Safety Ministerial Working Group website once ratified by the group. 

Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete

It was noted that the Department for Education’s change in risk appetite for RAAC on 31 August (not followed by other UK Government departments) created widespread concern and precipitated an immediate response to assess the seriousness of RAAC as an issue, itself building on Ministers’ previously expressed wish for a more proactive approach to co-ordination pulling all cross-government sectors together, as had initially been established by the Cross Sector Working Group which has representation from across the public sector, along with professional body, industry and academic leads. 

In respect of communication, emphasis is placed on the guidance and risked based approach taken by the Institution of Structural Engineers as well as it being the responsibility of building owners (reflecting guidance by the Health and Safety Executive on RAAC) to manage their estate and ensure compliance with the relevant legislation, including their duties under health and safety legislation to maintain a safe workplace.

With a view to longer-term planning, while the initial focus has been on sector by sector information gathering trawls, analysis should now move towards assessment of effective mitigations and remediation. This might also include consideration of the extent we engage with private and commercial sectors; the potential for different approaches to be taken across different sectors and the issue of cost and financial impacts. It was also agreed that officials should explore the longer-term consequences of the issues raised by RAAC and the potential implications and report back at the next meeting of this Group.

Cladding Remediation Programme 

Update provided on the cladding remediation programme. Single Building Assessments (SBA) will be undertaken on required buildings by appropriately qualified experts to assess the risk arising from the external cladding system and identify remediation priorities. 

The current focus of activity is on progressing discussions with developers in the task and finish group that the Minister requested to seek resolution of outstanding issues with the SBA.. Officials are scoping out options for a delivery partner, the aim of this would be provide review support for Single Building Assessment draft reports and commission further assessments (though this is constrained by a shortage of key skills in the market). Officials will continue to work closely with colleagues on the Policy side as the outcome of work on the SBA and overall delivery will be critical for the detail within the Bill.

The Housing (Cladding Remediation) (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 1 November 2023.  The Bill gives Scottish Ministers new powers to ensure that work identified through a Single Building Assessment is able to be carried out in respect of cladding on residential accommodation that is within the scope of the Cladding Remediation Programme. The Bill also requires  Ministers to set up a Cladding Assurance Register that will include details of the Single Building Assessment undertaken in respect of relevant buildings. The call for evidence closed on 8 December with evidence sessions expected in early 2024.  

A milestone has been reached in the Scottish Safer Buildings Accord process with nine developers signing Developer Commitment Letters signalling their intent to remediate buildings in line with agreed standards. Good progress is being made on a series of Sprint sessions with the Scottish Government to refine and clarify technical points. 

The substantial investment involved in transforming this area was noted (as were the other issues identified as part of RAAC work, themselves beyond the scope of the cladding remediation programme). 

Grenfell Inquiry

Following publication of the Inquiry’s Phase 1 report Scottish Ministers set up the Scottish Government Grenfell Inquiry Fire Safety Working Group (GIFSWG). Whilst the recommendations in the report were directed at the legislation and systems in place in England the working group considered all recommendations. The specific responses and actions for Scotland reflect and build on the fire safety regime and practice in Scotland, in a proportionate way. A report on the Scottish Government’s response was published in October 2020.

As part of the work following the Grenfell fire tower, a review has been carried out of the high rise fire safety regime in Scotland; specific guidance for existing high rise domestic buildings has been developed and published; fire safety information leaflets have been sent to every high rise domestic building in Scotland; and guidance on fire risks assessments has been updated and published. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) also led on a range of recommendations directed towards blue light services and have made a number of changes and improvements to their approach to managing fires in high rise buildings.

The hearings and evidence in Phase 2 covered eight modules with an Inquiry Working Group meeting since August 2021. External stakeholders include the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, HM Fire Service Inspectorate, Local Authority Building Standards Scotland and the NHS Policy officials from Building Standards, Fire and Rescue, Health, Housing, Property and Procurement and Cladding Remediation are members of the Group. All modules in Phase 2 were relevant to the Scottish Government, although not all the areas considered are devolved matters.

Since the Grenfell Tower fire, the Scottish Government has developed additional guidance: Practical Fire Safety: existing high rise domestic buildings.  As part of this guidance, advice is provided to selecting a fire risk assessor specifically for high rise domestic buildings (there is further advice provided for commercial premises). However, there are currently no national requirements for fire risk assessors to be competent nor for a duty holder to select a competent assessor. A progress paper on this work has been provided for Ministers, outlining the ongoing work on this subject including next steps that officials can take including mandating competency in Scotland. The Phase 2 report is due to be published in early 2024. Officials are in contact with UK Government officials on the publication of the report as they are liaising with the Inquiry.

The Grenfell Working Group has considered relevant evidence from the Inquiry over a number of months.  Whilst a significant amount of change and additions have been made to building standards, housing and fire safety regulation and guidance, as well as setting up a cladding remediation programme, the Group will now summarise the risks involved across all areas in anticipation of publication.

The Working Group will meet at an early stage after publication of the report to discuss the Scottish Government response. An additional Ministerial Working Group meeting may be required at that point.

Ministerial Working Group (MWG) 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. 

NHS Estate 

All Health Boards had published updates on the presence of RAAC with information available via the NHS Scotland Assure website. To date, 266 NHS properties had been surveyed onsite with 31 instances of RAAC identified. 

A review had identified fire safety concerns at NHS Forth Valley National Treatment Centre with an aversion to risk being noted as common across the NHS regarding new builds with an impact on construction projects.  Ministers queried whether this was the case in other parts of the public sector but were informed this was primarily an issue in areas of clinical and infection control. 

School Estate

RAAC has been the main area of work focused on over the past few months and assessment is almost complete with 39 schools (4 with Early Learning Centres ) having been identified as containing RAAC with  one standalone ELC also identified. One Local Authority is yet to provide an update across six of its buildings.   

The Learning Estate Investment Programme (LEIP) is now at stage 3 with 10 successful bids. 

Asbestos noted as an issue in the learning estate but not an immediate concern. Officials provided reassurance about liaison with stakeholders including the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) the Scottish Heads of Property Services (SHoPS) and the Association of Directors of Education (ADES). Moreover, local authorities hold an asbestos register that is checked before any work is undertaken in schools.    

Fire Risk Assessment 

Noted that in Scotland there is no legal requirement for an assessor to hold any formal certification, accreditation or experience in fire risk assessment, when assessing many types of premises, including those of a higher risk, such as sleeping premises. Fire and Rescue Unit officials have worked with stakeholders to analyse the current position regarding fire risk assessor competency in Scotland. Advice will be provided to Ministers which will outline options for the Scottish Government to take forward and which will introduce mandatory fire risk competence. Officials will continue to keep Ministers updated on this work at it progresses.

Building Standards Futures Board

An update on the building standards futures board related work was provided with recommendations being taken forward through the seven workstreams. Updates were provided on the five main workstreams:

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

It was noted that work was progressing from policy development to delivery. Consideration was being given to the launch of an early adopters scheme and the establishment of a hub designed to strengthen systems in delivering building standards shared services. Recent consultation responses had strongly support the proposed increase in fees. The Workstream strategy had come to an end with the focus now on delivering a sustainable and skilled workforce – supported by the building standards hub. Digital development work was planned on the register. 

Any other business and date of next meeting  

No other business was raised. The next meeting would take place in June 24 although an interim meeting might be held before this to consider the Grenfell Report. 

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