Building and Fire Safety Working Group minutes: January 2023

Minutes of the meeting of the meeting held on 31 January 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government
  • 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
  • Iain MacLeod, SFRS Interim DACO for Prevention & Protection
  • Tom Hardy, Safer Communities Division
  • Lisel Porch, Safer Communities Division
  • Chris Booth, Safer Communities Division
  • Alan Morrison, Deputy Director Health Infrastructure, Investment and PPE
  • Gordon Stewart, National Treatment Centres Programme (Health)
  • Bill Connolly, Health Facilities Scotland
  • Hardip Devsi, Cladding Remediation Division
  • Stephen Garvin, Head of Building Standards Division
  • Colette Templeton, Building Standards Division
  • Colin Hird, Building Standards Division
  • Scott Young, Building Standards Division


  • Sean Neill, Director for Local Government and Housing
  • Mo Rooney, Deputy Director, Safer Communities
  • Rachel Sunderland, Head of Cladding Remediation Division

Items and actions

Welcome and action points from previous meeting

Attendees and apologies confirmed. It was noted that the minutes of the previous Ministerial Working Group (MWG) meeting held on Wednesday 8 June 2022 were agreed and published.

Update on previously agreed action points:

  • SG Officials to produce a note relating to the important aspects of Scottish Advice Note (SAN) and PAS 9980, alongside a background note detailing the differences. Submission sent on 14 June 2022 - completed
  • SG Officials to confirm when the changes regarding the ban of particular cladding materials comes into force in England. The changes to regulation noted for England related to their change from an 18 m to a 11 m trigger height for combustible/non-combustible cladding on multi residential buildings. These came into effect on 1 December 2022, such changes had already come into effect for Scotland on 1 June 2022 - completed
  • SG officials to meet and discuss the best way forward for HRI and develop communications for the pause to the third iteration of the data set and provide further advice to Ministers. A submission with further advice and Q and A was sent to Ministers on the 7 July. The HRI will not be updated at present, but is still a live dataset. It will be used in the development of a register of 'safe buildings' over the cladding programme discovery phase - completed

All actions are now completed and no further comments were received.

Single Building Assessment and Cladding Remediation Fund

SG Officials reported that the Single Building Assessment (SBA) and cladding programme continues at pace working on over 100 buildings being assessed on threat to life and includes how to assess and define approach to remediation.

It was noted that changes to ‘cladding bans’ has had in impact by causing fire engineers involved in SBA to reassess remediation plans and risk assessments including revisiting buildings for a higher degree of safety.

The programme started with 25 buildings and has expanded up to circa. 105 buildings and these are being assessed in line with the capacity of the industry. Around £654k out of >£1m committed has been spent so far. Money has been released to a building which has started remediation.

Safer buildings accord in discussion with homes for Scotland. Different approach from UK in being more collaborative and fair. Not based on sanctions first.

Building Safety Levy is an England only tax, but we are looking at a how similar tax could operate in Scotland to help support funding cladding remediation.

2023/24 continue to expand programme with a note of an additional £300 million being made available on top of the original £97 million for SBA and remediations.

The Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government discussed the moving parts for both Scotland and UK with difficulties around insurance and mortgages. Highlighted the need for good communication of the programme, as being critical, including keeping parliament informed as they emerge.

Scottish Advice Note (SAN): Version 2

SG Officials provided an update on the on publication of the ‘Scottish Advice Note: Determining the fire risk posed by external wall cladding systems in existing multi-storey residential buildings (Version 2.0). 

Background was provided including on the expert panel following the tragic Grenfell Tower fire which produced 22 advice notes targeted at multistorey, multi occupied residential buildings and which were merged in 2020 to a consolidated document. The consolidated advice note has now been withdrawn in England and replaced with a detailed risk appraisal methodology contained in a document known as PAS 9980.

Version 1 of the SAN was jointly undertaken with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) with stakeholder consultation and published in August 2021. No negativity has been recorded towards version 1 of the SAN.

Version 2 of the SAN was published on 16th December 2022 with Ministerial approval to include updates for the Single Building Assessment and Safer Buildings Accord with more detailed guidance of the appraisal process and reference to PAS 9980 as a useful tool. No media enquiries received to date.

The update was noted by Ministers.

Building safety issues

SG officials provided a brief overview of current building safety matters emerging from partnership working with UK Government including Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC), Large panel systems (LPS), brick slips, rooftop extensions, structural safety of new buildings, lightweight timber and steel frames and aging post – WW2 high rise concrete buildings. Emphasis was placed on raising early awareness and a requirement to come back with more detailed advice as SG Officials become more aware through further planned UK Government led research into LPS and RAAC, targeted working group meetings and continued partnership working.

Officials were seeking the views of Ministers:

  • on agreement that the Building and Fire Safety Ministerial Working Group is the correct platform to raise and seek direction on these issues
  • Scotland should agree to work with the UK Government on the imminent research into LPS and RAAC (if viable e.g. costs, practicalities etc.)
  • ministers to note – BSD officials will continue to engage with the UK Government and devolved nations on these building safety matters and further briefing will be provided to ministers once more information and data is available

Ministers agreed in principle.

  • action point 1 – further advice regarding these building safety matters to be provided to Ministers in due course. The immediate focus on RAAC and LPS, with advice on other matters as required.

Ministers noted the update advice to follow in due course.

NHS estate

SG Officials provided an update on actions being taken to determine the extent and risk of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) in the NHS estate. Confirmation was provided of recently commissioned surveys to understand the extent of the problem and of ongoing engagement with colleagues in England. An example was provided of one NHS region where RAAC is being managed by the local team with the support of RAAC specialists. Mention was made that remediation within a busy estate has its challenges.  

Officials provided an update on the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH). A long programme of cladding related works has started in November 2022 with a long delivery period and noted that managing with an operational hospital makes it a slower process. Quite a long period to completion. NHS Assure are working to make sure work ongoing with work area sectioned off with good wayfinding in place and well managed. Not much negative feedback by public, business as usual.

  • action point 2 – further updates on the NHS RAAC survey to be provided to Ministers at further Ministerial Working Group meetings and on completion of the work.

Ministers noted the updates.

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.

Fire Risk Assessments

Firstly an update on Fire Risk Assessments confirmed that fire risk assessors have no legal requirements to hold accreditation in Scotland. SG Officials undertook work with stakeholders in 2022 looking at improvements such as increasing duty holder awareness and possible making it a legal requirement for holding appropriate qualifications/accreditation. A submission was provided to Minister Whitham in December 2022 outlining these recommendations and a further update will be provided in February 2023 on progress.

Grenfell Inquiry: phase 1

An update on the Grenfell Inquiry Phase 1 was provided. SG response has been completed apart from one action – to complete external information plates on all high rise domestic premises in Scotland (around 560 out of 870 fitted with the rest recorded digitally). SG continues to work with Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS). HMFSI also completed their High Rise Inspection report (shared with Ministers in September 2022). Overall, the report contains recommendations where HMFSI think that the SFRS has scope to improve performance and consistency regarding its arrangements for firefighting in high rise buildings however, overall assessment of HM Fire Service Inspectorate (HMFSI) is positive and they acknowledge that the Service is already working to progress certain workstreams for areas under development.

Grenfell Inquiry: phase 2

An update on the Grenfell Inquiry Phase 2 was provided. Phase 2 started in early 2020 with final closing submissions in November 2022. There were eight modules in this Phase. The Inquiry Report will be published later in 2023. Around 299,000 documents were disclosed and we expect a significant number of recommendations to be made. Officials noted changes to fire standards, fire safety guidance and work on competence that has already been undertaken. However, it is likely that further work will be required on the report. 

Futures Board

An update on the Building Standards Futures Board related work was provided, the main points were as follows:

  • increased number of meetings of Building Standards Futures Board to four this year
  • the Building Standards hub pilot from was launched in May last year for 18 months, with the potential to extend this to 24 months being considered, whilst a business case for a long-term hub is being considered. The hub is staffed with two Directors and a Learning and Development manager
  • research on Building Warrant fees has been undertaken and now moved to Part 2 of this work which, in the coming year, will be subject to public consultation
  • COSLA have made proposals on local fee setting. This is a wider than building standards and work is ongoing with SG finance colleagues on this proposal
  • the compliance plan workstream is developing the role of the compliance plan manager informed by research and for consideration by the working group
  • two further ongoing research projects being undertaken to Consider the impact on the role of the verifier of the introduction of the Compliance Plan Manger (CPM) and, Compliance in Low Rise, High Volume House Building
  • work continues in partnership with Fife Council and Scottish Futures Trust on the trailing of the Compliance Plan documentation on the Dunfermline Learning Campus
  • digital transformation: building standards firmly in-scope of the Planning Digital Transformation Programme. Work is progressing through collaborative working with BE-ST Built Environment – Smarter Transformation on scoping reports for mobile applications
  • supporting the development of guidance by LABSS (Local Authority Building Standards Scotland) on Remote Video Inspections (RVI)
  • CivTech Accelerator process, is coming to an end. The challenge company have produced a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) of a construction project assistant, that would be capable of converting Building Warrant documents CCNP (planned verification inspections and checks) and into tasks which can be used to automate requests to local authority BS teams for inspection of the right work, at the right time
  • on the workforce strategy The Construction Technical Modern Apprenticeship began in September last year, officials are working with local authorities on the second cohort
  • a competency assessment framework has been launched with local authorities and we are working with local authorities on virtual training for all verifier staff
  • competency Assessment System user feedback programme now concluded. Findings being used to identify options for an IT solution for digitalisation of the CAS
  • engagement with construction industry professional institutions will be taken forward in the coming months to expand the range of continuing professional development opportunities. The approach and timeline to introduce third party validation and revalidation of competency will be considered

Building Safety Act 2022

UK Government Building Safety Act 2022 makes substantial changes in England for the regime for high rise residential buildings, as well as making changes that apply across the UK. The key points are as follows:

  • it creates new building safety regulator (the Health and Safety Executive) in England for safety of high rise residential developments from planning and building standards through to end of life and will include new and existing buildings
  • HSE will run three committees 1. Building Advisory Committee (BAC), 2. Industry competence and 3. Residents panel. SG has been asked to be observer of the BAC but will also look at joining the other two groups
  • the new homes ombudsman scheme extends to Scotland
  • the 1997 Architects Act also amended
  • the construction products section of the Act does cover Scotland, with a new regulator being created through the Office of Product Safety and Standards

SG will continue to liaise with UK Government and will bring back updates to the MWG.

Cameron House Hotel, Fatal Accident Inquiry

Two recommendations of the Inquiry report were for the Scottish Government , as follows:

Active fire suppression for converted historic buildings to hotels

Address hidden voids and cavities in historic buildings used as hotels.

Officials from Building Standards Division, Fire and Rescue Unit and Historic Environment Scotland sponsorship team have met and will provide a submission to Ministers with recommendations on the response to the recommendations. There is a deadline of 8th March to respond.

  • action point 3 – advice will be provided to Ministers in advance of the response to the Crown Office

Ministers requested updates on the New County Hotel, Perth and Jenners, Edinburgh fires for the next meeting.

  • action point 4 – updates on the New County Hotel, Perth and Jenners, Edinburgh fires will be provided for the next MWG meeting

Any other business

A recommendation that the terms of reference of the group should be updated and in particular consideration of recent fire tragedies was accepted by Ministers.

  • action point 5 – MWG terms of reference to be reviewed and updated

It was noted that the next meeting will take place on the 14 June 2023.

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