Coronavirus (COVID-19) Ventilation SLWG recommendations and wider update on COVID-19 adaptations: Scottish Government response

Responses to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Ventilation Short Life Working Group (SLWG) recommendations and a wider update on progress to deliver COVID-19 Adaptations commitments within the COVID-19 Strategic Framework update published in February 2022.

Dear Members,

I am writing to update you on the Scottish Government’s progress to deliver the COVID-19 adaptations commitments in the COVID-19 Strategic Framework update.

As you are aware, the COVID-19 Strategic Framework update refreshed our strategic intent: from a focus on suppressing cases to managing COVID-19 effectively, primarily through adaptations to the way we live, work and access to services, that will strengthen our resilience to the virus, as we rebuild for a better future. This will mean changing behaviours and our physical environment.

Since February, the Scottish Government has continued to work with sectors across the economy and broader society to ensure that we embed and enhance, as far as possible, the adaptations that have helped reduce transmission during the pandemic and that continue to be of vital importance to mitigate on-going COVID-19 risks.

COVID Sense Signage Pilot

Today (29 June) we are starting the roll out of a COVID Sense Signage pilot (referred to as ‘COVID-19 Signage pilot scheme’ in the Strategic Framework update). This voluntary signage will enable and encourage organisations in the public, private and third sector to provide reassurance to people about the protective measures they have in place. This may be particularly re-assuring for people with underlying health conditions and people who are at higher risk from COVID-19.

I am pleased that the Scottish Parliament is one of our pilot partners, so you may notice signage across the Holyrood Campus.

The pilot will run until the end of August 2022 and the evaluation from the pilot will inform decisions about Covid Sense Signage and communications over the autumn and winter. Further information on the pilot is available here:

I would welcome your support in making businesses and organisations within your constituency aware of this initiative and in encouraging its uptake.

COVID-19 Ventilation Short Life Working Group (SLWG) Recommendations & Autumn- Winter Ventilation Action Plan

The Scottish Government’s COVID-19 Ventilation Short Life Working Group (SLWG) on non- healthcare settings, chaired by Professor Tim Sharpe, was set up in late summer 2021. The purpose of the SLWG was to provide advice and make recommendations to the Scottish Government on actions to improve ventilation and therefore support the creation of infection resilient environments.

The SLWG reported to the Scottish Government at the end of March 2022 and made ten recommendations including reviewing building standards and retrofit strategies to embed improvements in ventilation; increasing technical skills in the relevant industries; improving air quality in buildings and raising awareness of the importance of ventilation through a

targeted communications approach. A list of the SLWG’s recommendations and further details on how the Scottish Government intends to take them forward is included in Annex A.

In recognition of the importance of building resilience, and a possible resurgence of COVID- 19, we will be prioritising the SLWG recommendations and actions that can be taken quickly to improve ventilation ahead of autumn/winter. As part of this, we will set up a new COVID- 19 Adaptations expert advisory group, chaired by Professor Tim Sharpe, this summer. We will also issue clear and practical guidance for organisations and the public to maximise ventilation, including information on air quality and ventilation systems, to be published in September.

Business sector

Officials have been engaging with a variety of sectors to understand what adaptations they have  maintained following the removal of regulations and detailed guidance. A number of businesses and sectors have been very helpful in this work and have highlighted a range of adaptations they have kept in place to keep staff and customers safe.

This work has also highlighted that some businesses remain conscious of the continued risk that COVID-19 presents and, while they are keen to operate as normal as possible, some adaptations remain in place to avoid the work and cost required to reinstate them should the risk of COVID-19 increase. Many of the adaptations which have been kept in place have been driven by customer demand due to a change in expectations around these adaptations.

Officials are considering the feedback received from this work, along with wider work being done with a range of stakeholders on lessons learned, to help develop advice and guidance for businesses and to help develop contingency planning around COVID-19.


We have published Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on reducing the risks in schools which sets out an increased expectation that across all local authorities there should be sufficient CO2 monitors made available to allow all learning, teaching and play spaces to be assessed. This guidance will continue to support improved ventilation throughout the Autumn-Winter period.

We have supported the delivery of this commitment by allocating an additional £10m to local authorities to ensure that schools and early learning & childcare settings have access to CO2 monitoring.

This follows an earlier allocation of £90m COVID-19 logistics funding provided to schools for uses including improved ventilation, and we are aware that some local authorities used their share of this funding for those purposes. Additionally, the Scottish Government announced in January that we would provide local authorities with additional capital funding of up to £5m to support any further urgent remedial work that is needed to ensure good ventilation in schools and early learning & childcare settings.

This represents a significant investment in ensuring ventilation, along with other mitigations in schools, plays an effective role in reducing the risks of COVID-19.

Further Education & Higher Education

The Ventilation SLWG provided a set of recommendations for the Further Education (FE), Higher Education (HE), and Community Learning and Development (CLD) sectors in October 2021. These are currently referenced in the sector’s published COVID-19 Recovery Group’s Guiding Principles, which FE, HE and CLD partners are utilising to support their COVID-19 recovery work.

In March 2022 the Business Ventilation Fund supported the purchase and roll out of 4,600 CO2 monitors for FE/HE institutions. Officials agreed a process with the sector that ensured the distribution of this stock of CO2 monitors to institutions was fair and directed to institutions on an equitable and needs basis.

I hope you find this update of assistance.

Yours sincerely,

John Swinney

Annex A – Scottish Government’s response to the covid-19 ventilation short live working group (slwg) recommendations for non- healthcare settings


Scottish Government Response

  1. To take forward a Covid Safety Signage Scheme

Accept. The Covid Sense Signage pilot had a soft launch on 30 May with a small group of organisations.

A wider pilot launch with all partner organisations took place on 29 June.

The pilots will continue until August after which an evaluation process will be undertaken. This will inform next steps on signage including how we might approach communications and protective measures for the autumn and winter.

  1. Existing building standards should be reviewed to ensure a greater emphasis on ventilation and appropriate air quality is set out in regulation.

Accept. The COVID-19 Strategic Framework update included a commitment to review Scottish building regulations and explore how buildings of the future can have infection-resilience built into their designs.

The review has started and will continue into 2023. This review will focus on new work and installations.

  1. To set up an Expert Advisory Group to provide wider advice on ventilation and improving air quality in Scotland. 


Accept. Work is underway to set up a new COVID-19 Adaptations Expert Advisory Group. Prof. Tim Sharpe, previous SLWG chair, has been appointed a new chair for the COVID-19 Adaptations Expert Advisory Group and work is currently underway with the Chair to scope the role, remit and membership of the group which will provide advice on a broad range of COVID-19 Adaptations, including ventilation with a view to the group meeting for the first time in August.

  1. Develop forms of public and user communication regarding air quality and ventilation systems to allow individuals and those who own, manage and occupy buildings to understand the importance and methods to improve them, and the use of outdoor space.



Accept. We are reviewing and expanding the guidance hosted on the Scottish Government Website.

This will include:

  • Guidance for individuals explaining the benefits and importance of good. ventilation and air quality to both stemming transition of COVID-19 and wider health
  • Guidance for building managers and owners detailing ways of improving ventilation and air quality in their settings.
  • Information on the most appropriate uses of filtration and air cleaning technology.

This guidance will be developed in partnership with Public Health Scotland (PHS) and will be published in September.

Officials will also engage with the People’s Panel in order to understand barriers to ventilation. In addition the importance of ventilation will remain a part of Scottish Government marketing campaigns into the autumn and winter period.

  1. Provide greater information and guidance around forms of filtration and air cleaning in order to provide the public and users with a more in depth understanding of both the uses and limitations of these technologies in improving air quality.

Accept. This will be included in the review of guidance set out above.


  1. To develop a strategy on the best methods to gain insights into the actual ventilation performance of buildings in Scotland as an aid to understanding health impacts on the public and building occupants. This may include the development of monitoring and evaluation tools or a survey of ventilation levels in the existing building stock, or development of requirements for monitoring of buildings. This could also take the form of an Observatory involving a cross section of buildings across the country.

We accept this recommendation in principle and plan to ask the new COVID-19 Adaptations Expert Advisory Group to advise on how to take this recommendation forward.


  1. Ensure that good ventilation and air quality are made required outcomes for retrofit strategies, although work is required to understand challenges for the building stock in Scotland and to develop effective solutions appropriate to the climate and location.

We accept this recommendation in principle and Officials are scoping the resource implications and deliverability. Initial work has commenced to review and promote existing guidance. 



  1. To develop design aids and tools necessary, both for existing and new builds, including carrying out an assessment of existing buildings. The shortfalls in existing tools, for example the Standard Assessment Procedure which doesn't assess ventilation should be addressed.

We accept this recommendation in principle and Officials are scoping the resource implications and deliverability. Initial work has commenced to raise awareness of existing guidance.



  1. To develop skills in design, facilities management and construction industry to enable these challenges to be delivered in practice. This will involve the promotion of appropriate training and accreditation that will support the development of these skills.

We accept this recommendation in principle and Officials are considering the resource implications and deliverability. Initial work has commenced to develop a Continuous Professional Development session on ventilation and engagement with Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish funding Council to identify and map existing and new training opportunities.


We will learn from the Chartered Institution of Building Services who are currently carrying out an audit of skills in the industry, plan to tighten up on CPD and are talking with educational establishments across the UK about the inclusion and prominence of ventilation in their course content.

  1. To support the establishment of a new Business Ventilation Fund. It is the recommendation of the Group that this fund would focus on long term adaptions with the greatest benefit to air quality – these would include improvements to windows, doors and mechanical ventilation systems. This fund should take on board learnings from the evaluation of the existing fund and data drawn from it to establish the most effective ways to disseminate a future fund to businesses that need it.

We are currently evaluating lessons learned from the 2021 Business Ventilation Fund and we will consider this recommendation in light of the findings of that evaluation and engagement with the business sector and FE/HE institutions.



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