The aim of the policy is to improve fire safety in Scottish homes, a priority for the Scottish Government.
On 14 June 2017 a major fire spread rapidly through Grenfell Tower, a 24 story residential high rise building in London. It is understood that at least 80 people lost their lives. Following the tragedy, the Scottish Government established a Ministerial Working Group ( MWG) to oversee a review of building and fire safety regulatory frameworks in Scotland. The MWG will be considering wider proposals for actions to reduce the risk of fire and will look at other measures to improve fire safety in domestic homes and other types of building (such as schools and hospitals), but as a first step, this consultation will concentrate solely on fire and smoke alarms in Scottish homes.
The Scottish Government’s view is that the fire and smoke alarm standard currently applied to private rented housing represents the minimum safe standard for all existing housing. To that end, the consultation proposes the most appropriate option to improve standards for fire and smoke alarms is to extend this standard to all tenures. Changes to the Scottish Housing Quality Standard ( SHQS) would therefore be necessary for social housing and to ensure all houses meet the highest standards, changes to the Tolerable Standard would also be necessary.
The changes proposed will help provide reassurance to residents, particularly those who are concerned about fire safety in their homes. It will contribute to the Scottish Government’s Safer and Stronger Strategic Objective and will impact on the following National Outcomes:
- We live in well-designed, sustainable places where we are able to access the amenities and services we need.
- We live our lives safe from crime, disorder and danger
This consultation will seek views on the proposed changes to standards required for smoke and fire alarms in Scottish homes.
Who will it affect?
All people living in Scottish houses, including people with protected characteristics, could be affected by the policy proposals which have the potential to improve fire safety in all of Scotland’s housing stock. Those living in new build properties and in the private rented sector are already living in properties required to meet the highest current standards. Social tenants and individual owner occupiers are therefore more likely to be affected. Implementation of the proposals will be of benefit to all those not currently living in properties covered by the current highest standards, as well as those living in neighbouring dwellings.
What might prevent the desired outcomes being achieved?
The desired outcome to raise all standards to the highest current level for fire and smoke detectors in homes will be informed by discussion during the consultation period and formal responses received.
Achieving the desired outcome will be dependent on social landlords and private individuals taking action to ensure compliance with new responsibilities which may be placed on them by additions to the SHQS and to the Tolerable Standard. Associated costs, timing and enforcement processes will impact on the desired outcome being achieved.
Scottish Government inquiries suggest that many social landlords have already gone beyond the current SHQS requirements. Inquiries suggest that the installation of hard wired smoke alarms in circulation areas is widespread in the social rented sector (but not universal). This has mainly been undertaken in conjunction with other improvement programmes such as heating installations or kitchen renewals. It is less likely that this work will include heat alarms in kitchen areas or the use of linked alarms in two or three storey dwellings. It is however possible that costs will be reduced where works already undertaken will go some way to meeting new requirements. Changes to the standard for social housing could have a much bigger impact on some landlords than others, depending on previous improvements.
The desired outcome might be more challenging to achieve in the owner occupied sector as there are no current minimum requirements for fire and smoke alarms in owner occupied housing. It is worth noting however that any property constructed with a building permit issued since 1993 will have been fitted with interlinked and hardwired smoke alarms in circulation spaces. Moreover, only an estimated 7% (110,000) of properties in this tenure do not have any smoke alarm at all. 
From a Human Rights perspective, the Scottish Government would have to carefully consider the implication of any changes. Any additional duty placed on owner occupiers could potentially conflict with the right to peaceful enjoyment of private property. Interference with this right must be proportionate and justifiable. This may be possible in view of the impact of fire not only on the owner, but also on their family and guests, and, in the case of rented properties, on tenants, as well as the risk to rescuers and neighbours. The economic costs to others, such as loss of property for neighbours, the costs to the Scottish and Fire Rescue Services of responding to fires, and the costs to NHS Scotland of treating victims of fires, are further supporting factors that the proposed regulation is proportionate and justifiable restriction of human rights.
Email: Agnes Meany, firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House