New funding for fire alarms "will barely scratch the surface"
The Scottish Government has announced an extra £500,000 in funding to help elderly and disabled people install new fire alarms that meets its new safety requirements.
However, the Scottish Conservatives say that “households have been treated completely unfairly”, while Scottish Labour says the new funding “will still barely scratch the surface of what is needed”.
The new rules require all homes in Scotland to have interlinked fire alarms, which communicate with each other so that a fire in one room sets off alarms throughout the property, giving people more time to escape and call emergency services.
The requirements have been in place for new-build and private-rented homes for a decade, and will come into effect for owner-occupied homes and those in the social rented sector on Tuesday 1 February.
They place a legal duty on councils to monitor how many homes are compliant. Homeowners will not be penalised if they haven’t had the alarms installed in time but are encouraged to do so.
Housing Secretary Shona Robison said that together with the £1m already provided to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to install alarms in the homes of people at highest risk, the Scottish Government is providing £2m to help people to meet the new standards.
The Dundee City East MSP said: “We’re introducing these new standards because interlinked fire alarms will save more lives. One death from fire is one too many, but tragically last year alone 44 people died in house fires in Scotland. We would encourage all homeowners to install the alarms as soon as they are able – long life battery-powered interlinked alarms are as easy to install as traditional standalone ones.
“We know that some homeowners may not be able to meet the cost of fitting the necessary alarms so had already provided £500,000 funding through Care and Repair Scotland to help elderly and disabled people. We don’t want funding to be a barrier to this important work, which is why we’re now doubling this funding, taking our total support to help people install these alarms to £2m. We are in discussions with Care and Repair to ensure support continues up to and beyond the 1 February deadline, so that elderly and disabled people can make this fire safety improvement.”
Scottish Conservative shadow housing secretary Miles Briggs MSP said: “This is yet another knee-jerk reaction to another blunder by the SNP Government who have failed to adequately publicise these changes.
“The SNP expect households to comply with this new law on Tuesday yet have done nothing to monitor the progress of this scheme, or research how many homes are still falling short.
“Households have been treated completely unfairly and are having to frantically pick up the pieces due to the unattainable position they have been left in by the Scottish Government.
“Rather than trying to cover the cracks, the SNP should postpone this scheme and produce a thorough plan to ensure households are able to meet the requirements.”
Scottish Labour housing spokesperson Mark Griffin said: “It’s good to hear that funding has been coughed up for this vital scheme, which has been running out of money up and down the country.
“The more people this scheme can help the better – but this will still barely scratch the surface of what is needed.
“The last round of funding was enough to help just one person for every ten eligible, so doubling it is hardly a job well done.
“The SNP must step up efforts to make sure everyone can afford these important upgrades and keep their homes safe.”