Scottish Government rejects calls to delay new fire alarm law
Strict new rules on fire alarms in Scottish homes will come into force on February 1, despite calls from opposition parties to delay the implementation of the new law.
The legislation requires all homes to have interlinked fire alarms and heat alarms able to communicate with each other and activate simultaneously. That means that if one is triggered, then all of them should sound.
And homes with a carbon-fuelled appliance, such as a boiler, fire, heater or flue will need to have a carbon monoxide detector.
For many homeowners, the costs will likely start at around £200.
The change in law - which was brought in after the Grenfell Tower tragedy - has been best by problems, notably a lack of public awareness. It has already been delayed by 12 months.
In a statement to parliament today, housing secretary Shona Robison told MSPs: “Having considered the balance of risks, I’m clear that it’s not right to delay the legislation that is designed to protect and save lives”.
However, she said that nobody would be penalised for being unable to install the alrms and that it was "unlikely" that insurance policies would be invalidated by homeowners not installing the interlinked system.
Robison said: “Ensuring people are safe from risk of fire in their homes is a key priority for the Scottish Government.
“These improved standards will reduce the risk of injury and death in house fires.”
She added: “We've engaged proactively with the Association of British Insurers throughout the legislative process, and they have ensured their members were aware of the changes and have stated that while insurers may ask customers questions about whether the property is fitted with working fire alarms, they are not likely to ask questions about specific standards.
“Anyone who is unclear on their policy terms and conditions in relation to the new law should speak to their insurer.”
Scottish Conservative housing spokesperson Miles Briggs said the minister had made the wrong decision in not delaying the rule change.
He said: “These regulations were postponed a year ago and I think that was a welcome step forward, given the fact that we saw the outcome of Covid-19 on homeowners – especially elderly and vulnerable homeowners not wanting workmen coming into their homes and I think that was a proper step forward.
“But can I ask the Cabinet Secretary why in this case, given that the actual Covid restrictions are not going to be lifted until Monday, why she hasn't heard that call again?”
Robison said that “the important thing here is to get on with supporting and encouraging homeowners to put in these devices which potentially could save lives”.
Speaking after the minister's statement, Scottish Labour’s housing spokesperson, Mark Griffin, said: “This statement was a chance to shed some much needed light on this mess – but the SNP have no answers to even the most basic questions.
“This was supposed to be a chance to improve safety in our homes, but the SNP have let it descend into chaos. Their stubborn refusal to delay is completely inexplicable.
“There are still serious questions over whether insurance policies could be voided, and the Cabinet Secretary did nothing to convince us that the supply shortages have been dealt with.
“People up and down the country are worried about being in breach of the law, because they can’t afford an alarm or can’t find an alarm, and some still don’t even know they need a new alarm.
“If they insist on forging ahead with these changes and hit households with hefty bills in the middle of a cost of living crisis, they must iron out these problems and do more to help the poorest households meet the costs.”