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Climbdown by Scottish Government over controversial fire alarms deadline which sparked concerns among Highland residents

By Ian Duncan

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Illustration of a smoke alarm sounding off in a smoky room.
Illustration of a smoke alarm sounding off in a smoky room.

PEOPLE pressure has seen controversial fire safety regulations for all Scottish homes delayed for more than a year – though householders still face a hefty bill eventually.

Last week residents raised concerns that they only had until February 1 to comply with new Scottish Government requirements for all homes to have interlinked smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

Many were also alarmed that they had been unaware of the move, which could mean having to shell out up to £600 to get the new equipment installed.

To bring the average property up to standard would need ceiling-mounted smoke alarms in the living room, hallways and landings, a heat alarm in every kitchen and carbon monoxide alarms.

The row over the timetable erupted after leaflets from companies began circulating last week, warning of the looming deadline.

It is estimated to be around £220 plus the cost, if needed, for installation, with some private companies known to quote up to £600.

Calls were made for the deadline to be delayed by at least a year to take into account the time lost due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Scottish Government has now confirmed the new law will not come into force until 2022.

David Edes, of Brudes Hill in Inverness, was among those who contacted the paper, criticising what he believes is poorly thought out legislation.

“Having priced the parts required to upgrade a relatively modern house which already has mains linked alarms it’s £229 plus fitting – as a pensioner that’s two weeks’ income,” he said.

Robert Gillanders, of Lochardil, said he and most of his friends were also surprised when they found out about the new law.

“I knew nothing about it until my friend rang me,” he said. “There’s an awful lot of people that don’t know about this. Going by the website there is no financial help available.”

Announcing the climbdown housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “Given the impact of Covid-19, and the difficulties this is likely to create for people seeking to install new smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, we have listened to concerns and decided to ask the Scottish Parliament to delay implementation.

“If this delay is approved, we will continue to work with partners to spread awareness of the changes before the new deadline.

“Our focus will be on supporting householders to ensure satisfactory fire alarms are installed so we can improve the safety of their homes.”

Age Scotland had considerable concerns about the lack of public awareness, the ability for people on low incomes to afford the measures and the short term risk of scams and rogue traders.

The charity’s head of policy, Adam Stachura, said: “While there is no doubt that this is a very important move to improve community and home safety, bringing private homes into line with the private rented sector, it has caught most homeowners by complete surprise.

“The public awareness and promotion of this significant change leaves a lot to be desired and there has been near radio silence from the Scottish Government about this over the course of the year.”

Scottish Conservative leader, Moray’s MP Douglas Ross said: “It’s absolutely staggering that there has been a lack of published information from the SNP government, who have a duty to make the public aware and put mechanisms in place for people to have this work done safely and at an affordable cost.”

Highlands and Islands Green MSP John Finnie said: “This should not have been the surprise it is to many.”

He hoped that financial help would be made available for those in need.

“The Scottish Government advise that, ‘local authorities have broad discretionary powers to provide advice and assistance to homeowners with work needed to look after their homes’,” he said.

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