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Fire safety to be improved in new homes in Scotland following campaign by Highlands and Islands MSP in wake of Grenfell Tower tragedy

By Val Sweeney

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David Stewart MSP.
David Stewart MSP.

New fire sprinkler regulations will go out to Scotland's house building industry following a campaign by a Highlands and Islands MSP in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

It comes ahead of new regulations requiring all new-build social homes, flats, and shared multi-occupied residential buildings to be fitted with automatic fire suppression systems from March 2021.

Previously, this was only required in new high-rise blocks of flats above 18 metres.

It comes after Labour MSP David Stewart proposed a private member's bill to improve safety in new social housing following the Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017 when 72 people died.

"I’m delighted this is coming in before I retire as an MSP at next year’s election – what better than a life-saving ‘present’ at Christmas?" Mr Stewart said.

"Fire sprinklers have been proven time and time again to be effective in the fight against fire and I know that this move will save lives.

"There has always been strong backing for these plans from the public, the industry and other MSPs especially in the light of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

"I would still like retro-fitting sprinklers in older properties to be considered, and although that is my longer term hope I understand the problems this would pose."

Mr Stewart was told in 2018 that the Scottish Government was taking forward his campaign for greater fire safety methods in social housing.

The plans received overwhelming support, with 94 per cent of the consultation responses in favour and over 50 MSPs, from across all five political parties, signing up in support of the bill’s final proposal.

Several outreach events are being held with providers of new homes in the run-up to implementation next March.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said "I am very grateful to David Stewart MSP for his work on bringing this important issue forward and gaining cross-parliament support.

"The increased requirements for automatic fire suppression systems will further improve fire safety for thousands of new homes each year.

"These systems have been proven to save lives and it is right that we now make these changes.

"We will continue to work closely with housing providers to make sure there is wide awareness of what is required ahead of the new regulations coming into effect."

Stuart Stevens, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service assistant chief officer, welcomed the amended regulations and the increased provision of automatic fire suppression systems.

"This provision is a significant step forward in fire safety and will increase the safety of our communities, residents and firefighters," he said.

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