Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MP tells of 'deep concern' over fire alarm rollout
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Local MP Jamie Stone has spoken of his "deep concern" over the Scottish Government's requirement for all householders to install interlinked fire alarms and said it would be unrealistic to go ahead with full implementation of the scheme next month.
His party, the Liberal Democrats, would like to see a formal grace period ensuring that home-owners won’t face enforcement of new rules until problems with the rollout – which has already been delayed – are addressed.
Every home in Scotland must have interlinked fire alarms by the start of February following a change in the law that came about after the Grenfell Tower blaze in London in 2017.
Earlier this week Rhoda Grant, the Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands, described the policy as "shambolic" and claimed householders had been "caught on the hop" because of a lack of public information.
Mr Stone, the MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, said: "Fire and carbon monoxide systems save many lives each year. I share the Scottish Government's ambition to ensure everyone is equally protected. However, I am deeply concerned by how this rollout has been handled.
"The Scottish Government has done very little to help households on low incomes with the costs or to make people aware of the little that is currently available. At a time when there is a cost-of-living crisis, it is essential that home-owners are properly supported.
"This legislation has already been delayed for a year due to a lack of preparedness from the Scottish Government and it is frustrating that this delay has not been used to ensure that people can install the necessary equipment. This is a failure that may put lives at risk.
"However, in these circumstances, it is unrealistic to proceed with the February 1 timetable for full implementation. The Scottish Government needs to provide more active and urgent support for households who have not been able to install the correct systems.
"Scottish Liberal Democrats are requesting that, while this urgent work is carried out, a formal grace period is announced. It would mean the legislation comes into effect but that there won’t be enforcement until such time as all home-owners can reasonably meet the standards, proper financial support is put in place and the problems that have accompanied the rollout are resolved."
Some members of the public have been contacting Caithness Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) about the new rules.
"We've had a number of enquiries, some of which have been eligible for a referral to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to support the installation," CAB manager Sadie Kevill said. "We have had some clients who would not be eligible for support and have concerns about how they will pay for this.
"It is a concern that there are still households that may not be aware of the changes, and the deadline is fast approaching."
A spokesperson for Highland Council said: “Highland Council has a responsibility to update all the smoke alarms in our houses to meet the new fire safety legislation.
“The council is currently continuing our programme of works and will report to the Scottish Housing Regulator at the end of the financial year to confirm compliance with the new legislation.”
Pentland Housing Association's acting CEO Corrine Mackay said: "To meet regulatory guidance, Pentland Housing Association is currently carrying out a programme for the installation of interlinked heat/smoke detectors to all properties owned by the association."
A spokesperson for Cairn Housing Association said: "Cairn has been installing interlinked smoke alarms in our homes for the last three years and we are close to reaching our target when the legislation comes into force next month."
A spokesperson for the Association of British Insurers said: “It will be for individual insurers to decide how they respond to the new standard – anyone who is unclear on their policy terms and conditions in relation to the new law in Scotland should speak to their insurer.
"Insurers will expect that households and businesses are compliant with any legislation on requirements for the property, such as a requirement to have fire alarms.
"They may ask customers questions about whether the property is fitted with working fire alarms, but are not likely to ask questions about specific standards.”