'Throwing a tiddlywink at the problem': Criticism of last minute funding increase for Scottish fire alarm law change

The Scottish Government has come under fire over a “knee-jerk reaction” after announcing it would double the funding for vulnerable people to help them fit integrated fire alarm systems, just days before the controversial legislation comes into force.

Linked smoke alarms should be fitted by February 1, according to new legislation
Linked smoke alarms should be fitted by February 1, according to new legislation

The law requiring every home to have interlinked smoke alarms in the living room, hallways and landings and a heat alarm in the kitchen comes into force tomorrow.

The work costs around £350 and, over the weekend, housing secretary Shona Robison pledged a further £500,000 to cover the costs for disabled and older Scots.

She said: "I'm pleased to announce today that we are giving Care and Repair a further £500,000, doubling their funding to help ensure they can support vulnerable people beyond February 1.

"This comes on top of the £1 million we have given to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to install alarms in owner-occupied homes identified as highest risk."

Robison said that homeowners who have not had the alarms installed by the deadline would not be prosecuted, and that councils would be asked to take a proportionate approach, by doing no more than offering advice on which type of alarm should be installed and where.But the Scottish Conservatives criticised the move as “yet another knee-jerk reaction” to “another blunder by the SNP Government” who have failed to adequately publicise the changes.

Scottish Conservative Shadow Housing Secretary Miles Briggs MSP said: “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.”

Insurers have said it is unlikely that failure to have the alarms will jeopardise policies but critics say there is still confusion and a lack of awareness of the new laws.

Introduction was delayed for 12 months because of the pandemic and critics have called for a further delay amid concerns that many homes do not have the alarms, face lengthy delays in getting them supplied or fitted.

Brian Sloan, Age Scotland's chief executive, welcomed the extra cash but said it demonstrated the scale of support still needed. He said: "While the end results are broadly welcome, there has been a severe underestimation of what it would take to get the country near the intentions of the law."

West Lothian Council leader Lawrence Fitzpatrick said: "As I understand it, this is throwing a tiddlywink at a problem. I am absolutely astounded that the Scottish Government has not been listening."Scottish Labour Housing spokesperson Mark Griffin said the new funding was still insufficient.

He said: "This will still barely scratch the surface of what is needed."

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