New rules requiring all Scottish homes to have interlinked fire alarms will come into force in less than two weeks, despite warnings that many people will not be able to make the changes in time or cannot afford to have the devices installed.
The Scottish Government confirmed on Wednesday that it was pushing ahead with the legislation, which is due to come into force on 1 February.
The policy, which was designed in response to the Grenfell fire in London, was originally due to come into force in February last year but was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Under the rules, every home in Scotland must have interlinked smoke alarms installed in the main living area, hallways and landings on each storey, as well as a heat alarm in the kitchen.
Carbon monoxide detectors must also be installed in rooms with carbon-fuelled appliances such as a boiler or gas fire, although these do not have to be linked to the rest of the system.
Holyrood’s opposition parties have been calling for the start date to be delayed again amid fears that many homeowners have not yet had the devices installed, either because they cannot afford to do so or cannot source them from manufacturers.
But Housing Secretary Shona Robison rejected any further delay, tells MSPs on Wednesday that the legislation was there to “protect and save lives” and could not wait.
She stressed that nobody would be penalised if they failed to have the devices installed by 1 February, and that councils would not be going into people’s homes to inspect any work.
She also said insurers were unlikely to ask policyholders about whether they were complying with the rules, but instead merely if they had smoke alarms installed.
This approach was questioned by Green MSP Ariane Burgess, who pointed out “there are no penalties for non-compliance other than missing out on potentially life-saving measures”.
Ms Robison said that while councils had responsibility for ensuring compliance, “they are not going to do that in a knocking on people’s doors way”.
She added: “We are expecting people to take this measure as a priority, as homeowners, to put this perhaps above other things.
“We understand some of the issues that will require people to have more time to do that… the message to people is to do it as quickly as they can because it could be lifesaving.”
Scottish Labour’s housing spokesman Mark Griffin said: “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.
“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.”