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Meeting of the Parliament [Draft]

Meeting date: Tuesday, May 14, 2024


Housing (Cladding Remediation) (Scotland) Bill

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Liam McArthur)

The next item of business is a debate on motion S6M-13190, in the name of Paul McLennan, on the Housing (Cladding Remediation) (Scotland) Bill. I invite members who wish to participate in the debate to press their request-to-speak buttons now or as soon as possible.


The Minister for Housing (Paul McLennan)

I am delighted to open the stage 3 debate on the Housing (Cladding Remediation) (Scotland) Bill. I am sure that we all recall the events of 14 June 2017. The Grenfell tower tragedy provided absolute clarity as to why building safety is so important, and we must not forget that. Our responsibility now, and the primary driver of the bill and the wider cladding remediation programme, is to safeguard home owners in and residents of buildings with potentially unsafe cladding and to ensure that a similar event is never allowed to happen again.

Colleagues from across the chamber have worked hard on the bill for that very purpose—to make buildings with potentially unsafe cladding safer and to ensure that our approach to cladding remediation is informed by those who will be affected by the cladding remediation process. I thank Ariane Burgess, who is the convener of the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee, and all the members of that committee for their thorough consideration of the complex issues involved. I have engaged with the committee, and, even though we are discussing the bill today, I will continue to engage with members as we move through the programme.

The bill has benefited greatly from the positive engagement of Opposition spokespeople and other members. The engagement that I have had with members from across the chamber has been open and constructive, and I very much welcome that. It is my strong belief that the bill and other key elements of the programme, including the finalisation of the single building assessment specification and the development of the Scottish safer buildings developer remediation contract, lay the foundations that are needed to drive forward our remediation programme at pace.

I want to remind members about the key points of the bill. Centrally, the bill creates powers for ministers to arrange for single building assessments to be undertaken to assess risks in buildings that are within the scope of the cladding remediation programme. The bill also defines the legal meaning of a single building assessment, or SBA, and allows ministers to specify the standards to which such an assessment should be undertaken.

A number of weeks ago, Pam Duncan-Glancy, Kaukab Stewart and I met residents of Lancefield Quay, and it was important to hear about what they have gone through. Those people are having to live with the issue every single day.

Focusing on the crucial aspect of the SBA process, I have already confirmed to the Parliament that the fire risk appraisal of external walls, which is a central element of each SBA, will be based on PAS 9980, tailored to a Scottish context. That is a critical enabler in setting the standard and propelling the pace of the programme, and it is in line with recommendations from the committee’s consideration of the bill.

On remediation, the bill creates powers for ministers to arrange for necessary remediation work, identified through an SBA, that is to be undertaken, including urgent cases where the risk is immediate, as well as the power to require occupants to evacuate buildings should the level of risk necessitate that.

Both the power to carry out a single building assessment and the powers of remediation in the bill can be utilised without the consent of owners when appropriate notice has been given, or, if the work is urgent, when notice has been given and as permitted by the circumstances. That is not a step to be taken lightly, but real-life experience from the pilot phase of our remediation programme leaves no doubt that it is an essential provision if progress is to be made.

On the cladding assurance register, as I have mentioned, the safeguarding of owners and residents must remain our primary driver. I am, however, alert to the consequential negative impacts that can arise in relation to the buying, selling, remortgaging and insuring of properties with potentially unsafe cladding. The bill requires ministers to establish a cladding assurance register that contains information on buildings that might have been through a single building assessment and any required remediation. The register will be key to ensuring that an accurate record of remediation works that has been undertaken is maintained, so that those with an interest, such as lenders and insurers, can understand and take assurance from the scope of works that have been undertaken in each building.

Finally, the bill will give ministers the powers to establish a responsible developers scheme through secondary legislation. That will enable developers to participate fully in the remediation of any of their buildings. I have been pleased to work closely with Homes for Scotland and developers and I look forward to continuing to do so, as well as taking forward a consultation ahead of any regulations being introduced to establish the scheme.

I reiterate my thanks to all those who have contributed to the development of the housing cladding remediation scheme and have engaged so constructively in consideration of it in Parliament. I pay special tribute to my colleague Kaukab Stewart for the work that she and other members have carried out. The scheme does not impact on every MSP’s constituency or region, but when it does impact, it does so on a large-scale basis. I thank the members who I have worked with over a number of months on the bill.

The bill is one part of the process and we know that we have lots to do with the remediation programme. I have talked about the bill enabling faster delivery of the cladding remediation programme, addressing the barriers that have been experienced to date and allowing us to deliver the step change in pace that is required to best serve those home owners and residents who are affected by potentially unsafe cladding.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees that the Housing (Cladding Remediation) (Scotland) Bill be passed.


Miles Briggs (Lothian) (Con)

I thank the Parliament’s clerks for their assistance with amendments to stage 3. I also pay tribute to and thank the Minister for Housing for the constructive way in which he has approached cross-party work on the bill. It has been very important for us to take that forward.

Last Monday, I met a group of residents who live in an orphan development in the capital to discuss the cladding bill and what they hope is the start of the end of what they have called a living hell. The stress that residents have faced and the information vacuum that they have had to live with has been unacceptable, especially when we consider that they are our constituents and are living in properties that have been labelled as potentially containing cladding that poses a threat to life. They were absolutely clear that they want a solution as soon as possible, because too many people’s lives have been put on hold as they wait to find out whether the cladding on their buildings is safe and what works need to be undertaken to allow them to move on with their lives. One resident said, “This whole situation has been really upsetting for many of us—this total lack of actual work—and we remain stuck in our properties, deemed fire risks, and unable to sell.”

I sincerely hope that the passing of the bill today will be the start of a solutions-based approach by the Government to deliver the outcomes that are needed to let people move on with their lives. This cannot just be a process; it must be about delivering the outcomes. The Scottish Government must implement the bill at speed and commission the surveying of buildings and the managed delivery of solutions at pace.

I would also like to make an appeal for the orphan buildings that were part of the initial pilot to be given an early focus. We know that they were in the pilot schemes, but I hope that ministers will acknowledge that those people have been let down and that the potential solution that has already been outlined to many residents must focus on the Government’s commissioning of surveys and works for those buildings. I have said to my constituents that I would write to the minister to see whether he would meet them to discuss how that can be done, not just for their development but for the other pilot projects.

As I stated at stages 1 and 2, I am determined to improve the rights of residents, including their right to be kept informed of not only the surveying work that is taking place, but any remediation work that will take place and how that will impact on their homes.

I hope that the amendments in my name that are now included in the bill will give residents the reporting mechanisms that will inform them of what is happening and when remediation work will take place. Good lines of communication are critically important, and I hope that the poor experiences that residents have had will now change.

As the minister stated in his letter to MSPs, the collaborative approach regarding the bill will extend beyond its parliamentary passage. I really welcome that. It is hugely important that the minister returns to Parliament with further updates on the programme and the progress that is being made. I hope that Parliament and the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee will take an active role in ensuring that that work is progressed.

The bill has created a framework for progress, but it is critically important that we now see that all the outcomes are delivered. As the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee stated, progress by the Scottish Government some seven years on has been “concerningly slow”. That is in sharp contrast with England, where more than two fifths of buildings have had work either started or completed, with 1,608 buildings in the scope of that programme in comparison with 105 in Scotland. That is why it is understandable that industry witnesses who gave evidence to committee expressed significant frustration at the slow progress in Scotland and the lack of leadership to date. I hope that the minister is about to change that.

Although the bill is often technical in nature, as with all framework bills, the devil is in the detail. I hope that both the guidance and ministerial direction will be properly scrutinised, especially to look at the impacts not only on our constituents but on small and medium-sized enterprises.

During the stage 1 debate, it was clear from the evidence, and from the discussions that the committee had, that many buildings will need on-going management and, often, bespoke factoring solutions. A number of points on that were outlined during the debate earlier. I hope that we will now see details of how that aspect will be taken forward. Although many of those issues are outside the scope of the bill, they are important, and I hope that ministers will look to update Parliament on how they will be taken forward.

Members, including my colleague Graham Simpson, have mentioned electric cars. That issue was raised with the committee on many occasions, and we need to take seriously concerns over the management of electric cars and bikes.

In a letter that the minister sent to me, dated 7 May, he stated that the Government’s approach to purpose-built accommodation for students in the HMO sector, as well as to care homes, hotels and hospitals, was not in the scope of the bill, but he was content with the safeguards in place for those buildings. I hope that the housing minister will agree to update Parliament in the future on those buildings, including the potential for publishing data around any remediation work that is already taking place and how the guidance might be developed to include those sectors.

The amendments that have been accepted today—for example, the amendment in Pam Duncan-Glancy’s name—can provide an opportunity for better safeguarding for disabled people in those developments and others. That has presented Parliament with an opportunity to look at how we evacuate all buildings in Scotland, especially when it comes to vulnerable people in hospitals and care homes and disabled people in all properties. I am sure that colleagues, and the committee, will want to revisit that.

Scottish Conservatives will support the bill at decision time tonight, but we do so with reservations about the Government’s limited progress to date. That has to change, but the reporting duties in the bill and the role that Parliament now has to challenge ministers on the delivery of outcomes have improved.

Above all, I hope that the Scottish Government will now give leadership and priority to the expanded team in the Scottish Government who will take forward this work. It is critically important that we deliver. We have two years left of the current session of Parliament; I certainly hope that, by the end of that time, all our constituents who are living in those 105 homes will have had the surveys take place and will know that work will be paid for and taken forward to make their homes safe, and that, above all, we can ensure that Scotland never sees a Grenfell-type tragedy.


Mark Griffin (Central Scotland) (Lab)

I thank the members of the bill team and the minister for making themselves available to my Labour colleagues and me during the passage of the bill. I also thank the committee clerks and fellow members for their work in drafting the stage 1 report on the bill. I appreciate the time and effort from everyone who has contributed to the bill as it has made its way through the committee stages and, subsequently, to the chamber.

As elected members, we must be satisfied that the bill, like all bills that are put before us, is necessary, that it will improve outcomes for those affected and that it will make people’s lives safer and better. In this case, we also have to ask ourselves whether the bill, if passed, will help to prevent a Grenfell tragedy from happening again. It is horrifying that the Grenfell tragedy was not a one-off freak occurrence. The losses in Milan in 2021 and Valencia earlier this year show that, until we remove dangerous cladding from our buildings, we will continue to run the risk of more fires and more bereaved families mourning their loved ones.

For the bill to pass the tests that I have set out, it must get dangerous cladding off buildings more quickly than has been the case in Scotland up to now. My amendments were drafted in that context. They sought to streamline the process of entering buildings on to the register, to provide assurances to people about the types of action that had been carried out on buildings to remove cladding and to clarify some of the terms that are employed in the bill to help developers to know when action should be taken.

I commend the work of my colleague Pam Duncan-Glancy and her efforts to ensure that the voices of residents are part of the process and that disabled people’s requirements are not ignored.

I recognise the minister’s efforts to engage with members through the legislation process, and I appreciate his assurance that he will use every tool that is available to him to handle the crisis in cladding in Scotland. That is welcome, but people have been waiting in properties that they could not insure, remortgage or sell—never mind the worry and stress of another Grenfell tragedy. They have been waiting in that situation for seven years now.

We know that removing dangerous cladding from buildings is complex. It has been the subject of working groups, regulations, standards and primary and secondary legislation in the United Kingdom and Scotland. However, underneath the noise, the politics, the meetings and the endless promises, we must not forget that seven years is far too long to wait for action for the vast majority of affected buildings.

I do not think that the bill will slow down the process of removing cladding, and I recognise the efforts that colleagues have made to ensure that the Government provides clarity and transparency on the way in which it claims that the bill will speed up the process. The bill, as amended, serves its purpose, but I believe that my amendments and those of my colleagues would have improved it.

I am still concerned that so much of the detail is left to secondary legislation. That seems to be symptomatic of the Government’s approach across many bills that we have seen, particularly in this session of Parliament. The approach seems to be to give Parliament the bare bones of a law to agree on in principle and then to promise to deliver the detail at some later point. That stifles proper consideration of policy, and it cannot replace debate on the detail of proposals.

We will support the passage of the bill at decision time. We believe that the bill is a welcome and overdue step to remove unsafe cladding from buildings. It will start to clarify the role of Government and developers and key aspects of regulations, which will be essential for remediation and removal of cladding in the future. However, much still needs to be done at pace to ensure that Scotland catches up with the rest of the UK in removing the threat of combustible cladding from people’s homes.


Ariane Burgess (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

The Scottish Government’s stated ambition for the bill is to accelerate the progress of the cladding remediation programme. It is good to see that the committee’s work served to unearth a number of issues and helped to bottom them out. I want to highlight a few of those.

During committee evidence sessions, concerns were raised about the lack of specification of what a single building assessment would consist of. PAS 9980, which is a code of practice published by the British Standards Institution for the specific appraisal of the fire risk of external wall construction and cladding on existing blocks of flats, was brought to our attention. The committee heard from witnesses about its greater nuance and effectiveness in assessing properties and the importance of harmonising the SBA with it. Witnesses also highlighted the clarity that it provides. It was good to see the Scottish Government take that on board and, at stage 2, indicate that it intended to use PAS 9980. I trust that, with the legislation in place, that will provide the clarity that the Scottish Government and developers need to move at pace to resolve the cladding issue.

On the lack of qualified people, one area that remains of concern—it is not clear to me that legislation can fix this—is the lack of people who are qualified to carry out the SBAs and the remedial work. The committee was consistently presented with a picture of skills shortages in the key sectors that are essential to delivering the ambitions for the legislation. In the absence of a course in Scotland to train fire engineers to fill that void, it is not immediately clear how that obstacle to the acceleration of the remediation programme will be overcome. The slow progress in the number of qualified surveyors emerging from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors training course is also concerning, as are the challenges for existing fire engineers in obtaining professional indemnity insurance.

The idea of having a register setting out what buildings are made of, and not one that is necessarily restricted to the issues that the bill addresses, not only came up during work on the bill but came up again and again during the committee’s discussions on reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete, damp and mould, and building safety and quality in general. It would be good to see the Scottish Government taking on board that issue and exploring it more deeply.

The challenge that we face in Scotland with regard to having sufficient people who are qualified to carry out the single building assessment and the remedial work will not be resolved by the bill. However, having the legislation will provide certainty for professionals of on-going work and signal the priority that Parliament is placing on the safety of buildings.

The bill is an urgently needed first step to finally get the remediation programme properly under way, and the Scottish Greens will support the bill at decision time. The introduction of a standardised single building assessment and a public cladding assurance register are critical measures that will provide clarity and reassurance. However, now there can be no more excuses and no more delays. It is time for that decisive action.


Willie Rennie (North East Fife) (LD)

I thank members for their efforts in successfully piloting the bill through Parliament. I also thank the staff, the clerks and the bill team. I am grateful to the minister for his constructive approach.

Whatever the precise mechanism, what people in homes who are affected by safety issues associated with cladding want to know is when something practical and tangible—when physical works—will be done.

There has been a huge amount of talk since Grenfell, but it is worth reminding ourselves us that that is seven years’ worth of talk. It was also four years after Grenfell before the Scottish Government launched the single building assessment, which the minister at the time described as being “consistent and robust” and “fulfilling our commitment”. That was three years ago. Another year later, the Scottish Government said that the SBA was “the next big step”, and we have heard about this being the first step. There have been lots of steps but very few practical and tangible works that have made a difference. Later that year, we heard that tackling the issue was a “priority action”; the following year, it was an “absolute priority”.

Here we are today, with similar rhetoric about how important the bill is. However, if the process over the past few years was as “consistent and robust” and such a big step, further legislation in the form of the bill perhaps should not have been required.

The reality is that around 1 per cent of the identified buildings in Scotland have had work completed, whereas the figure is 20 per cent in England, and 42 per cent of the buildings there have had work started on them. Therefore, the minister will forgive people who are affected by potentially dangerous cladding for being a tad sceptical of the hyperbole that has peppered the whole process.

This is not some idle anxiety, either. The delays have real-world consequences to people’s lives. Sales have been put on hold, house values have dropped and insurance premiums have gone up. These people’s lives have been left in limbo. I know some of them personally, and I know directly how much it has affected them—the stress that it has caused and the anxiety that has been felt day in, day out during quieter periods by them and by friends and relatives.

There are still many unanswered questions, and we have heard some of them this afternoon. I have still not heard a satisfactory answer as to why the Government did not identify much earlier that the tenure process and conditions in Scotland would be a factor. Why did it think that encouragement would be enough to get everybody in line in Scotland? Why was that felt to be the appropriate way, rather than using the degree of compulsion that comes with the bill?

We support the ability to identify and remediate risks through the responsible developers scheme, and we support the bill as a whole. However, there are other questions about whether councils, which will play a critical role in the process, will have sufficient funds to carry out the work. Will there be enough money at a time of great financial stress?

Ariane Burgess quite rightly talked about the shortage of qualified professionals to handle the significant demand for the work that will be required. I would be grateful if the minister would give an update on that in his summing up.

Will there be enough homes for people to decant to, if that is what is required? What update can the minister provide on that?

Finally, the most important aspect is timescales. When will the powers be commenced? When will the work be done? When does the minister envisage all homes being judged safe? I know that the minister is very good at co-operation and taking a constructive approach, but I do not want him to tell me that he has had lots of meetings, because meetings do not solve problems. What solves problems is the practical, tangible work that requires to be done. I hope that the minister will give us some deadlines that we can hold the Government and councils to account on, because that is what people want to hear. They have had enough of talk—they just want action.


Willie Coffey (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)

I pay tribute to all my colleagues—committee members and other colleagues—who helped to steer and shape the Housing (Cladding Remediation) (Scotland) Bill through its evidence stages to get to where we are now. I hope that it is a bill that will make our buildings safer from the risk and rapid spread of fire.

I acknowledge the role that Kaukab Stewart played as a back bencher, with her tireless pursuit of cladding issues on behalf of her constituents in Glasgow Kelvin. Her contribution is greatly appreciated.

Grenfell is our marker for the emergence of the bill. The tragedy there in 2017, which killed 72 people, was the awful event that has led us to review and update our legislation. In 1999, 25 years ago in June, we had a tower block fire at Garnock Court in Irvine that killed one person. The important decision taken then was that all cladding used in high-rise dwellings in Scotland had to be non-combustible. It must have been one of the earliest important decisions that was taken in the Scottish Parliament when it reconvened 25 years ago. It led to the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 and meant that no local authority or housing association high rises in Scotland had the same cladding material as Grenfell.

The Housing (Cladding Remediation) (Scotland) Bill will allow us to assess and act to remediate unsafe cladding. It has three key purposes, which have been considered in great depth by the committee, and that consideration has been shared with other members. First, the single building assessment will align with industry standard PAS 9980 to ensure consistency across Scotland. Ministers will be able to instruct works that are identified as necessary by those building assessments, giving much sought-after assurance to any affected residents.

Secondly, it will create the cladding assurance register, which will contain a list of the buildings that have been through the single building assessment process, and it will show all required remediation that has been completed. Early entry on the register has been agreed to by the minister at the request of the industry. That important concern was shared by many people who were concerned about mortgage lending and insurance issues.

Thirdly, it will introduce the responsible developers scheme, the purpose of which is to encourage developers to contribute to the remediation of buildings with which they are associated. Developers who do not join the scheme might face certain consequences relating to their ability to carry out future developments.

I am pleased that many of the amendments that colleagues pursued throughout the progress of the bill were accepted by the minister. Miles Briggs’s amendments on better engagement and communication with owners, the outcomes of the SBA process and a number of other issues relating to the responsible developers scheme were agreed, as were my colleague Graham Simpson’s amendments on the important matter of progress reports on the SBAs and the remediation programme and the contents and timescales of those reports. Pam Duncan-Glancy’s amendments 22 and 24 on the important issue of emergency evacuation planning were also accepted. The amendments were considered in an extremely constructive way, and colleagues worked hard to have those amendments included. They have strengthened the bill as a result, in my opinion.

A closing point is that a lot of the evidence that we heard focused on wider fire safety issues, most of which have been around for a while but are not really within the scope of the bill. However, I understand that they will be taken forward by the Government as part of a wider consideration of fire issues in Scotland.

Passing the bill in 2024 will further strengthen Scotland’s approach to fire safety in our high-rise buildings that may have dangerous cladding. Protecting the lives of residents and providing assurance to people whose livelihoods are invested in those buildings will be enhanced if we pass the bill at decision time.

I again thank colleagues for their contributions to this important matter, and I look forward to the bill passing.


Jeremy Balfour (Lothian) (Con)

I, too, add my congratulations to the committee, the minister and the Government for getting the bill to where it is today. The bill is better today than it was at the start of the process, and that is an achievement by all members of the committee and the minister. However, this is very much the start of the journey rather than the end.

I was interested in Mr Coffey’s remarks. If we go back to the previous session of Parliament, Andy Wightman, who did a lot of work on this issue behind the scenes, brought together the Scottish Government, the lawyers, the surveyors and the insurance companies. The issues that Mr Coffey addressed in his speech were highlighted around five years ago; those were the key issues that had to be addressed.

There is a bit of frustration among the professionals and, more importantly, the home owners who live in these properties that it has taken us, as a Parliament, so long to get to where we are today. From the conversations that I had at the meetings that Mr Wightman organised, it became pretty clear that there would have to be something separate in Scotland due to the legal system and that progress had to be made quickly. It was also clear that Government and politicians would have to be involved in the process, because if we simply left it to mortgage lenders, surveyors and owners, it was not going to happen. I am pleased that we have got to where we are today, but there is frustration that it has taken us so long to get here.

Having a single assessment is important, and it is good news for people who are facing a difficult situation. I am interested to know how much work the Government has done in private to find out whether there are enough surveyors with the experience that is required to do the work that needs to be done. It was highlighted a number of years ago that it will require specific experience that not all surveyors have. It is clear that most of the properties that we are talking about are in Edinburgh and Glasgow, so it will put pressure on the surveyors in those areas to carry out the work. I hope that that issue is being addressed.

One of the slight difficulties with a framework bill is that a lot of the detail will come in secondary legislation. In his summing up, will the minister let us know how quickly the secondary legislation will come forward? We do not want another delay while regulations are consulted on, drafted and laid before Parliament. I hope—I am confident—that the minister will already have been working on those instruments with his officials behind the scenes. If he could give us some indication as to when they will be laid before the Parliament, that would be very helpful.

I will finish by echoing the remarks made by Willie Rennie. The ultimate success of the bill will lie not in how well we have done here, in the Parliament, but in how quickly people are able to get insurance, sell their houses and, most importantly, feel safe living in the flats and houses that we are talking about. I know that the minister is an optimist by nature, so I wonder whether he could give us an indication, in his closing speech, of when he thinks the properties that we are talking about will have had the assessment and when the work will have been done. Will it be in two years or three years, for instance? Could he give us some indication?


Richard Leonard (Central Scotland) (Lab)

One month from today, 14 June, will mark seven years since the Grenfell tower fire, which claimed the lives of 72 people. That it has taken so long for the Parliament to pass a cladding remediation bill into law is something that we all need to reflect on. That it has taken so long—three years—since the Scottish Government received the means, through Barnett consequentials, to start tackling this crisis in public safety is something that the Government and the new First Minister must reflect on and act upon, because there has been a failure of political leadership here. The more time we take to carry out remediation, the more we are knowingly exposing the people who send us to this Parliament to extreme risk of harm. It cannot be right that the UK Government has completed work on almost 800 buildings in England and the Government of Wales has done so on 37 buildings whereas, in Scotland, only one tower block, on one site—Glasgow Harbour—has had dangerous cladding removed and only one block on one site has had any mitigation work carried out at all when more than 100 buildings in Scotland are affected.

Let us consider a historical comparison. On 16 May 1968, four people died when one corner of a 23-storey block of flats collapsed after a gas explosion in east London. Ronan Point caught the attention of an entire nation. By August 1968, all large-panel, system-built blocks over six storeys had been appraised and an inquiry had been set up. Remedial action was taken straight away. Gas supplies were cut off until all affected buildings were fixed, remedied and remediated. In under two years, new building regulations were passed, which became enforceable from 1971.

Over half a century later, and a quarter of a century since this Parliament was established, why have we been so slow? The values that should have guided us are straightforward enough. Public safety needs to come before profit. The common good needs to come before private gain. I would add that we need a bit more common ownership and a bit less corporate ownership of housing.

It is a basic human right that people feel safe in their homes, yet the cold facts tell us something different. Forty per cent of the disabled people who lived in Grenfell tower died that night in 2017. A quarter of all the children who lived there died in Grenfell tower that night. The lives of all those who died were equal, were precious and are still mourned. Justice for them and their families has still not been served.

I finish by saying to the minister that the bill is not simply about the fabric of buildings; it is about the fabric of our society; it is about disability rights; it is about children’s rights; it is about human rights. I put the minister on a warning that, if the Government does not provide political leadership and provide it with a renewed sense of urgency, it will be denying the rights of many, including those living day in and day out under the extremes of acute stress; it will be ignoring the unequal burden of those very real risks; and it will be wilfully disregarding some fundamental inequalities that still lie at the core of our society.

We cannot allow such social irresponsibility, such moral evasion and such political weakness to deflect us from the urgent and decisive action that we need to take. So, Parliament will pass this bill today, but the Government—the Executive—needs to act, and it needs to do so with principle, with purpose and with potency.


Ariane Burgess

The Scottish Government’s stated ambition for the bill is to accelerate the progress of the cladding remediation programme. In closing the debate, I reiterate the support of the Scottish Greens for the bill as a milestone towards finally resolving Scotland’s cladding crisis after years of immense hardship for too many home owners.

Let us remember how we got here, although we have heard about this to an extent already. The Grenfell tower tragedy in June 2017 claimed the lives of 72 people when a fire broke out in a flat in the 24-storey residential building in west London. The building had recently had a cladding system installed that comprised combustible foam insulation boards attached to the outside of the concrete structure. Those were protected from the weather by aluminium composite material—ACM—panels, the core of which was highly combustible.

In the seven years that have passed since, little meaningful progress has been made to remediate affected buildings in Scotland. The high-rise inventory has identified 780 high-rise buildings in Scotland, which contain 46,616 flats. Thirty-six buildings are clad in ACM, 23 of which are clad in the highest-risk category 3 panels. Despite that, it is worth noting that the scale of fire risk in Scottish homes is low. Jim McGonigal of the Institution of Fire Engineers set that out, stating that

“Fewer than 1 per cent of fires spread beyond the flat of fire origin; since Scotland took responsibility for the fire stats, there have been no fatalities beyond the flat of fire origin; and, in the past 10 years, there has been a 57 per cent reduction in the number of fires in flats above six storeys.”—[Official Report, Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee, 30 January 2024; c 11.]

Although the risk of fire might be relatively low, the issue of cladding has consumed people’s lives, causing long-term worry and stress about the safety of their homes, and it is having a financial impact on owners, who are unable to sell or remortgage their properties. The skills shortage of qualified fire safety professionals, which I mentioned earlier, looms as a potential bottleneck, and creative solutions such as establishing a fire engineering degree programme in Scotland should be seriously explored. We cannot allow this crucial endeavour to be hamstrung by the lack of trained personnel.

Perhaps most critically, as colleagues have mentioned, open and transparent communication with impacted residents and owners must become a top priority as we implement the legislation. The years of limited engagement and information blackouts are simply unacceptable for people whose lives and financial futures have been put on indefinite hold. The bill represents progress but not the final solution. Successful execution of the remediation programme will require on-going vigilance, creative problem solving, adequate funding and resources, and a true collaborative partnership with those whose lives have been upended by the crisis.

If we can finally get this right after such a delay, we will not only make Scotland’s homes safer but restore peace of mind to thousands of our constituents who have suffered sleepless nights wondering whether their largest investment was safe. They deserve nothing less than our full and undivided commitment to delivering on the promise of the bill. I will continue to support the legislation and monitor its roll-out.

When the First Minister took office recently, he indicated that he wanted people in Scotland to live with a sense of safety. Good communication, especially with people who are living with uncertainty in the homes that are part of the cladding remediation programme, is key to providing that sense of safety. Too many lives have been disrupted for far too long already, and it is time to make this right now.


Pam Duncan-Glancy (Glasgow) (Lab)

It is a pleasure to close the debate for Scottish Labour. As we have heard, since the Grenfell tower tragedy, the Scottish Government has fallen behind the rest of the UK in making buildings safe. In England, the UK Government has completed work on 797 buildings, and the Welsh Government has completed work on 37, but the Scottish National Party Government has managed to complete work on just two. In the meantime, residents of 103 buildings in Scotland have faced unacceptable delays, have been unable to move, have been unable to get insurance and, most important of all, have been scared in their own homes. That is why we welcome action now, delayed though it is, and will support the bill at decision time.

I pay tribute to the residents and owners whose patience has been admirable and whose determination that the Government takes action has been unwavering. They have put up with so much but have kept going and kept pushing for more to be done. If the bill passes today, it will be because of their resolve.

The bill will pass in an improved state since stage 2 because of a more collaborative approach, as colleagues including Miles Briggs, Ariane Burgess and Willie Rennie have noted. Proposed changes to the bill from colleagues across the chamber have been accepted. However, it was disappointing that the Government did not accept some amendments that could have improved the bill further, including those from my colleague Mark Griffin that sought to clarify key concepts such as whether the bill should include details on what buildings are made of and a definition of tolerable risk, as set out in the committee’s stage 1 report. The amendments were quite basic, and I am disappointed that they did not garner the Government’s support.

I turn briefly to my amendments. Having listened to the experiences of owners and occupiers and having learned from the rights violations related to the Grenfell tower fire that Richard Leonard spoke about so passionately, I worked cross party, and I thank members for their support for provisions that will ensure that owners and occupiers of such buildings have a voice. I am pleased that the Government supported those amendments and others in the same vein from Miles Briggs and other members. In relation to the threat of a conflict of interest in the development of the single building assessment being mitigated by the bill’s operation, I welcome the minister’s commitments on the record.

My amendments to ensure that disabled people have access to a personal emergency evacuation plan in the event that remediation works are identified as being required for their building are particularly crucial, given the fact that 41 per cent of disabled people who were in the Grenfell tower when the disaster happened died. Often, people assume that disabled people will be fine, but they are often left out by default. My amendments will ensure that disabled people will be considered by design, which is why they matter. It is, indeed, a matter of rights.

In the letter that the minister sent me last week, he said that he does

“accept that there are specific considerations that must be explored within the context of the Cladding Remediation Programme”.

He also said that he is

“committed to ensuring that the needs of all homeowners and residents, including disabled people, are fully considered and addressed”

and that

“this must go beyond evacuation and recognise the need for accessible communications and the provision of person-centred advice and guidance as identified on a building-by-building basis.”

I am pleased that my amendment on that issue was agreed to, and I welcome the minister’s offer to work together to take things forward. I hope that his commitment will come good that, through regulations, personal emergency evacuation plans for disabled people who request one will be developed. He can be assured that I will be here to make sure that that happens.

I am hopeful that the work that we have all done together across the chamber on the bill, on behalf of the owners and occupiers of such buildings, will mean that they will finally get action and the peace of mind that they deserve.

We must never forget why we are here. In Grenfell tower, in 2017, 72 people tragically lost their lives, with others losing their livelihoods and loved ones. Willie Coffey reminded us that there have also been tragedies closer to home that have driven our need to act. We owe it to all those people and to the firefighters who work daily to save our lives to ensure that nothing like the Grenfell tower disaster ever happens again.

In the stage 1 debate, I said:

“time is of the essence.”—[Official Report, 12 March 2024; c 51.]

Upon the passage of the bill today, as my colleague Mark Griffin has implored, time will be of the essence once again. That is why the comments by Jeremy Balfour and other colleagues that we need to move apace must be heeded. It is imperative that the Government moves without delay. No stone should be left unturned, and no dangerous part of a building should go unfixed. The Government must now act quickly, transparently and engagingly in the interests of safety and of residents, because this is, indeed, about human rights. The owners and occupiers of such buildings have gone this long without their rights being prioritised or protected. I hope that that will now change and that buildings across the Glasgow region and the rest of Scotland can at last be made safe, with rights protected.


Graham Simpson (Central Scotland) (Con)

I will start my speech as I started my speech at stage 1, by remembering what started this all off. Others have said it, but I will repeat it. When Grenfell tower in London turned into an inferno in June 2017, killing 72 people, we all became aware of the serious issue of cladding, which, seven years on, the bill seeks to address. That it has taken seven years to get to this point in Scotland is a disgrace.

Ben Macpherson (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)

Like Mr Simpson, I want to see action as quickly as possible for my constituents. Does he agree that one of the many learning points on the issue, over the past few years, is that we need to get to a better place in terms of intergovernmental relations, given that, in this example, we have building standards and certain other measures in the control of the Scottish Government but the finance industry—whether that be insurance or mortgages—in the control of the UK Government? There was not enough dialogue from the UK Government at the beginning of the process. All Governments need to do more, but I think that that is an important learning point.

Graham Simpson

I am disappointed in Ben Macpherson for that contribution. I normally agree with a lot of what he says, but to try to seek division between Governments on this matter is really not good enough. [Interruption.] Muttering is no good, either, because these are serious issues.

In the previous session—[Interruption.] Who is muttering? If they would like to stand up, they can do so.

Will the member take an intervention?

I will. Can I have extra time, Presiding Officer?

I was merely muttering to myself, but I think that Ben Macpherson said the opposite of what Graham Simpson has characterised him as having said.

Graham Simpson

I will continue.

In the previous session, I and others pressed the then housing minister, Kevin Stewart, for action. Jeremy Balfour mentioned that. However, Kevin Stewart seemed more interested in trying to find differences between the ways that the issue was being tackled here and south of the border. We could not get him to ban combustible cladding in Scotland. Members should think about that. We have been slower to act here.

When I spoke in the stage 1 debate, I quoted the committee report, which said that, although the Scottish Government had

“committed to ensuring that all 105 buildings”

in its remediation programme—we do not know what those 105 buildings are, by the way—were

“on a pathway to a single building assessment by summer 2024 ... in England ... 42%”

of buildings had

“either started or completed remediation works.”

What has happened here? Two buildings.

Will Mr Simpson take another intervention?

I really am going to need extra time if I take another intervention.

I can allow a little extra time.

Ben Macpherson

I thank Mr Simpson for taking the intervention. I know from our work on tenements that he understands this point very well, but the fact that we have a different property law arrangement in Scotland compared with the freehold system in England has presented challenges. That is an important point to acknowledge, and it is why the bill will make a meaningful difference. However, does Graham Simpson agree that we need a greater understanding of what a pathway to remediation means in order for constituents to understand the timescales that are involved?

Graham Simpson

I thank Ben Macpherson for that intervention, but I say to him that it should not have taken seven years for us to get to this point. I think that he would agree with me on that. He and I have worked together very well on the issue of tenement maintenance. Members will have received an email from me earlier, asking them to back a members’ business debate on proposals around that, and a number of members from different parties have already backed that. We need to move forward together on this very serious issue, and we can do that.

The bill’s introduction was rushed and it was not good enough, so some of us attempted to improve it at stage 2. We failed but, as I said earlier, the minister committed to working with some of us ahead of stage 3. I said at the time, kind of jokingly, that I would just have to trust him on that, but my trust has been repaid. The minister and his team have helped to craft amendments from me, Pam Duncan-Glancy and Miles Briggs. I thank him and his team for that.

As you are giving me extra time, Presiding Officer, I will quickly mention a few other members. Miles Briggs spelled out the impact of all this on residents. Mark Griffin mentioned the fires in Milan and Valencia and the general dangers of cladding. I was struck by a comment from Ariane Burgess, who said that we should have no more excuses and that it is time for action. She is absolutely right.

The bill is not perfect, but it is better than it was. At its heart, it gives ministers the

“Power to arrange remediation work”

that has been identified in a single building assessment report as

“being needed to eliminate or mitigate risks to human life that are ... created or exacerbated by the building’s external wall cladding system”.

Whether that involves the original developers or whether they have gone bust or disappeared does not matter, because the work needs to be done. We have to get rid of all dangerous cladding.

At their worst, the effects of fire can be tragic—as we saw at Grenfell—but they can also be life changing. Time will tell whether the bill will help to get dangerous cladding removed, but I will back it in order to give it the chance to do so.

I call Paul McLennan to wind up—until 10 past 5, minister.

For how long, Presiding Officer?

Until 5.10.


Paul McLennan

First, I thank the bill team for its help and guidance, and I thank the wider cladding team. They have been a fantastic help to me, so I express my personal thanks to them. I am also grateful to members for their contributions to the debate, which I will touch on in a second.

Today’s discussion has been highly constructive, as has been the case throughout the bill process. I know that members on all sides of the chamber are committed to safeguarding homeowners and residents from the dangers that unsafe cladding poses. That has been evident in the co-operation and collaboration that have helped to shape the bill. I want that to continue—I genuinely mean that—and I give my commitment that I will work together with members on the points that have been raised in the discussion and those that are outstanding as we move forward with the remediation programme. The debate has explored a number of issues and, as I said before, my door is open for discussing them.

I will thank some people specifically. I have mentioned Kaukab Stewart and Pam Duncan-Glancy, but there are others. I thank Miles Briggs and Graham Simpson for their work and collaboration. I thank Ariane Burgess, the convener of the committee, for the work that she carried out. I thank Pam Duncan-Glancy, as I said, and Ben Macpherson, whom I have met with his constituents on a couple of occasions. My special thanks go to him and to Deirdre Brock, who was involved in that, too. Finally, I again offer special thanks to Kaukab Stewart for the work that she has carried out.

I will touch on some of the points that were raised during the debate. I come first to Miles Briggs. I am happy to take up the issue of orphaned buildings—I think that we gave a commitment that those would not be on a lower rung, but I am happy to discuss that with him.

Issues of building safety have been raised by a number of members, and I am happy to engage with them individually or through the committee on that point. I am happy to liaise on that issue, which is important.

Mark Griffin touched on a number of things, including the legislation. The progress has to quicken—I have acknowledged that—and the bill is the first stage of that. On secondary legislation, one of the key things that I said at the start was that we are trying to be held to account so that we are reporting back. Again, I am happy to meet him, either through our regular meetings or through the committee. He has my commitment that I will meet him to discuss how we can develop secondary legislation and timescales. I am happy to continue discussing those issues with him.

Ariane Burgess made an important point about skills issues. We have had meetings with building safety and fire safety colleagues. At the moment, they think that they have the capacity to deal with the issues, but we need to keep an eye on that. Ariane Burgess’s point is very valid.

Willie Rennie mentioned the communication process, which is very important. During the debate, we touched on how important it is that residents know about the process at its start, including what the likely timescales are.

One of the key things that I worked on with Graham Simpson was the reporting process, and I need to be held to account on that. That is important, and I am happy to work with him on that by looking at deadlines. Jeremy Balfour also touched on that.

Willie Coffey talked about the case in Irvine, and I will come on to the points that Richard Leonard made about a historic case from a number of years ago. We have to learn from that and take into account the wider consideration of building safety.

Jeremy Balfour talked about the start of the process. I would not say that we are quite at the start of the process, but the bill allows us to quicken the pace, which is really important. He also made an important point about surveyors and fire engineers, and he raised the issue of secondary legislation, which I am happy to discuss with him or at committee.

Richard Leonard touched on some of the historic cases going back a number of years, and he hit the nail on the head, for me, when he said that, although we can talk about this subject in the chamber, it is a basic right to have a safe home. That has to guide us all. It certainly will guide me, and it is something from today’s debate that will stick with me.

Pam Duncan-Glancy talked about the number of buildings on which work has been completed, and I will continue to work closely with her on that issue.

Ben Macpherson made a point about collaboration, particularly with regard to mortgages and insurance. I will continue to work collaboratively with the UK Government on that matter. We have raised it before and we will raise it again.

I am grateful to all members who contributed to the progress of the bill in the weeks and months leading up to today and for the broad support for it from across the chamber. I know that Parliament and the most important people in all this—the residents, owners and stakeholders—want to see an increase in the pace of cladding remediation in Scotland, and I desperately want to see that, too.

I believe that the bill provides a strong foundation on which to accelerate the operational delivery of our cladding remediation programme and aims to deliver for those who are affected by unsafe cladding in our communities and constituencies. I commend the motion in my name, and I very much hope that members will vote for it tonight.

That concludes the debate on the Housing (Cladding Remediation) (Scotland) Bill.