Unsafe Cladding (Help for Residents)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 19th January 2022.

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Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

2. To ask the Scottish Government what steps it is taking to help residents in flats that have unsafe cladding. (S6O-00635)

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

We are committed to ensuring the safety of people in homes with unsafe cladding. We are progressing with our single building assessment and cladding remediation programme, which is free to home owners, and 25 high-priority residential blocks of flats have already been selected for the initial phase of the programme. Inspections are under way and we expect the first completed reports soon. We expect that the majority of buildings will be shown to be safe. Where issues are found, we will seek appropriate solutions for remediation and urge other parties, such as developers, to play their part.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

We have been pressing the Scottish Government to take action on the matter for years and it has failed to do so. Thousands of Scots are trapped in unsafe flats, with little hope of ever selling them.

Last week, in England, Michael Gove put developers on notice. They have two months to agree to a funding scheme, or measures could be put into law. What is happening here? Clauses in the Building Safety Bill will allow the United Kingdom Government to introduce a levy on developers of high-rise buildings. What is happening here? Why has flammable cladding still not been banned in Scotland? When will it be banned?

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

That is quite a misrepresentation of the position. The single—[

Interruption

.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Excuse me for a second, cabinet secretary.

I do not want all that shouting from a sedentary position. We want to hear the answer from the cabinet secretary, please. Cabinet secretary, please resume.

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

The single building assessment has been an innovative approach, and it is being considered in other parts of the United Kingdom. Our assessments will help us to understand the scope and scale of the cladding issues across Scotland.

To reassure people, while the majority of buildings will be shown to be safe, where issues are found we will seek the most appropriate solutions for remediation. We of course want other parties such as developers to continue to play their part where construction is found to be unsafe.

The member mentioned Michael Gove. I have written to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, but I have yet to receive any detail on consequentials in addition to the £97.1 million. I will continue to press the secretary of state for details in relation to the original £3.5 billion announcement that was made in the UK budget in February last year. In relation to the announcement of an additional £4 billion on 10 January, which we were notified about only on the day of the announcement, we welcome the announcement on making developers pay, but we need to see the detail of what that means for the Scottish budget. We need to go beyond the £97 million, but we need to know what resources will be coming forward.

We will continue to make the progress that we are making through the innovative single building assessment. I would have thought that members across the chamber would welcome that.

Photo of Elena Whitham Elena Whitham Scottish National Party

The cabinet secretary has just answered the question that I was going to ask, but I will repeat it. Can she advise us what updates the Scottish Government has had from the UK Government regarding the consequentials that it has promised and we are expecting in order to take the work forward?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Cabinet secretary, you can give a very brief answer if you feel that you have already answered that question.

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

As I said, I am happy to keep Parliament apprised of any response that we get from Michael Gove and the UK Government, but it is important that we can give certainty for the remediation programme beyond the £97 million that we have already committed.

We are determined to progress with the single building assessment and to get the works under way and done, but we need the UK Government to give us clarity on the funding that will be available beyond the £97 million.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

This is a Scottish Government responsibility. The minister must understand that flat owners across the country are deeply anxious at the snail’s pace that the Government is moving at. When will we get some progress so that we can give flat owners assurance? What is the date by which the work will be done, and what funding will be forthcoming from the Government?

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

I do not know whether Willie Rennie heard my first answer, but I said that there is already work under way on the 25 high-priority residential blocks of flats, which were the pilot for the single building assessment, so that we can see what the scale of remediation is likely to be across Scotland. As I said in my initial answer, the inspections are under way, and we expect the first completed report soon.

I would have thought that, when we are getting on and doing something, which other parts of the UK are looking at because it is a good model, that would be welcomed. I am as keen as anyone else in the chamber to make progress, but specific, complex engineering projects have to be undertaken. When we get the completed reports, I will be happy to keep Parliament updated about them.