Cladding Remediation Programme

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 14 December 2023.

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Photo of Willie Coffey Willie Coffey Scottish National Party

4. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on its cladding remediation programme. (S6O-02889)

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

The safety of home owners and residents is our absolute priority. That is why we introduced the Housing (Cladding Remediation) (Scotland) Bill on 1 November, which will give ministers new powers to ensure the remediation of buildings with unsafe cladding, and it is why we are seeking the transfer of powers in order to create a building safety levy. We are undertaking a robust programme of pilot single-building assessments. Those assessments are being completed and remediation work is under way.

Photo of Willie Coffey Willie Coffey Scottish National Party

At our recent Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee meeting, we heard that, of the 105 buildings in the pilot programme, only 27 have had assessments commissioned, only one building has had remediation work and only one building has had mitigation measures. Will the cabinet secretary explain that progress and give an assurance that the work will proceed at a much faster pace?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

When the Minister for Housing gave evidence to the committee in May, he acknowledged that, for many home owners, the process has taken too long. The tenure system in Scotland is, of course, different from the system in England, and that complexity is an additional challenge for the programme, given that we do not have single building owners. Last year, the then cabinet secretary announced a change in approach to the programme, moving from a grant model to a direct procurement model, which has led to a real increase in the pace of the programme. I hope that that gives Mr Coffey some reassurance on the issue.

Photo of Ben Macpherson Ben Macpherson Scottish National Party

I understand from meetings with the minister and a round-table meeting that Kaukab Stewart held yesterday how challenging the issue is for the Government. I also know from my constituents and others that people whose buildings are affected appreciate communication from the Government. Can the cabinet secretary advise whether the Scottish Government will consider proactive communications on a regular basis with affected building owners in order to increase awareness of the process of remediation and the timescales for it?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

The Minister for Housing has had conversations with a number of MSPs as well as, importantly, directly with residents in recent weeks and months since taking up his post. He is keen to ensure that we improve communication with the home owners of the buildings in the programme. Further to that, I understand that he has asked officials to scope several options, including regular communications on the overall programme flight path, as well as building-specific communications. I expect that to be implemented in the new year. I am sure that the minister will keep Mr Macpherson updated on progress.

Photo of Miles Briggs Miles Briggs Conservative

As has been stated, in Scotland only one such programme of works has been progressed. A huge amount of detail is not in the Housing (Cladding Remediation) (Scotland) Bill, including on the single building assessment, the cladding assurance register and the responsible developers scheme. Does the cabinet secretary acknowledge that the continued absence of that detail in the bill creates risks for those who are affected, including residents and home builders, and that it has the potential to prolong uncertainty for residents who are impacted?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

I am sure that the minister would be more than happy to go into the details of the issue with the member. However, I will give an example of the reasons behind our approach. Our approach for the responsible developers scheme aligns with the approach that has been taken by the United Kingdom Government when establishing its responsible actors scheme. The UK Government also put the details of that scheme in secondary legislation. The level of detail that is required for the scheme is more suited to secondary legislation, but I am sure that that is a discussion that the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee will have when taking evidence on the bill, to which the minister will be happy to respond.