A fire extinguisher hanging on a plain wall

Fire safety and the law in Scottish tower blocks

You’ll see the Fire Safety Regulatory Reform Order of 2005 mentioned on various pages across this site, but if you live in Scotland, it doesn’t apply to you. This law only applies in England and Wales.

In Scotland, the regulations around fire safety are different. There’s no standalone law dealing with fire safety: instead, there’s the broad requirement that landlords provide a home that is ‘healthy, safe and secure’. A home that is at risk of fire is not safe and secure!

Cladding and Scottish tower blocks

If you’re thinking about cladding as a fire risk, it’s probably because of the terrible fire that destroyed Grenfell Tower in London.

You’ll be glad to know that Scottish social tenants in high rise domestic tower blocks are less at risk of a ‘Grenfell-like’ fire, because the type of cladding (ACM) that was installed on that block, and which aided the spread of the fire, is disallowed in Scottish building regulations. Find more information about this here.

Large panel system and Scottish tower blocks

Large Panel System (LPS) is a method of construction: we’ve explained more about it, and why towers made this way can be at risk of fire, on this page.

A report from the Scottish Government in 2020 found that 197 tower blocks across Scotland were constructed in this way.

In England and Wales, The Building Regulations 2010 specify what measures should be taken to make LPS buildings safe. The Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004 are the equivalent north of the border, and it’s worth looking at the Scottish Building Standards which explain how the law must be applied, especially the sections on Structure and Fire.

What does the law say?

  • The Scottish Building Standard 2.2 says that: “Every building, which is divided into more than one area of different occupation, must be designed and constructed in such a way that in the event of an outbreak of fire within the building, fire and smoke are inhibited from spreading beyond the area of occupation where the fire originated.” This is what we refer to as compartmentation.
  • This standard also has details about lift wells, separating walls, fire doors and more – it’s worth a read.
  • For electrical matters, look to the Tolerable Standard. This is a basic level of repair your property must meet to make it fit for a person to live in. One of the reasons a home may be considered ‘unfit for human habitation’ is if the electric supply does not meet safety regulations.
  • For fire issues more broadly, you can turn to the Scottish Housing Quality Standard (SHQS). This requires that every home is ‘safe and secure’. This guidance from the Scottish government shows that this requirement includes ‘adequate/safe electrical installations’, a ‘safe electrical system’, ‘safe smoke alarms/detectors’, ‘safe lifts’, ‘safe lobbies, hall and passages’ and ‘safe gas/oil systems and appliances’. In all of these cases, ‘safe’ includes keeping tenants safe from the risk of fire.
  • From February 2022 every home, both private and rented, must also have interlinked smoke/heat detectors fitted. if you are a social tenant, it is your landlord’s responsibility to install and maintain these.

More about the Tolerable Standard

Shelter Scotland explains your fire safety rights in more detail. It says that:

  • Tenants are entitled to have their accommodation kept in a ‘reasonable state of repair’.
  • If an issue is affecting your ‘health, safety or security’, it should be put right quickly. This would include any potential fire risk such as unsafe electrical fittings. If the work would cost up to £350, you can use your Right to Repair.
  • Every landlord in Scotland must carry out an electrical safety inspection at least once every five years, and provide their tenant(s) with a report. You can see more about this here, including a list of what they should be checking, and there’s more detailed guidance here.
  • The Tolerable Standard also states that your landlord has a duty to keep your home fit for you to live in and to ensure that it doesn’t endanger your health. Fire hazards, like loose wiring or dangerous stairs, could be dangerous and mean your home is not fit.

What can I do if I’m worried about fire safety?

If you think your flat or building may be at risk of fire, the first thing you should do is to contact your landlord and tell them what needs fixing.

You can use this letter.

If you don’t get a response, you might try some of the following actions:

About fire safety in general

About gas safety

If none of these work

Related guides

Gas taps - picture by Erik Kroon Gas taps - picture by Erik Kroon


Is the gas safe in my tower block?

Gas safety is important in every home, but in tower blocks there are additional reasons for checking that everything is secure.
Image by Nicolas Nova - a broken window with cardboard over the missing pane Image by Nicolas Nova - a broken window with cardboard over the missing pane


My landlord isn’t making repairs

Your landlord should be keeping your tower block, and your flat, in good repair. If they do not, there are several things you can do.


Notifying the Fire and Rescue service about breaches in fire safety

If your landlord is breaching fire safety regulations, you can contact your local Fire Service.
Two women discussing over a laptoip. Image by WOCintechchat Two women discussing over a laptoip. Image by WOCintechchat

Tools you can use

Starting or joining a Residents’ Association or an Action Group

Joining together with other residents in your block or community can make you much more powerful.

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