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Housing (Cladding Remediation) (Scotland) Bill: Pam Duncan-Glancy welcomes Bill for cladding remediation, but calls out delay by Scottish Government

I was pleased to speak in the Stage 1 debate on the Cladding Remediation Bill. I was particularly pleased to speak up on behalf of the 321 families residing at Lancefield Quay, who have known for almost 5 years that their building is dangerous. The Scottish Government's delay to getting remediation works underway has been unacceptable; I will do all I can to ensure Lancefield Quay is made safe, and that the Cladding Remediation Bill does what residents and owners need it to do. Click on the clip to hear what I had to say in relation to Lancefield Quay.

Hear and read my full speech below:

Housing (Cladding Remediation) (Scotland) Bill – Closing Speech


Thank you, Presiding Officer.


The Bill before us today is a bill that is designed to make buildings and homes safe – I am confident that is something that all Parties agree with, and I echo my Scottish Labour Colleagues in saying we will support the bill today.


However, it is also important to highlight, as others have, including Arianne Burgess on behalf of the Committee, that the bill still needs work and, as Willie Rennie pointed out, remediation will need concerted efforts, including on planning and on the availability of housing to decant to, to make it work.


And it is also important to say that I agree with Homes for Scotland as Pam Gosal and others have also said, that the lack of urgency from the Scottish Government has led to unacceptable delays in making progress in this crucial area.


Because, Presiding Officer, we must remember why we are discussing this bill today.


The Grenfell disaster, as many, including the Minister, Stephanie Callaghan, Marie McNair have noted, showed in stark tragedy, the consequences of doing nothing to fix combustible cladding. This was a disaster that as Graham Simpson also noted, could and should have been avoided; so many lives were lost as a result of complacency. We owe it to those who lost their lives, their families and Fire Fighters as Richard Leonard reminded us, to ensure that their tragedy drives swift action now, and we must all do everything in our power to prevent anything like it happening again.


That is what today is about.


The lessons of Grenfell have taught us though that time is of the essence. That’s why, I’m disappointed that almost 7 years later, the Scottish Government have made painfully slow progress in making buildings safe.


It didn’t have to be this way.


At the same time, as my colleague Mark Griffin noted, in England, seven hundred and ninety-seven buildings have had remedial works completed to make them safe. In Wales, the number is thirty-seven. In Scotland that only 2 have been fixed, is unacceptable.


It is our duty as Members of this Parliament to push the Government to take long overdue action now, so that our constituents can feel safe in their homes.


Presiding officer, I met with residents in a building with combustible cladding on it, in the Glasgow Region who told me of the stark consequences of this government’s delay and why what we do now is crucial.


In this one building alone, some 321 families have known from as far back as 2019, that they live in a building with combustible cladding on it – that means that for 5 years, they have spent every day worrying that their building is unsafe. And because of this Government’s delay, it is expected that remediation works won’t begin for at least another year. One resident told me that there has been ‘no remediation, only mitigation’.


Following the Grenfell disaster, new statutory requirements were introduced to improve fire alarm systems. However, the fire alarm system in their building is yet to be brought up to standard. In the meantime, a Waking Watch was put it in to mitigate risk. This caused residents much concern, and it remains in place to this day.


Residents are still unable to sell their homes, as Michelle Thomson and others noted, and they are unable to get insurance for their property – rights Ben McPherson noted, residents should have. This means they can’t move for work or other reasons. They can’t let their building out, as Alistair Allan pointed out. It means they can’t re-mortgage in a cost-of-living crisis. And it means they are spending a fortune on insurance that doesn’t nearly cover the cost of rebuild, should the worst happen.


Their lives are on hold. They are scared, sceptical as Michael Marra noted, they are tired, and they are angry.


For those 321 families, time has been wasted time and time again.


The most recent example of this is in relation to the Single Building Assessment and the proposed new scheme in the bill.


Unlike the many residents in buildings still awaiting a Single Building Assessment, this group of residents in Glasgow were part of the pilot to develop one. An independent fire engineer completed their SBA and highlighted several high-risk issues. A mitigation plan was initiated to reduce risk and remains ongoing – ongoing – in March 2024 – but the government have yet to set in motion the action needed to make their building safe! That is an unacceptable level of delay and I’m sure residents will be disappointed to hear today that only 7% of the funds available to the government to fix buildings have been used.


But more concerningly, residents were told last week that all draft Single Building Assessments produced as part of the pilot will be refreshed for the purpose of consistency, and developers will lead them.


As colleagues might imagine, this decision has alarmed residents, not least because their draft SBA was completed in December 2022, and it now appears it will gather dust, as they face the ludicrous situation where another SBA will be undertaken before remedial works will commence after guidance is released, which, at best, is likely to be in May 2024, but also because, as residents have told me, they are worried about transparency and a conflict of interest if a new SBA is to be drafted without oversight of an independent fire engineer and in the absence of clear criteria of what should be included, which my colleague Willie Coffey noted the committee also raised concern about. As others have noted, the residents have also shared concern about not including wider fire safety issues.


To this day, experts remain highly critical of fire safety in the building, and there have reportedly been confrontations between independent experts and the developer.


Residents are rightly wondering how they can be expected to have faith in a system where as they have written to me to say, ‘the process of checks and balances were not followed when the development was first constructed, why should residents trust that the process will be followed now? Residents remain genuinely concerned that there are no mechanisms to avoid or address conflicts of interest, and we cannot afford this when lives remain at risk.


They must have confidence in the process and so there should be independent oversight. Given these concerns, and the confidence or peace of mind as Miles Briggs put it, that an independent assessor has brought residents, I’d welcome the Ministers response as to whether consideration has been given to ensuring that, as part of the proposals in this Bill, an independent fire engineer can be made part of the Single Building Assessment process, and how any potential challenges can be adequately raised in the new scheme.


Presiding officer, as has been said, we support this bill but it really will need strengthened at Stage 2 if it is to meet the expectations of residents across the country, including to; put in place independent scrutiny as outlined, add provisions to address broader fire safety risks, provide detail and context to the concept of tolerable risk in the Cladding Assurance Register, and, crucially for me, as they have done elsewhere in the UK, to include measures to ensure that residents are engaged and informed throughout the process, including as remedial works are underway – something that I know that residents in Glasgow feel is missing and I hope the Government will consider amendments on this at stage 2.


In closing, Presiding Officer, I and my Party are glad that residents of buildings with combustible cladding can finally see legislation that could help ensure their homes are made safe. Enough time though has been lost, the time to act is now. And so, I encourage the Scottish Government to address concerns raised across the chamber today, pick up the pace, and act quickly to get the work done. People have waited long enough. It is now time for their homes to be made safe.


Thank you, Presiding Officer.

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