Political Correspondent

A programme of “intrusive inspections” is needed to ensure the safety of high rise buildings in Scotland according to the Fire Brigades Union.

The FBU Scotland told MSPs that while the Scottish Government is looking at cladding in the wake of the Grenfell disaster the union would like this widened to include full inspections.

Denise Christie, Regional treasurer of the FBU Scotland said it would allow other fire safety issues to be highlighted and dealt with.

The Evening Times reported earlier this week how the FBU called for a reversal of cuts to Fire Safety Inspection officers which have been reduced by 24% since the single Scottish force was established.

Ms Christie said the intrusive inspections would be a “one off inspection.

“It’s going to be costly and take time but that’s when we can have a clearer picture of issues then we can look at recommendations.”

Ms Christie also said that the installation of sprinklers wold be a welcome step and said the union has called for their use in housing stock to save lives.

She said: “after years of falling deaths there has been a slight increase in fire deaths in Scotland in the last year.

“You are more likely to die in a house fire in Scotland than anywhere else in the UK.

“We have no reports of any deaths in properties with sprinklers fitted.”

She said it would cost between £1000 and £2000 to install a system.

Kenny McKenzie of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors in Scotland agreed sprinklers would be a good step but noted that some developers will actively find ways of avoiding the cost.

He said currently new buildings above 18 metres require sprinklers to be fitted.

He added: “Some developers build just under 18 meters so they do not have to go to that expense.”

David Stewart of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations said any new standards would need to be applied across all housing tenures in both public and private sector especially regarding high rises.

He warned that safety could be compromised by private owners and landlords removing safeguards like fire doors in properties that were installed by previous social sector owners.

Bob Doris, Local Government and Communities Committee convenor, said: “Our Committee heard both reassurances and challenges from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), Scottish Federation Of Housing Associations and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors on the current state of fire safety in Scotland.

“Clearly, we have strong fire safety standards in Scotland but areas for potential improvement are starting to emerge. For example, today the FBU called for an ‘intrusive inspection’ of high rises in Scotland to ensure fire safety measures on the ground are up to scratch.

“Above all else, we must ensure those who live, work or study in high-rise buildings across Scotland are safe.”