In the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy many of my constituents who reside in high rise tower blocks have contacted my office seeking reassurance over their own fire safety.
With a view to ascertaining the safety of these blocks I wrote to the Chief Executive of Glasgow City Council, all Housing Associations, and all Universities with student residences in Glasgow Kelvin to seek assurances about their fire safety measures, both in materials used and also with a view to their procedures should a fire occur. While investigations into the London fire are still ongoing, I feel it is crucial that as much support, reassurance and certainty is provided to concerned residents here in Glasgow Kelvin at this time.
I asked for a brief report on how many residential multi-story blocks are in Glasgow Kelvin, who the relevant property managers are, when they were constructed, and how many have been refurbished recently. I also asked if exterior cladding has been applied and whether it was the same or similar to the cladding used in the Grenfell Tower and whether or not it is fire resistant. I asked for more information about the fire safety measures and procedures currently in place including the number of blocks that currently have sprinklers, fire and smoke alarms, and fire doors; what fire action advice is given to residents in the event of the fire; and how often fire assessment checks are carried out. Finally, I’ve asked to be kept up to date on any reviews and assessments that are currently ongoing, including any recommendations for improvements, and I will post this information on my website when it is available.
While I have not received a response from GCC or the Universities at the time of publication I have heard from the majority of Housing Associations and can now provide you with a brief outline of what they have said.
Glasgow Housing Association and Cube (The Wheatley Group) own 82 multi-story blocks of nine stories or more. My colleagues and I have been assured that the cladding used is different from the cladding used in Grenfell, and all building regulations, designed to prevent the spread of fire, have been followed. Fire non-combustible materials have been used, and many blocks have been fitted with sprinklers in the bin store areas with a programme in place to complete this work. Daily patrols are carried out to identify any risks in multi-story blocks. They have assured me that further recommendations or advice following investigations in London will be implemented.
Glasgow West Housing Association are undertaking a review of the cladding and external wall insulation installed in their properties, and all materials meet minimum Scottish Building Standards Technical Regulations. This includes fire separation between flats and installation of non-combustible materials. There is ongoing safety awareness, including regular fire safety checks, concierge patrols, and investments in bin shoots.
Partick Housing Association own one multi-story block, Fortrose House in Fortrose Street, where there are 53 properties and 43 PHA tenants. It was refurbished by PHA in 2012, and the cladding used was phenolic foam insulation board, manufactured by Kingspan, which has a zero rating for inflammability. During recent renovations 43 flats had fire-rated flat entrance doors and smoke detectors fitted, along with an alarm system and fire doors in the common areas. There is no sprinkler system fitted, however a fire risk assessment is due on the 5th of July and all safety measures will be reviewed then. The insulation material in the over-cladding will also be verified by sampling and testing if necessary.
Maryhill Housing Association own 3 multi-story blocks of 21 floors, with 360 flats in total. They also own 12 multi-story blocks of 8 floors, with 336 flats in total. The blocks were constructed prior to stock transfer in 2011, and all blocks have fire resistant Recticel and Structherm cladding. All have fire resistant doors, hard wired smoke alarms and dry risers on each floor. Regular fire safety checks are undertaken, and the next fire audit will be carried out in July 2017.
Queens Cross Housing Association own 10 multi-story blocks in Dundasvale, Woodside (Cedar Court) and Westercommon. The cladding used in Cedar Court is called StoTherm Mineral K, and in Dundasvale Court it is PermaRock Mineral Fibre, both are non-combustible, have no cavities between the boards and the concrete walls, and meets the Scottish Building Regulations. The communal fire doors and ground floor exits are also currently being upgraded, and there will be fire escape balconies and new canopies at the ground floor level. A new internal working group has been set up following the tragedy and will look at all aspects of fire safety.
Fire Safety Advice
All housing associations in Glasgow Kelvin are working closely with the Scottish Fire and Rescue service. In the event of a fire, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service advise multi-story residents to stay in place to allow controlled fire-fighting and evacuation, as deemed appropriate by them at the time. You can find more detailed advice about what to do in the event of a fire, via the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service leaflet here. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service will continue to carry out additional operational assurance visits to high-rise buildings across Scotland, and since the Grenfell Tower fire, over 200 visits have been carried out by the SFRS to residents in high-rise buildings.
I have been informed by colleagues that SFRS are awaiting confirmation that no privately owned buildings have the cladding, and local authorities are completing these investigations as a matter of urgency.
As you may be aware, Scottish Building Standards are devolved, and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service works closely with local authorities and housing associations to ensure the safety of occupants in high rise buildings. Following the events at Grenfell, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Communities established a Ministerial Working Group on Building and Fire Safety. Last week this Working Group reported that all 32 local authorities across Scotland have confirmed that no council or housing association high rise domestic building have the type of cladding reported to have been used in the Grenfell tower – Aluminium Composite Material (ACM).
Please be assured that along with my colleagues in the Scottish Government, Westminster, and Glasgow City Council, I will continue to monitor the situation over the coming weeks and publicise more information as I have it.
Should you have specific concerns or questions about the block you live in, please contact your local housing team. These details can be found below:
Glasgow Housing Association or Cube HA – The Wheatley Group are in the process of setting up a helpline, so in the meantime contact 0800 479 7979.
Glasgow West Housing Association – Direct calls to the property services team on 0141 331 6652.
Partick Housing Association – Direct calls to 0141 357 3773 or visit their office at 10 Mansfield Street. More information is also on their website: http://www.partickha.org.uk/
Maryhill Housing Association – Direct calls to 0141 946 2466 or email email@example.com
Queens Cross Housing Association – Direct calls to 0141 945 3003 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Scottish Fire & Rescue Service are at available to offer more information and should you wish to arrange a fire safety assessment please contact them directly on 0800 0731 999.
If you have any difficulties do feel free to contact my office on 0141 339 7693 or via email on email@example.com
Thursday 22 June 2017
This was a horrific attack and my thoughts go out to everyone who has been affected. I know that everyone will be saddened to see yet another terrorist attack.
While there is no intelligence of any specific threat to Scotland, Police Scotland remain vigilant and visible across communities to provide reassurance to members of the public.
Muslim communities will understandably be anxious just now and it is in these moments that we must come together as a country and unite against extremism and hate from wherever it comes.
Social Security Bill
Historic legislation to establish Scotland’s first social security system has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament this week. The Social Security (Scotland) Bill will give the Scottish Government the powers to deliver eleven benefits devolved as part of the Scotland Act 2016.
It also provides powers to top up reserved benefits and provides a mechanism to pay a Carer’s Allowance supplement at the earliest opportunity.
You can access a copy of the Bill here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/105267.aspx
The first social security payments to be delivered by the Scottish Government from summer 2018 will be the increased Carer’s Allowance, followed by the Best Start Grant and the Funeral Expense Assistance from summer 2019.
The UK Government must provide greater clarity on its Brexit plans following the Queens Speech particularly when the bulk of the speech centred on the legislation necessary for the UK to withdraw from the European Union, demonstrating that as well as being harmful to the country, Brexit is set to take up all the UK government’s resources, forcing other important issues to be sidelined.
Brexit must not see the UK Government attempt to reduce devolved competence or attempt to avoid the need for legislative consent from Holyrood.
The list of contents for Scotland’s Baby Box is now available at http://www.parentclub.scot/baby-box as registration for the nationwide roll out begins.
All babies due on or after 15 August 2017 will receive a box of essential items to support parents and promote a fair and equal start for all children in Scotland.
The final research of the successful pilot which took place in Orkney and Clackmannanshire has also been published. The findings have informed the logistics and contents of the initiative and responses have been positive, with some suggestions for improvement already implemented for national delivery.
The first meeting of a Ministerial Working Group, convened to examine building and fire safety regulatory frameworks, has taken place this week.
The meeting was chaired by Communities Secretary Angela Constance with Housing Minister Kevin Stewart and Community Safety Minister Annabelle Ewing. They were joined by officials from fire and rescue, building standards, local government and housing.
This group is overseeing a review of building and fire safety regulatory frameworks with an initial focus on high rise domestic buildings, following the Grenfell Tower fire in London. It will agree any improvements or actions identified.
I had a great start to the week with a wonderful visit to the Tron Theatre.
Andy Arnold the Artistic Director kindly extended an invitation to me for a tour of the building and a chat on the theatres plans for the future.
The Tron Theatre is one of Glasgow’s cultural hubs which has been producing and presenting an eclectic programme of work for over 20 years in the 16th century Tron Kirk building.
I was delighted with their recent funding success from the Scottish Landfill Communities Fund of almost £40,000 of which they will use to refurbish The Tron Theatre’s Changing House.
The theatre is going from strength to strength and for those who haven’t already attended one of their many productions I would highly recommend a visit.
Applications for a degree course offering exisiting graduates a new route into medicine will open in September, Health Secretary Shona Robison has confirmed.
The four-year course will have 40 places available and is being delivered by the medical schools in St Andrews and Dundee in collaboration with the University of the Highlands and Islands.
The course, which will begin next Autumn, will be open to existing graduates from any discipline with an interest in pursuing a degree in medicine.
Details will shortly be posted on the medical schools’ websites, and a social media campaign will be used to encourage applications.
Candidates interested in the new course will need to sit the GAMSAT aptitude test by 4 August. UCAS applications will open in September.
Air Departure Tax
A bill to replace Air Passenger Duty in Scotland has been passed by the Scottish Parliament.
The Air Departure Tax (Scotland) Bill sets the structure of the new tax and how it will be collected and managed by Revenue Scotland. Detail on tax bands and tax rate amounts will be set out in secondary legislation in the autumn, as part of the Scottish Government’s budget process and alongside other devolved taxes.
I took the opportunity to stop by the Kirkcaldy Foodbanks stall at the Parliament this week to discuss the latest initiative on food poverty.
Nourish Scotland and the Poverty Truth Commission are working together to develop a Dignity Framework with and for community food providers supported through funding from the Scottish Governments’ Fair Food Transformation Fund.
It is hoped that the framework can be a tool for community food providers and community members to consider how placing dignity at the heart of community food provision can support a transition away from emergency food aid as a primary response to food insecurity.
You can access more details on the project at www.nourishscotland.org
The Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Bill published this week sets an objective for public boards that 50% of non-executive members are women by 2022.
It will apply to certain public bodies, colleges and Higher Education Institutions in Scotland, subject to the Bill receiving parliamentary approval.
The Bill will drive further improvements, building on the success of the Scottish Government’s ‘50/50 by 2020’ pledge – which has seen nearly 200 organisations across the public, private and third sectors sign up voluntarily to improve gender balance on board.
A fund to incentivise film production in Scotland has generated £17.5m for the economy – returning £10 for every pound spent.
The Production Growth Fund, a combination of Scottish Government and National Lottery Funding administered by Creative Scotland, provides an incentive for major film and TV producers to base their work in Scotland. T2: Trainspotting, Churchill and The Loch were among the first productions to benefit.
Responding to Creative Scotland figures that underline the impact of the first £1.75m awarded, Ms Hyslop confirmed the Scottish Government will allocate an additional £250k to the Production Growth Fund, taking its total to £3.25 million.
With MND Awareness taking place this week I was pleased to see that applications are now being taken for a scholarship fund set up in memory of motor neurone disease (MND) campaigner, Gordon Aikman.
The Gordon Aikman Scholarship is worth £50,000; with Scottish Government funding of £25,000 and MND Scotland announcing this week that it will match this funding.
It will support individuals affected by MND or their carers and healthcare professionals to research and develop practical improvements in the way people with MND are cared for.
Social Enterprise Awards
Scotland’s annual awards for achievement in social enterprise are open for entries – with just 3 weeks left to apply.
Social Enterprise Scotland is calling on all social enterprises to step up and demonstrate how they’re helping people or the environment – gaining real recognition for their many achievements and with many social enterprises across the constituency doing some great work I’d encourage you to get your applications in.
The deadline for award applications is Monday 10 July 2017. All information is at: socialenterpriseawards.scot
A ten-year strategy to ensure Police Scotland is equipped to tackle new and emerging threats has been published.
Policing 2026 includes a commitment to recruit more civilian cyber specialists to counter the threat posed by cyber-crime and calls for greater emphasis on addressing vulnerability and mental health issues.
As well as maintaining officer numbers for 2017-18, the strategy also proposes a workforce model that frees up officers from support work to increase the number available for frontline policing.
Thursday 15 June
I attended the inaugural meeting of the External Experts Panel held this week in the Parliament. The group has been established as a collaborative venture between three parliamentary committees, Social Security, Finance and Constitution and Culture, Tourism, European and External Relations as well as the Centre on Constitutional Change based at the University of Edinburgh, with the support of the ESRC.
The meeting brought together the members and provided an opportunity for the experts to outline their views on the forthcoming challenges and opportunities that MSPs will need to consider over the next 12 months in the three areas of, constitutional policy and territorial financing, Brexit and EU matters and the implementation of new social security policy in Scotland.
The Scottish Government pledged support for victims of human trafficking will be doubled to at least 90 days. The announcement was made during a debate in the Parliament this week on the issue of human trafficking and I took the opportunity to contribute to the debate.
The extended period of support will be three times longer than the Council of Europe minimum period and twice as long as the rest of the UK. The change is being made after consultation with victims’ groups and other justice agencies, and is a key part of the new Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy, launched in May and aimed at eliminating human trafficking in Scotland.
Funding of almost £800,000 will be provided this year through support groups TARA (Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance) and Migrant Help UK.
You can read my contribution here http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11003&i=100549
Ahead of Brexit negotiations beginning, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has written to Prime Minister Theresa May to express the Scottish Government’s concerns over the UK’s current Brexit plans.
The First Minister has called for membership of the European Single Market and the EU Customs Union to be protected and for the negotiating team to include representation from the devolved governments.
She has also called for the UK government to immediately guarantee the rights of EU nationals to remain in the UK beyond the date of the UK’s exit from the EU.
A new £2.5 million fund will improve the help delivered to people looking to access employment and training.
The Employability Innovation and Integration Fund will look to join up employment support with health and social care, justice and housing services, making sure people receive the level of support they need to find sustainable employment.
Bodies responsible for delivering community planning partnership priorities which include health boards and local authorities, are being invited to submit proposals for the Fund.
If you would like more information on the Employability Innovation and Integration Fund including an application form, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The not for profit social enterprise Care Opinion were in the Parliament this week and I stopped by their stall to have a chat to them about their work.
Care Opinion aims to make it quick, easy and safe for people who use services and their carers to give feedback about their health and social care, and for providers to respond to and make use of feedback for service improvement.
Anyone can share their stories on the Care Opinion website and when the story is published on site they will automatically notify relevant health and social care services who may then also respond online.
The result is short public online exchanges which show how people are experiencing services and how services are listening and responding to that experience.
You can see more at www.careopinion.org.uk
A series of practical measures have been set out to tackle and prevent hate crime in Scotland, focused on tackling prejudice and building stronger communities.
Responding to the recommendations of the Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime which reported in September, Communities and Equalities Secretary Angela Constance has confirmed:
Creating a delivery group of key partners with Ministerial oversight to ensure the advisory group’s recommendations lead to meaningful changes on the ground
Work with transport providers and disabled people’s organisations to deliver a hate crime charter for public transport
Tackling hate crime in the workplace, focusing on frontline staff, working with the STUC and others to gather evidence
A public campaign aiming to prevent hate crime by raising awareness of what hate crime is and how to report it and showing perpetrators the impact of these crimes on victims
Adopting the International Holocaust Memorial Trust’s definition of anti-Semitism – driving work to tackle this form of prejudice
The hospitality sector contributes billions to both our local and national economy every year and yet it’s workers are the lowest paid and least contractually secure in our economy. The median income of workers in the hotels industry for example is 50p less than the Minimum Wage at only £7 per hour.
Fair Hospitality is the campaign to improve conditions alongside workers within the hospitality industry. Our aim will be to provide hospitality workers with the legal knowledge, the organising skills and collective confidence to transform their workplace and ultimately re-build a collective bargaining framework for the industry.
I know across Glasgow Kelvin there have been successes for this campaign but there remains several issues highlighted by the Fair Hospitality campaign that remain unresolved.
I support the aims of this campaign and hope to work in collaboration as the local MSP for the area to reach an agreement.
Glasgow and Berlin will co-host the inaugural European Championships in August 2018, bringing together the existing championships of seven of Europe’s leading sports into one coordinated, exciting multi-sport event.
Aquatics, cycling, gymnastics, golf, rowing and triathlon will be held in Scotland, with the German capital hosting the athletics.
Scotland’s sporting reputation has never been higher, following what is now widely recognised as the best ever Commonwealth Games and the spectacular 2014 Ryder Cup.
Commonwealth and European champion swimmer, Ross Murdoch, who has been named as the first Glasgow 2018 sporting ambassador, joined young people from across Scotland at a sporting street carnival in Glasgow’s Buchanan Street to celebrate tickets going on public sale and you can get yours at https://www.glasgow2018.com/tickets
National Clean Air Day
Scotland is making progress tackling air pollution, a new report launched today on National Clean Air Day has shown.
The report showed that in the last 18 months 40 key actions have been progressed as part of the Clean Air for Scotland (CAFS) strategy involving the Scottish Government, local authorities, the NHS, Transport Scotland and Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).
Key activity includes:
working with local authorities to introduce the country’s first Low Emission Zone by 2018, including on-going engagement with the bus and freight sectors
Scotland becoming the first country in Europe to adopt in law the World Health Organisation’s guidelines on fine particulate matter and funding for 13 new monitoring stations (adding to the 16 already in place)
the creation of four new Air Quality Management Areas, bringing the total to 38 in Scotland, all in locations designed to give the best insight into pollution country wide
the development of an app which advices people about alternative routes to help reduce exposure to pollution, and a permanent exhibition at the Glasgow Science Centre dedicated to air quality