Tory and Labour MSPs have joined in protest at the SNP-led Scottish Government's imminent imposition of tighter fire safety standards on homes across the country.
Housing Secretary Shona Robison told MSPs that “having considered the balance of risks, I’m clear that it’s not right to delay the legislation that is designed to protect and save lives”.
Ms Robison said that nobody will be penalised for being unable to install the correct system by February 1.
She also insisted that following discussions with the insurance sector, it is “not likely” that policies would become invalid for not complying with the new law.
But Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron said: “I am surprised that the minister is refusing to show flexibility over the deadline she has imposed.
“Many people have found it extremely difficult to find a qualified contractor to install the new fire alarms, particularly in rural areas like those that I represent where contractors are few and far between and often very busy.
“Many people have been left worrying about what this means for their home insurance.
“Despite her statement, I hope that she reconsiders and gives people more time to make their arrangements.”
And Scottish Labour’s Housing spokesperson Mark Griffin said: “This statement was a chance to shed some much-needed light on this mess – but the SNP have no answers to even the most basic questions.
“This was supposed to be a chance to improve safety in our homes, but the SNP have let it descend into chaos. Their stubborn refusal to delay is completely inexplicable.
“There are still serious questions over whether insurance policies could be voided, and the Cabinet Secretary did nothing to convince us that the supply shortages have been dealt with.
“People up and down the country are worried about being in breach of the law, because they can’t afford an alarm or can’t find an alarm, and some still don’t even know they need a new alarm.
“If they insist on forging ahead with these changes and hit households with hefty bills in the middle of a cost of living crisis, they must iron out these problems and do more to help the poorest households meet the costs.”
Shona Robison said: “Ensuring people are safe from risk of fire in their homes is a key priority for the Scottish Government.
“These improved standards will reduce the risk of injury and death in house fires.”
She said that “there are no penalties for non-compliance”, adding that “no-one will be penalised if they need more time”.
But she stressed that he would “strongly encourage all homeowners to make these changes and benefit from improved protection against loss of life and property in the event of a fire”.
On concerns about a failure to comply could invalidate home insurance policies, Ms Robison told MSPs that “this is not the case”.
She added: “We've engaged proactively with the Association of British Insurers throughout the legislative process, and they have ensured their members were aware of the changes and have stated that while insurers may ask customers questions about whether the property is fitted with working fire alarms, they are not likely to ask questions about specific standards.
“Anyone who is unclear on their policy terms and conditions in relation to the new law should speak to their insurer.”