In the wake of the Grenfell Tower Tragedy, governments in both Holyrood and Westminster have sought to provide a greater level of protection to those living in multi-storey buildings. However, given that there are separate Building Regulations in Scotland and England, this has led to slightly different positions north and south of the border.

Scottish position

Historically, the position in Scotland has been stricter in terms of the materials which could be used in the construction of high-rise domestic premises. This trend continued following Grenfell, with a reduction in the height at which a building was considered "high rise" from 18m to 11m.

The Building (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2022 came into force earlier this year, and apply to all projects where Building Warrant is applied for on or after 1 June 2022. These continued the trend of the tightening the requirements in respect of the cladding materials, and in particular those used on the external walls of "relevant buildings". A "relevant building" in Scotland includes all domestic high-rise buildings and other high-risk buildings such as hospitals and care homes.

The materials used on the external walls of these buildings now require to be "European Classification A2-s1, d0 or A1, classified in accordance with BS EN 13501-1:2018". The ability to carry out testing in accordance with BS8 414 has therefore been removed for any residential building over 11m in Scotland.

English position

In June 2022, the UK Government announced further changes to the position in England. These changes have taken effect as of 1 December 2022. The position is slightly more nuanced than in Scotland but can be summarised as follows:

  • If a building is a Relevant Building (in England, this a building with a storey at least 18 metres above ground level and which contains one or more dwellings, an institution or a room for residential purposes (excluding any room in a hostel, hotel or boarding house)) then the materials must be European Classification A2-s1, d0 or A1;
  • If a residential building is more than 11 metres then the materials should also be European Classification A2-s1, d0 or A1. However, this is where an element of complexity is introduced. Approved Document B allows for an alternative route to compliance. If it can be demonstrated that external walls in question meet the performance criteria given in BRE report BR 135 for external walls using full-scale test data from BS 8414-1 or BS 8414-2, then this is also an acceptable standard.

Therefore, unlike in Scotland, the hypothetical 14m tall building in our poll could be made of materials with a lower European Classification provided that the wall make-up has passed the appropriate fire tests.

Some common ground

One area where the position relates to the use of metal composite material with an unmodified polyethylene core, sometimes referred to as "Grenfell Style" Cladding. Both Scotland and England have completely banned the use of this material. The overall ban has come about in stages, but materials of this type are now prohibited from being used on the external walls of all new buildings and buildings undergoing building works, regardless of height or the purpose of the building in both jurisdictions.


Hopefully this article (and the earlier poll) has acted as a useful reminder of the differences between the Building Regulations in Scotland and England. Both governments have taken steps to try and ensure the future safety of residential buildings, but have taken slightly different routes to get there.

Given the continued pressure to ensure safety of residents, we suspect there may be further changes to come, whether that be in terms of materials or height restrictions. However, only time will tell how the respective governments approach these.

For more information about the changes coming in under the Building Safety Act visit our Building & Fire Safety Hub


Eric Johnstone

Legal Director

Louise Shiels

Head of Dispute Resolution and Risk & Partner