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f you suggest to an English politician that your home should be your castle to use as you like, he will probably nod. Tell that to a member of the SNP ruling class in Bruntsfield or Kelvingrove, however, and they will take any such view as a challenge to be overcome.
A couple of years ago, following a public consultation answered by a whacking 122 respondents, the SNP quietly changed Scottish building regulations. The new rules allow the government at a future date to order every homeowner in Scotland to install smoke detectors and other safety devices of a type dictated by it, whether they liked it or not. That date is now set for February 2022. Last week Scots householders were given their orders in the unequivocal, if bossy, style typical of the new model Scots bureaucrat.
Every living room, hall and landing must have a smoke detector. Not any smoke detector, mind you. It must either have irremovable tamper-proof batteries or be wired in by a professional electrician so you cannot switch it off. And if one detector goes off, all of them must, to prevent you sleeping through them. Your kitchen is to have a heat detector and any room with a fireplace (even unused) a carbon monoxide alarm. Already have perfectly good smoke detectors? Sorry: if they aren’t exactly right you must upgrade. For an average house this costs about £220, assuming you do the job yourself: for many, it will cost more, and tradesmen come extra. What if you don’t? The local authority can in the last resort intervene and make you do as you are told.
All this is presented as sweet reasonableness with a dash of paternalism. It nevertheless represents a degree of state interference that ought to worry anyone.
For one thing, it sets personal choice at nought. Everyone knows smoke and carbon monoxide alarms make houses marginally safer. Many decide to fit them. But there are downsides. If you live in a Georgian terrace with a fireplace you may prefer period features undefiled by the kind of unsightly plastic growths you see every day on your office ceiling, even if it does mean a marginally increased risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. If you smoke (still graciously allowed at home despite the nannying tendencies of the SNP) you may prefer not to hazard an ear-splitting shriek if a whiff goes the wrong way; if you are cooking for a dinner party in a small but hot kitchen, the last thing you want is to have to break off to silence a heat alarm. The choice of whether to take such risks in your own home should be yours, not that of some government functionary.