This summary presents the key themes to emerge from the Scottish Government's consultation on fireworks. The focus of the consultation was on gathering the public's views on the use and regulation of fireworks in Scotland.
In total, 16,420 responses were available for analysis. In addition to the online consultation, 29 events were held across Scotland and a range of social media platforms were used to seek people's views. The main issues and themes raised by participants were similar across the different ways of taking part in the consultation.
Answers to the closed questions to the online consultation
- A majority of respondents, 70% of those answering the question, reported that they had been affected by fireworks used in an irresponsible or unsafe way.
- A very substantial majority, 94% of those answering the question, thought there should be more controls over the sale of fireworks. Individual respondents were more likely than organisations to think there should be more controls – at 94% and 78% respectively.
- A majority of respondents, 87% of those answering the question, would welcome a ban on the sale of fireworks to the public in Scotland. Of the remaining respondents, 10% would not welcome a ban and 4% were unsure. Individual respondents were much more likely than organisations to think there should be a ban - at 87% and 40% respectively.
- A very substantial majority, 92% of those answering the question, thought there should be more controls over how fireworks can be used in Scotland. Individual respondents were more likely than organisations to think there should be more controls – at 92% and 73% respectively.
- A very substantial majority, 93% of those answering the question, thought there should be more controls to make sure animals are not caused unnecessary suffering because of the use of fireworks. Individual respondents were more likely than organisations to think there should be more controls – at 93% and 80% respectively.
Views of those favouring more controls on the sale or use of fireworks or for a ban on sales to the public
A substantial proportion of respondents went on to make further comments at these questions, ranging from 10,940 comments from those who said they had been affected by the use of fireworks up to 14,290 from those looking for more controls on sales of fireworks to the public.
Key themes to emerge from the further comments of those favouring more controls or a ban were:
- General comments in support of a ban on the sale of fireworks to the public or on the general public having access to, and being able to use, fireworks.
- Frequent references to the harm fireworks can do, particularly in relation to pets, wildlife and livestock. There were particular references to dogs, cats and horses. Animal-related incidents and concerns often centred around the noise made by fireworks and the need to put in place special measures to keep animals, and especially pets in the home, safe and well. However, it noted that this anti-stress medication cannot be taken for prolonged periods and that most animals will not be afforded this type of protection.
- Associated concerns about the period over which fireworks may be released and that they are increasingly being used at any time of year, but in particular between October and January. The connection was sometimes made with the period over which fireworks are on sale.
- Reports that fireworks are being used in places which respondents considered inappropriate, such as back gardens in built-up residential areas or near fields containing livestock.
- Concerns about fireworks being set off in locations where it is not legal to do so, such as in the street or other public places.
- Reports of indiscriminate or dangerous use of fireworks in public spaces were often connected with a perception that young people and children have no difficulties in accessing fireworks - either because they are being sold to them in shops/pop-up shops or because adults are buying and passing them on.
- The type of incidents respondents referred to included witnessing or hearing about fireworks being used as 'weapons' against the emergency services, seeing fireworks being thrown at cars or buses and reading about fireworks being used to injure/torture animals.
- A number of respondents referred to either themselves, family members or friends having been injured by fireworks, albeit some of these reports were historic. The resource implications for the NHS of caring for those with firework-related injuries were also noted.
- Respondents also commented that some types of people or people with particular experiences may find fireworks especially distressing or frightening. Examples given included people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), autistic people, people with mental health problems, people with dementia, people with learning disabilities, some older people and those with a sensory impairment.
- In terms of solutions other than a ban, respondents referred to allowing organised displays only, having a licensing or permit system for selling, purchasing or use, raising the age at which people can buy fireworks, reducing noise levels or only allowing silent fireworks and to increased penalties for misuse.
- On the latter theme of misuse, respondents often spoke of the need to enforce both current and any future legislation or regulation. This was sometimes associated with a view that the Police need to have a more visible presence within communities being adversely affected by fireworks.
Views of those who did not favour more controls or a ban on sale to the public
A substantial proportion of respondents who were not looking for more controls or who did not support a ban also made further comments (ranging from around 280 of the respondents who did not favour more control on sales up to around 920 respondents who did not favour a ban).
Key themes to emerge from the further comments of those who did not favour more controls or a ban were:
- Concerns that a ban or further controls would represent a curtailment of freedom of choice and would be a 'nanny state' solution to a relatively minor issue. There was also a view that it is neither fair nor reasonable to penalise the responsible majority for the actions of the irresponsible few.
- Pet owners need to take responsibility for the care and training of their animals, including ensuring that they become used to loud noises.
- There was also a view that the Scottish Government is listening to, or risks being swayed by, a small but vocal minority, including amongst them irresponsible pet owners who have not properly trained their animals.
Other issues raised
The consultation also covered prevention and community involvement. One area in which some respondents saw a particular role for key partners, such as national and local government and the Emergency Services, was in relation to enforcement of current regulations or of any future regulations. On a similar theme, some respondents referred to the need to make sure that existing penalties for misuse of fireworks are imposed, including for businesses that mis-sell, and for organisations or members of the public who misuse fireworks.
There was a frequent view that communities could support organised displays or that community groups could arrange displays. It was often suggested that such displays should be safe, well organised and inclusive, in terms of accessibility and affordability.
Arguments that communities cannot or should not be involved in supporting the safe use of fireworks were also made, often by respondents who saw the issue as a matter for government and for law enforcement.
Awareness-raising work, usually in the form of publicity campaigns or advertising, was generally seen as offering benefits, with suggestions that real-life stories should be used, and a hard-hitting approach, including the use of graphic imagery of harm caused to people and animals. There were also calls for a focus on raising awareness through the education system, including through schools and colleges.