Firework Review Group minutes: 13 August 2020

Minutes from the fourth meeting of the Firework Review Group, held on 13 August 2020.

Attendees and apologies


  • Alasdair Hay, Chair
  • Alasdair Perry, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
  • Andy Hubble, British Pyrotechnics Association (on behalf of Cliff Stonestreet)
  • Donna Baillie, Scottish Ambulance Service
  • Eleanor Robertson, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
  • Fraser Stevenson, British Fireworks Association
  • Gillian McNaught, Glasgow City Council
  • Gilly Mendez Ferreira, Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
  • Kathleen Robertson, British Veterinary Association
  • Hazel Scott, Police Scotland (on behalf of Tim Ross)
  • Lorraine Gillies, Scottish Community Safety Network
  • Mike Callaghan, CoSLA (attended for agenda item 5 only)

Guest attendees (presenting)

  • Chris Fitzpatrick, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
  • Shirley McLaren, Edinburgh City Council
  • Yvonne Beresford, West Lothian City Council (left after agenda item 5)

Scottish Government

  • Eilidh Smith, Building Safer Communities
  • Elinor Findlay, Building Safer Communities
  • Hollie Gibson, Building Safer Communities
  • Isobel Joiner, Scottish Government Legal Department
  • Kim Hunter, Building Safer Communities


  • Alison Kerr, Community Representative
  • Christopher Bell, Society of Chief Officers of Trading Standards in Scotland
  • Cliff Stonestreet, British Pyrotechnics Association
  • Jim Wilson, Veterans Scotland
  • Tim Ross, Police Scotland
  • Willie Black, Community Representative

Items and actions

Welcome and Introductions

  • Alasdair Hay opened the meeting by thanking everyone for attending the fourth meeting of the Group and welcomed those attending their first meeting.
  • Alasdair explained that the Group is working in unprecedented times and that all future meetings will be held on a virtual platform.
  • Alasdair provided a brief overview of the remaining work of the Group and emphasised the importance of this ‘evidence-gathering’ stage that will conclude at the next meeting.
  • Alasdair indicated he would allow a short time for questions after each agenda item. However, due to time constraints this might be limited and the opportunity exists to get in touch with the secretariat team after the meeting to pick up on outstanding issues.

Work Plan Update

  • Elinor Findlay echoed Alasdair’s opening remarks and welcomed the Group back after the lockdown period and provided an overview of the revised work plan, which proposes the Group delivers its recommendations to Scottish Minister by end of October and moves to a more frequent meeting schedule.
  • Elinor discussed implications of the Covid-19 restrictions and recovery in relation on Bonfire Night this year and the potential implications for the work of the Review Group.  This included the economic and social implications as well as challenges around community safety and social cohesion. 
  • The Group agreed to the new timescale, revised work plan, and agreed to feedback any implications relating to the response and restrictions of Covid-19 on Bonfire night this year.
  • A number of questions and points were raised during the update:
    • Lorraine mentioned that Scottish Community Safety Network is undertaking research on the implications of Covid-19 on local communities and partnerships, and will feed any relevant issues from this to the Review Group.
    • Gillian noted that a number of local organised fireworks displays have been cancelled this year, and more are expected to be cancelled in the near future due to the restrictions on large gatherings.  Gillian highlighted that this could have the potential to increase the number of private firework displays.
    • Fraser mentioned that some members of the Fireworks Industry are in discussion with UK Government regarding the potential impact to the industry from a higher demand for fireworks by the public due to large displays being cancelled.  Fraser expressed that the industry’s main concern is the import of illegal fireworks as these can be bought over the internet.
    • Gilly mentioned that higher levels of antisocial behaviour may be present around bonfire night this year due to Covid-19 restrictions, and that emotional wellbeing of individuals, especially young people, would have been affected.
    • Gilly emphasised that this was a good opportunity for educational awareness, as antisocial behaviour is an active concern raised by school teachers.  Eleanor explained that a module could highlight lived experiences from those negatively impacted by fireworks as it means that individuals would not have to bring up memories year after year for school talks, because this has a negative impact on their recovery, mental and emotional health.

Action: Lorraine to feed back the Covid-19 impact on community safety of Bonfire Night this year for local communities and partnerships.

Action: Elinor to update the Group on Scottish Government Guidance relating to the route map out of lock down, specifically in relation to Outdoor Events and how this will impact on Bonfire Night 2020.

Action: Gilly, Lorraine and Eleanor to discuss development, out with the Group, of a potential bespoke educational module for schools within the curriculum on fireworks and share any developments with the Group.

Action Plan update

  • Eilidh Smith gave an update on the progress of the non-legislative actions outlined in the Fireworks Action Plan. Eilidh noted that progress had been made, where possible, throughout the pandemic but some of the actions have been amended due to Government restrictions and highlighted these along with a general progress update:
    • Public Awareness Campaigns: both campaigns are progressing well, and specific consideration is being given to ensure the core messaging and ‘call to action’ is appropriate given the current situation with the pandemic. Work with key stakeholders to agree core messaging is underway.
    • Point of Sale Guidance: work is underway with APS Group to assist with design and content of the leaflet, which will be shared with key partners once drafted. Work is also underway in partnership with marketing colleagues and Trading Standard to agree distribution routes for the leaflets.
    • Fireworks Display Guidance: this project has been adapted due to the pandemic as it would not be timely to publish and promote guidance relating to public gatherings during this time. A two-step approach is being developed, including publishing a collated list of existing guidance along with positive case studies.  Scope exists to commission an external organisation with a strong community focus to build on what already exists and develop an easy to read signposting document ready for bonfire night 2021.
    • Youth Schemes: SFRS have developed a module on fireworks misuse with has been shared with partners for comments. Next step is to consider how to ensure the modules can be monitored for progress and impact.
    • Action research: the project will not be complete as planned for this year as it has not possible for community members to meet during this time. The timetable for completion has been extended to summer 2021 to allow for this research to be undertaken appropriately with the input of the community in Blackburn.
  • A number of questions and points were raised during the update:
    • Fraser asked whether the industry would have sight of the point of sale leaflet as he had been involved in initial discussion. Eilidh noted her intention of sending the draft leaflet to the industry and Trading standards for comment and input.
    • Fraser also mentioned that the BFA commissioned animations to promote the responsible use of fireworks for youths. Fraser said he would share these with the Group, as they could be helpful as part of the youth schemes.
    • Gillian acknowledged that some of these actions will continue to be progressed after the completion of the Review Group and asked if there would be scope to be kept updated about ongoing work being progressed. Elinor indicated that she thought this would be beneficial and would consider this going forward.
    • Kathleen explained that Veterinary practices and the NHS might still be under strain in November due to the response to Covid-19 and expressed an interest in putting out available materials in October for a news article.
    • Hollie asked for feedback on any existing firework display guidance for communities or examples of well-run community firework displays that could be included as case studies. Andy highlighted BPA has produced two display guidance documents; a local guide and a professional guide.

Action: Eilidh to share draft point of sale leaflet with the BFA and Trading Standards for comments.

Action: Fraser to share the British Fireworks Association animations with the secretariat group.

Action: Group members to contact Hollie in the secretariat group to share any good pre-existing guidance and/or community displays that have taken place.

Impact on Scottish Fire and Rescue Service

  • Chris Fitzpatrick presented the impact of fireworks on SRFS using incident data from 2009 through to 2019. Chris took the Group through this data and discussed overall incidents, damages and durations of incidents, acts of violence toward the crews and discussed the impact weather could have on this as well as breakdowns by SIMD.
  • The data highlighted a downward trend in attacks against the Fire Service over 10 years, however noted that incidents such as: attacks on officers and vehicles; antisocial behaviour towards the public; and damage to properties is still a concern for SFRS.
  • A number of questions and points were raised during the update:
    • Alasdair noted that the Group are focussed on ensuring fireworks safety, and that the evidence provided to the Group demonstrates the human and economic costs as well as noting that the evidence provided was similar to the Police and Healthcare presentations.
    • Chris also noted that levels of antisocial behaviour may be higher than documented due to a lack of reporting.

Impact on Local Authorities

  • Yvonne Beresford presented on the preventative and partnership work that takes place in West Lothian in preparation for  the bonfire season.
  • Yvonne detailed the Community Partnership that undertakes annual planning to tackle antisocial behavior on bonfire night. Yvonne discussed some of the preventative activities that are undertaken in key areas that see high levels antisocial behaviour.
  • Yvonne also mentioned that some of the preventative activities would not be able progress as planned this year due to Covid-19 restrictions.
  • Lorraine and Mike highlighted the key messages from  local authority responses to the national consultation and a bespoke SOLAR survey. They noted the key themes emerging and noted that the vast majority of local authorities who responded would welcome bespoke display guidance being developed.
  • Shirley detailed the activities Edinburgh City Council take forward to target youth antisocial behaviour associated with fireworks. This includes visits to  youths previously involved in firework related antisocial behaviour and speaking to their parents/guardian about enforceable action if they were caught again. In addition, funding of £1,000 was provided to local areas to provide activity on Guy Fawkes Night.
  • Shirley explained the council’s involvement in the citywide plan regarding CCTV monitoring, clear-ups and on the night response.
  • Potential risks due to Covid-19 restrictions were highlighted including: large scale events not taking place; the potential increase in relation online sale of legal and illegal fireworks; clear-up in the days leading up to bonfire night; and a potential reduction in the preventative activity that can take place.
  • Lorraine mentioned that Trading Standards previously test purchased fireworks in shops and trialling this online might be beneficial if there is resource to do so.
  • A number of questions and points were raised during the update:
    • Alasdair noted that there was substantial resource involved in creating community projects and plans. Shirley explained that the measures put in place for bonfire night by her council cost around £120,000.

Impact on the Fireworks Industry

  • Andy Hubble, representing BPA, presented on professionally organised displays and the responsible use of fireworks.  Andy explained the background to BPA, including that BPA members organise around 95% of the professional displays around the UK.
  • Andy took the Group through membership criteria, what consumers expect from the BPA, their available City in Guilds training schemes, where there is intensive training for both the on the ground crews and the senior individuals who run the show on the day. Andy then went on to explain the legislative framework that  professional fireworks crews need to be abide.
  • The environmental impacts of fireworks and the sound limits of professional fireworks were highlighted and Andy noted the industry has trialled silent firework displays, but they do not have the desired impact people expect from a professional display.
  • Fraser Stevenson presented on behalf of the BFA and focussed on consumer fireworks.  He outlined the current fireworks legislation and regulation and highlighted the BFA’s code of conduct.  Fraser also discussed sound limits on consumer fireworks in the UK and explained that the fireworks industry aim to keep the maximum sound between 105dB and 115dB, safely below the legal limit. Fraser highlighted that low noise fireworks are stocked but they are not popular with the public consumer.
  • Fraser noted fireworks injuries are rare but highlighted that, in relation to legal fireworks, sparklers cause the highest number of injuries and the Group may wish to look into this further, as they are often given to young children unsupervised.
  • Fraser discussed the financial impact of the fireworks industry, highlighting that the fireworks industry employs around 334 people every year, of which 25 are all year round full time employees and explained how the BPA estimates that the fireworks industry adds around £2,634,584 to the economy every year not including the profits made.
  • Andy and Fraser both stressed the economic implications from Covid-19 may impact the fireworks industry and they emphasised their respective organisations are very concerned about the expanding illegal fireworks trade, including unregulated internet trade and condemn firework misuse. In addition, they explained that highly regulated legal firework adhere to a number of pieces of legislation.
  • Fraser highlighted a number of potential unintended consequences resulting from the introduction of further restrictions or a complete ban on the sale of fireworks to the public in Scotland.

Action: Fraser and Andy to share presentations with secretariat of the Group.

Action: The Group agreed to pick up discussions relation to the presentations at the next meeting due to time restrictions at the meeting.

Next Steps and Closing Remarks

  • Alasdair rounded up the discussion and thanked the Group for their attendance and speakers for their presentations.
  • Alasdair again stressed that the work of the Group is time-bound and the recommendations to Ministers are due in October 2020.
  • The Group agreed to work collaboratively by providing their expertise and knowledge to help develop an agreed way forward.
  • The next meeting will be held on 27th August 2020 and will be held via Webex video conferencing.
Back to top