Publication - Minutes

Firework Review Group minutes: 27 August 2020

Published: 22 Dec 2020
Date of meeting: 27 Aug 2020

Minutes from the fourth meeting of the Firework Review Group, held on 27 August 2020.

Published:
22 Dec 2020
Firework Review Group minutes: 27 August 2020

Attendees and apologies

Attendees

  • Alasdair Hay, Chair
  • Alasdair Perry, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
  • Andy Hubble, British Pyrotechnics Association (on behalf of Cliff Stonestreet)
  • Christopher Bell, Society of Chief Officers of Trading Standards in Scotland
  • Donna Baillie, Scottish Ambulance Service
  • Eleanor Robertson, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
  • Fraser Stevenson, British Fireworks Association
  • Gilly Mendez Ferreira, Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
  • Hazel Scott, Police Scotland (on behalf of Tim Ross)
  • Jim Wilson, Veterans Scotland (left meeting at comfort break)
  • Julie Evans, Glasgow City Council (on behalf of Gillian McNaught)
  • Kathleen Robertson, British Veterinary Association
  • Lorraine Gillies, Scottish Community Safety Network
  • Michelle Kirkbright, Community Representative (on behalf of Alison Kerr)
  • Willie Black, Community Representative (left meeting at comfort break)

Scottish Government

  • Eilidh Smith, Building Safer Communities
  • Elinor Findlay, Building Safer Communities
  • Hollie Gibson, Building Safer Communities
  • Kim Hunter, Building Safer Communities

Guest attendees

  • Hannah Still, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (left after first agenda item)
  • Fran Warren, Justice Analytical Services (left after agenda item 3)

Apologies

  • Alison Kerr, Community Representative
  • Cliff Stonestreet, British Pyrotechnics Association
  • Gillian McNaught, Glasgow City Council
  • Mike Callaghan, CoSLA
  • Tim Ross, Police Scotland

Items and actions

Welcome

  • Alasdair Hay opened the meeting by thanking everyone for attending the fifth meeting of the Group and welcomed those attending their first meeting. Introductions were then made where individuals explaining whom they were representing.
  • Alasdair provided a brief overview of the remaining work of the Group and emphasised the importance of the ‘evidence-gathering’ stage that concluded at this meeting.
  • The Group agreed the note of the previous meeting and Alasdair noted that members could contact the secretariat if they had any further comments to make.

Fireworks Industry Presentation

  • Andy Hubble, representing the British Pyrotechnics Association, and Fraser Stevenson, representing the British Fireworks Association, both gave a brief overview of their presentations from the previous meeting to allow the Group to continue their discussion.
  • Andy briefly recapped on professional firework displays, the membership of the BPA, professional training requirements, environmental impacts, responsible use of fireworks, sound limits and the required adherence to the current legislative framework.
  • Fraser recapped on his presentation in relation to consumer fireworks, showing a video that highlighted the unintended consequences of different firework restrictions, including organised crime links and more extreme injuries. The video emphasised that enforcing existing legislation, and educating away from antisocial behaviour could be more beneficial than banning fireworks.
  • Fraser also highlighted that sparklers cause the majority of fireworks injuries especially when given to unsupervised children or not used properly. Fraser also noted the fireworks industry condemns fireworks misuse and tries to help prosecution where possible.
  • A number of questions and points were raised during the update:
    • Lorraine Gillies noted that she found the video hard to watch because of the impact on communities. Lorraine also suggested supporting resilience in communities would be a beneficial topic for the Group to consider further.
    • Eleanor Robertson noted that she was encouraged the code of conduct does not get broken often and asked if it would be possible to receive data on the numbers of inspections carried out over the last few years to give a better understanding of the process. Andy explained that the BPA do not have this data because it does not belong to them.
    • Andy explained that disciplinary action would be taken by the BPA and that, if applicable, warnings would be issued to those in breach of the code.
    • Fraser explained that Trading Standards also perform licence checks on commercial premises and have previously used test purchasing to ensure that companies are upholding the law. Christopher Bell, representing Trading Standards, added to this explaining that trading standards officers conduct yearly storage inspections and discussions on all business aspects, including responsible market and adherence to relevant standards and regulation.
    • Chris shared concerns around individuals buying fireworks online, which are legal in other countries including within the EU, however, prohibited in Scotland where the buyer either knowingly or unknowingly is breaking the law. Chris suggested that the Group might benefit from discussing not just black-market fireworks but other illegal firework imports/trades, such as individuals looking for the ‘best deal’ rather than the product.
    • A number of Group members emphasised that resources have to be considered going forward as staff and funding streams are limited. The Group agreed that whatever legislation or regulation is recommended, thought has to be given to the resource to enforce it.
    • Willie Black noted that, as a result of Covid-19 this year, there could be scope to build on the increase in community spirit, particularly in relation to the focus of any promotional material or campaign. Willie suggested that messaging could tap into this and might have an impact among those involved in fireworks misuse; and specifically mentioned a local newsletter he was involved in.
    • Chris noted that he would be keen to include information about Trading Standards within this newsletter to provide people with a route to sharing information and intelligence in relation to fireworks misuse.   

International Case Studies

  • Fran Warren, on behalf of Justice Analytical Services, provided an overview of the main findings from international case studies carried out, aligned to one or more of the legislative options being considered by the Group.
  • Fran highlighted seven case studies, with each one outlining the relevant fireworks regulations in the respective country before considering the impact the regulations have had.
  • The case studies include the ‘best available’ evidence on: fireworks-related injuries, crime, anti-social behaviour, emergency services (fire, ambulance, and police), the environment and firework imports.
  • Fran noted that, for some countries, there is more or less evidence in each area than others. Where relevant, the case studies also include evidence on the effectiveness of mitigating actions in addition to the implementation and enforcement of regulations.
  • Fran highlighted the paper and presentation is intended to aid the Group’s evidence informed appraisal of the legislative options.
  • A number of questions and points were raised during the update:
    • Fraser queried if the Pyrotechnics Directive may have helped contribute to the reduction in misuse and injury. Fraser also mentioned that Germany is re-conducting the experiments in regards to the pollution levels of fireworks and the results suggest that fireworks contribute to around 0.7% of the overall pollution in Germany, and acknowledged that this may not have been available when research was conducted by JAS.
    • Eleanor mentioned that being able to quantify the release of particulates to road emission was striking and that these kind of comparisons may help individuals better understand the impact. Eleanor also expressed that there would be individuals suffering from asthma or other related illnesses that may be negatively affected by the particulates released.
    • Alasdair reiterated the importance of the Group considering and reflecting on all of the evidence heard through different sources and methods and indicated that any additional questions could be directed  to Hannah or the Secretariat Group.

Action: Additional questions on the international case studies to be sent to the Secretariat Group.

Legislative Options Appraisal - Identifying Preferred Option(s)

  • Elinor recapped on the main outcomes from the January options appraisal workshop, and on the positively rated options that emerged.  She explained that the outcomes from this workshop have been considered alongside the main findings from the international case studies which demonstrates broad alignment.
  • Elinor noted that two broad approaches exist for the Group in making its final recommendations - the first is to keep the system broadly as it is while introducing specific measures to address issues that have been identified; while the second is a the introduction of a more comprehensive set of measures which would fundamentally shift how fireworks are accessed and used. 
  • Elinor split the Group into sub-groups to consider the two broad approaches: Emergency Services; Local Authorities; the Fireworks Industry; and Community Representatives and Animal Welfare.
  • The key discussion points from each sub-group is outlined below.

Emergency Service Sub-Group                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

  • This Group was chaired by Alasdair Hay and included: Alasdair Perry, Donna Baillie, Hazel Scott and Eleanor Robertson.
  • The sub-group were supportive of the second approach and in agreement that this was their preferred option, and felt it was more reflective of the overall discussion and direction of the Group. They also felt that this approach would enable the responsibility to be split between different parties including retailers, buyers and other services.
  • Eleanor felt that eye-protection should be looked at further as it may have a positive impact and reduce injuries, although noted it was down to the user to comply. Eleanor also mentioned that these kind of safety measures might have more impact this year as  people become familiar with requirements around  PPE, including face coverings to ensure safer environments.
  • The sub-group agreed that that legislation needs to be taken forward in conjunction with other initiatives and approaches. 
  • The sub-group agreed that civil liberties should be highly regarded in any changes, and that consideration needs to be given to the implications of personal data protection and GDPR. 
  • The sub-group agreed that all agencies should be involved in reporting fireworks misuse and discussed ways to make this easier, for example, through Operation Moonbeam.
  • The sub-group also discussed how to identify and measure the impact of any changes and that the Group would need to consider this further. The Group also noted the scrutiny that would be applied to any changes taken forward. 

Local Authority Sub-group  

  • This sub-group was chaired by Eilidh Smith and included: Christopher Bell, Lorraine Gillies and Julie Evans.
  • Overall, the sub-group were supportive of the second approach being taken forward and the introduction of a more comprehensive set of measures.
  • Broadly, all agreed that the list is in line with the evidence and discussions within the Group. However, at first glance the list highlights a burden of responsibility on local authorities.
  • The question was raised whether the public would feel the measures as an adequate response to the issues raised in the consultation.
  • Overall, the sub-group agreed the more prominent measures are: the introduction of mandatory conditions when fireworks are purchased from retailers; restricting the times of day fireworks can be and volume of fireworks that can be purchased at any one time, and; introducing a proxy purchasing offence so that adults are not able to give fireworks to those under the age of 18.
  • The importance of having communities involved in the decision-making and included in the dialogue going forward was noted as important.  For example, fireworks zones could be a tool by communities to have their say in where fireworks can be set off and bring a sense of community empowerment in how fireworks are used in communities.
  • It was noted that most of the measures cover the legal use of fireworks rather than the illegal use and the enforcement of these measures requires further consideration.
  • It was noted the measures do not directly address the misuse of fireworks and it will be important to ensure there is a continued focus on enforcing current legislation, in particular through ongoing multi-agency approaches.
  • The main concern raised with the suggested approach is whether the burden for resourcing and enforcing these measures falls to  local authorities, and the importance of matching resources to additional responsibilities was emphasised. 
  • There was a discussion around increasing the cost for a licence to include additional conditions such as site inspection, noise checks and other checks by local authorities. However, it was agreed that a balance needs to be made in the cost of a licence to ensure sales or displays are not driven underground.

Fireworks Industry Sub-group

  • This group was chaired by Elinor Findlay and included: Fraser Stevenson and Andy Hubble.
  • Overall, the Fireworks Industry (BFA and BPA) feel there are adequate controls already in place, and that a greater emphasis should be placed on enforcement rather than creating new regulations.  It was felt that there are good, targeted strategies in relation to enforcement of existing legislation, and adding additional restrictions on the legitimate use of fireworks will not help to improve the fireworks misuse. 
  • The potential for additional measures to have a counterproductive impact was highlighted and runs the risk of creating additional problems; and, added to thisit was felt that the problems seen in Scotland are not big when compared to other countries.  Instead, it was suggested that more emphasis should be placed on building on the enforcement approaches already in place, for example, through Operation Moonbeam. 
  • Tentative support, however, was offered for two of the specific measures – restricting the times of day fireworks can be purchased alongside the introduction of a proxy purchasing offence.  In addition, there was some support for the introduction of mandatory conditions at point of sale although this was in relation to measures that could support and reinforce existing rules and regulations (e.g. information leaflets) rather than the introduction of new measures. 
  • Concerns were raised with introducing restrictions on the days and times fireworks can be set off and no firework areas/zones – it was felt these measures would unduly affect law abiding citizens and could lead to additional pressure being placed on the emergency services if firework use is condensed into a shorter window.  The implications of poor weather conditions within any specified time-period for use was also raised and the potential for this to inadvertently encourage people to set off fireworks in conditions that are not safe.  The impact that these measures could have on weddings, celebrations, major Scottish events, sporting events, national firework display competitions and tourism was also discussed and the adverse impact this would have on professional firework display companies who make their living from supplying to this sector. 
  • Caution was also advised on introducing no firework areas / zones to protect people (e.g. elderly, children) who may benefit from seeing displays take place where they are residing (e.g. care homes, hospitals). 
  • The Industry reiterated that they are a source of expertise and experience in relation to firework safety and legislation and are keen to work with enforcement agencies to ensure fireworks are used safely and as intended. 

Animal Welfare and local community Sub-group

  • This group was chaired by Hollie Gibson and included: Gilly Mendez Ferreira, Kathleen Robertson and Michelle Kirkbright.
  • The sub-group were supportive of the second approach and in agreement that this was their preferred option.  This approach was in line with the options they expected to see emerge.
  • The sub-group were pleased to see the option around restricting the days and times that fireworks could be set off being included, as well as no firework zones.  The sub-group felt that these measures could help manage the impact that fireworks can have on animals and vulnerable people more effectively, as it would hopefully lead to a reduction of fireworks being set off sporadically.
  • Animal Welfare representatives suggested labelling on firework products could be utilised to make people more aware of the noise level and impact they can have on people and animals.   This included the suggestion of a ‘Low, Medium, High’ noise level categorisation on product packaging.  The group felt that the public might not fully understand the noise level of the products they are purchasing.
  • It was also suggested that fireworks packaging could be made to look less colourful and appealing with a public health warning (like cigarettes), with the acknowledgement that this would be something that would need to be worked on with the industry.
  • It was agreed that communication is key to any measures or regulations being put in place, and that this reaches whole communities across all ages.  An example of this was the public health messaging around Covid-19.
  • The education modules for both primary and secondary schools being produced by SSPCA and other partners were cited as a key opportunity to communicate with young people.  These will be available this year and it was hoped that their prominence would continue to develop in future years.
  • Enforcement and resourcing implications were raised as an issue that would need further consideration.  From a community perspective, there was the risk that people may be aware that new measures and regulations are in place but not physically see it being enforced where they live.  If the proxy sales offence option was progressed, it may be difficult to police but the most important factor would be getting the message out there.
  • If the second approach is progressed, it would be useful for the Group to receive a timeline of when each of the options within that will be realistically completed (e.g. what needs parliamentary time, what can be done immediately and what is a longer-term action). 
  • It was also suggested that from a community perspective, it would be useful to issue some sort of update so that the people who contributed to the consultation process can feel updated.  Although noted that some areas may not have a substantial update available or not much that can be said publically, but even the reassurance that work is being done behind the scenes would be valuable.

Next Steps and Closing Remarks

  • Alasdair rounded up discussions 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.
  • Alasdair reiterated that any unanswered questions could be sent to the secretariat team.

The next meeting will be held on 17th September 2020 via WebEx video conferencing