Firework Review Group minutes: December 2019

Minutes from the first meeting of the Firework Review Group, held on 5 December 2019.

Attendees and apologies


  • Alasdair Hay, Chair
  • Christopher Bell, Edinburgh City Council
  • Eleanor Robertson, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
  • Fraser Stevenson, British Firework Association
  • Gilly Mendes Ferreira, Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
  • Jim Wilson, Veterans Scotland
  • John Laidlaw, 21 CC (on behalf of British Pyrotechnics Association)
  • Julie Evans, Glasgow City Council (on behalf of Gillian McNaught)
  • Kathleen Robertson, British Veterinary Association
  • Ross Haggart, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (on behalf of Alasdair Perry)
  • Tim Ross, Police Scotland

Scottish Government 

  • Amy Wilson, Justice Analytical Services (left after agenda item 4)
  • Ash Denham MSP (Minister for Community Safety) (left after agenda item 2)
  • Eilidh Currie, Justice Analytical Services
  • Eilidh Smith, Building Safer Communities
  • Elinor Findlay, Building Safer Communities
  • Gordon Paterson, Building Safer Communities
  • Isobel Joiner, Scottish Government Legal Department
  • Kim Hunter, Building Safer Communities
  • Susan Robinson, Justice Analytical Services (left after agenda item 4)


  • Alison Kerr, Community Action Blackburn
  • Alasdair Perry, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
  • Cliff Stonestreet, British Pyrotechnics Association
  • Gillian McNaught, Glasgow City Council
  • Mike Callaghan, CoSLA
  • Neil MacDonald, Scottish Ambulance Service

Items and actions

Welcome and Introductions

Alasdair Hay opened the meeting and thanked everyone for attending and agreeing to participate as members of the Review Group.

The Minister for Community Safety, Ash Denham MSP, further welcomed and thanked the Group for their attendance.  The Minister gave an overview of the work that has been progressed over the last year which has resulted in the Review Group being established and tasked with exploring the legislative options currently available in Scotland.  The Minister also noted her intention to progress discussions with the UK Government around the sale of fireworks.    

Introductions were then made around the table and everyone provided a brief overview of their role and interest in this area. 

Alasdair emphasised the important nature of the work the Group will undertake and the timescales in which it is required to deliver its recommendations.  While appreciating the forthcoming Christmas break, Alasdair noted the time limited nature of the Group and outlined that he is keen to meet with members of the Group out with scheduled meetings to discuss options and implications in more detail, as well as to meet with wider relevant stakeholders.  Members of the Group were asked to get in touch with the secretariat team over the coming weeks if this would be beneficial.

Action: Members of the Group to indicate if they would welcome a meeting with the Chair of the Group out with scheduled Review Group meetings. 

Key Messages From The Evidence

Susan and Eilidh from Justice Analytical Services (JAS) gave a brief overview of the key messages from the evidence that was been carried out to inform development of the Fireworks Action Plan.  This included the public consultation, omnibus survey and international evidence review, all of which are available on the Scottish Government website.     

Susan outlined that both the omnibus survey and the consultation show support for increased control over the sale and use of fireworks in Scotland, although the proportions indicating this are lower for the omnibus survey than for the consultation; and that similar reasons emerged from both the consultation and the omnibus survey as to why respondents did or did not favour more controls on the sale of use of fireworks, or for a ban of sales to the public. 

Eilidh provided a brief overview of international regulations on the sale and use of fireworks; as well as a summary of the evidence in key areas including injury, environment, noise and animal welfare. 

A number of questions and points were raised during the discussion:

  • Eleanor sought clarification on the methodology used for the omnibus survey, and if this is a method typically utilised in addition to public consultations.  Susan explained that while the consultation provides an opportunity for people who feel strongly about an issue to provide their views and input, the omnibus survey samples specific groups of people to ensure the results are representative of a certain population – in this case adults in Scotland; while also allowing for sub-group analysis to take place (e.g. young people, people who live in rural areas).
  • Fraser raised a question about the number of people who responded to the consultation, and the weight that should be given to this.  He compared this to fireworks sale in Scotland which far exceeds this; and questioned whether it is a vocal minority who are opposed to fireworks, rather than majority of the population
  • Fraser also pressed for caution when making comparisons to legislation in other countries, as there are often very specific reasons for tighter regulations and bans, such as issues around wildfires in Australia and certain states in America
  • The potential for unintentional consequences of additional legislation was raised as an important issue to consider and one that the Group agreed would be important to look into further 
  • The importance of enforcing existing legislation and regulation was also raised

Eleanor provided an overview of a new data collection exercise that has been carried out on injuries from fireworks and offered to present the findings of this to the Group once completed and analysed.

Action: Group to ensure potential unintended consequences of any additional legislation is fully considered. 

Action: Eleanor to provide an overview of the firework injury data collection exercise to the Group once completed. 

Fireworks Action Plan

Elinor gave an overview of the recently published Fireworks Action Plan, and provided a summary of the range of actions that will be taken forward under the four key themes of: awareness raising and communication; support to publicly organised displays; support to communities affected by firework misuse; and legislation and regulation. 

While the Group acknowledged their specific role around legislation and regulation there was a discussion about the interdependencies that exist between this and the other three work streams that will be taken forward.  It was agreed that while the Group would retain its focus on legislation and regulation it could also play an important ‘sounding board’ role for the other actions that will be progressed.

Action: BSC team to update the Review Group on wider actions that will be progressed at key points, and ensure opportunities for the Group to feed in as these are developed. 


A number of key themes were covered in the subsequent discussion, including:

  • Resource implications, particularly for the emergency services and local community safety partners, who devote significant resources to plan for and prevent incidents over the bonfire period. SFRS confirmed that they deal with around 15,000 deliberate fires annually, and this peaks on bonfire night to around 350, and that there are incidents every year of fire fighters being attacked with fireworks. Tim Ross provided a brief overview of the national multi-agency operation that is put in place over the bonfire period (Operation Moonbeam) and suggested that the Silver Commander for this operation could attend a future meeting of the Group to provide an overview of this and the data from this year’s operation. The sustainability of the costs associated with prevention, education, enforcement as well as the treatment of injuries was raised.   
  • The benefits of well organised local firework displays were discussed and acknowledged.  The cost to community groups to host these events was also raised, as were questions about how such groups could access funding to support these. 
  • The adverse impact on animals, particularly given the unpredictable nature of fireworks being set off. The importance of notifying neighbours when people are letting off fireworks on private property was discussed, although it was noted that people can be reluctant to do this due to concerns about how people will respond. The potential to link in with the Neighbourhood Watch Alert system as a platform for notifications around the use of fireworks was raised.
  • There was a substantial discussion around firework misuse and associated anti-social behaviour particularly in and around bonfire night, and it was recognised that this was a key catalyst for the public consultation.  It was acknowledged that while anti-social behaviour emerged as a theme in the consultation, a range of broader themes also emerged including concerns around the volume and unpredictability of fireworks being let off in the weeks around bonfire night and the impact on certain groups of people including those with autism and post-traumatic stress.
  • Online sales was raised as an issue, particularly around ensuring sufficient enforcement. In additional to this, the sale of fireworks through social media platforms was also raised as problematic and it was recognised that a multi-agency response is required to tackle this.  The risk of additional regulations resulting in driving sales further online where they are largely unregulated was raised.
  • The noise levels of fireworks was discussed, and Kathleen noted that the British Veterinary Association would like to see the noise level reduced from 120db to 97db which would have far less effects on animals.
  • Labelling of fireworks was raised as an important route to ensuring people purchasing fireworks fully understand how to use them safely and appropriately and with due consideration to those around them.  It was acknowledged that EU regulations are explicit in what information can be included on firework products; and agreed that this issue can be considered further through the work being progressed around point of sale being led by the BSC team.
  • The importance of ensuring clear and consistent public messaging around fireworks was acknowledged and the Group agreed that, if possible, it would be beneficial for all partners to adopt a standardised message in all communication. 

Action: Tim Ross to liaise with the Secretariat team to arrange a presentation on Operation Moonbeam 2019.

Action: All members of the Group to consider opportunities to develop and share a consistent safety message over the bonfire period 2020. 

Next Steps and Closing Remarks

Alasdair closed the meeting detailing his ambition to facilitate the group through a collaborative approach to develop recommendation for the Minister.  He stressed again that the work of the Group is time-bound and recommendations are to be made by summer 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 16th January 2020. Location to be confirmed.


Back to top