Firework Review Group minutes: March 2020

Minutes from the third meeting of the Firework Review Group, held on 5 March 2020.

Attendees and apologies


  • Alasdair Hay, Chair
  • Alasdair Perry, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
  • 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 Firework Association
  • Gillian McNaught, Glasgow City Council
  • Gilly Mendes Ferreira, Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
  • Kathleen Robertson, British Veterinary Association
  • Lorraine Gillies, Scottish Community Safety Network
  • Mike Callaghan, CoSLA
  • Tim Ross, Police Scotland
  • Tom Smith, British Pyrotechnics Association (on behalf of Cliff Stonestreet)

Guest Attendees (Presenting)

  • Julie Dobbin, Doctor, Greater Glasgow and Clyde
  • Kerry Davies, Plastic Surgery Registrar, Greater Glasgow and Clyde
  • Stuart Watson, Consultant Plastic Surgeon, Greater Glasgow and Clyde; Clinical Lead for Care of Burns in Scotland Managed Clinical Network

Scottish Government

  • Eilidh Smith, Building Safer Communities
  • Elinor Findlay, Building Safer Communities
  • Gordon Paterson, Building Safer Communities
  • Jamie MacFarlane, Justice Analytical Services
  • Kim Hunter, Building Safer Communities


  • Alison Kerr, Community Action Blackburn
  • Jim Wilson, Veterans Scotland
  • Willie Black, West Pilton & West Granton Community Council
  • Cliff Stonestreet, British Pyrotechnics Association

Items and actions

Welcome and Introductions

  • Alasdair Hay opened the meeting by thanking everyone for attending the third meeting of the Group; and by welcoming those attending their first meeting.
  • Introductions were made around the table and individuals explained who they were representing.
  • Alasdair provided a brief overview of the remaining work of the Group, which is centred on ensuring the right evidence is identified and considered; and following this clearly setting out the process by which any identified change will lead to intended outcomes and benefits. Alasdair emphasised the importance of the evidence gathering phase that needs to be completed over the next few meetings.   

Action Plan Update

  • Eilidh Smith gave an overview of progress with the non-legislative actions outlined in the Fireworks Action Plan.  Eilidh noted that all five projects are progressing well and running to timetable; and highlighted three particular areas to the Group:
    • Fireworks Display Guidance: existing guidance has been identified and collated; and a survey has been issued through SOLAR to all local authorities to better understand how many organised firework displays currently take place, and existing practice in licencing these. Over 20 responses have been received and these will be analysed to inform the content and focus of the new guidance document.
    • Point of Sale Guidance: a small working group has been set up including the British Fireworks Association, Trading Standards and Scottish Government marketing colleagues to help guide the project and discuss content and distribution routes.  A short survey has been developed and  will shortly be sent to Trading Standards representatives in all local authorities to get a better understanding of the number of retail outlets selling fireworks and the process involved to help inform the number of retailers that need to be contacted and potential delivery routes.
    • Public awareness campaigns: an initial meeting with marketing colleagues to develop the 2020 Fireworks Impact Campaign has taken place and a meeting with Crimestoppers to develop the 2020 Rules and Regulations campaign is scheduled for the coming weeks. 
  • A number of questions and points were raised during the update:
    • Fraser asked for reassurance that the content of the Crimestoppers campaign is shared with partners to ensure all information is clear and accurate.
    • Lorraine asked if plans are still progressing to include a fireworks misuse module within existing youth schemes such as Police Scotland Youth Volunteers and SFRS training schemes.  Elinor confirmed that the first stage is to identify a suitable module to be included within the SFRS youth scheme; and a learning process to be embedded within this before wider role out.  SSPCA confirmed they would be interested in including the module within their talks and presentations. 

Work Plan Update

  • Elinor Findlay provided an overview of the work plan for the Review Group and proposed that the Group consider moving to a monthly meeting schedule which would require an additional two meetings – proposed for April and July.  It was explained that this would give the Group additional time work through the evidence and consider available options.
  • Elinor explained that the Group is working in four key stages, and is currently in stage 1 which is focussed on identifying and considering the available evidence and potential options for change.  It is hoped the Group will move into stage 2 – identifying and agreeing the preferred option for change - in May. 
  • Elinor explained that the Group has had informative evidence based inputs on the impact of firework on communities, and Police Scotland; and that by the end of this meeting the Group will have heard about the health impact from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and the animal welfare impacts from SSPCA and BVA.  At the next meeting, it is proposed that appropriate members of the Group provide evidence based inputs in relation to the impact of fireworks on local authorities; and on the nature and scale of the fireworks industry.
  • Elinor also explained that it is proposed the Group undertake a second options appraisal workshop to ensure additional options emerging are fully considered.
  • A number of questions and points were raised during the update:
    • Alasdair Hay emphasised the importance of ensuring evidence is considered for each potential option the Group is considering to ensure the Group are able to make informed decisions as part of the appraisal process. 
    • Tim suggested that the second options appraisal could be moved to the May meeting to ensure all the evidence is heard and considered in advance.  It was agreed this would be appropriate.
    • Tom noted difficulties for the industry in differentiating data to Scotland-only but would make sure they had appropriate evidence to present to the Group.  
    • Kathleen asked if there could be the possibility of video conferencing into future meetings.  It was agreed this would be considered, where possible. 

Action: Members of the Review Group to confirm if they are content with additional proposed meetings to Elinor.

Action: The Industry and Local Authority representatives to prepare evidence based presentations for future meetings. 

Options Appraisal Report

  • Elinor provided an overview of the options appraisal analysis report from the second meeting of the Group held in January, and highlighted a number of areas for the Group to be aware of.  It was noted that the scores given to each option by sub-groups should not be given undue weight and should be considered alongside the comments and narrative that underpin these.  Elinor also noted the following issues that emerged from the appraisal workshop including: the importance of considering the evidence that sits behind the experience in other countries where tighter controls have been introduced; and the importance of considering potential unintended consequences.
  • Members of the Group noted that they felt the report was an accurate representation of the discussion that took place.  Fraser mentioned that he could not see restrictions on the time of day fireworks could be sold mentioned in the report but this was discussed in his Group.  

Action: Elinor to review report to ensure it reflects the discussion that took place on amending the time of day fireworks can be sold.

NHS Injury Data

  • NHS colleagues provided a series of presentations to the Group on firework related injuries.  Eleanor Robertson talked the Group through the data available from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde over 2008 to 2019 on hospital admissions relating to firework injuries. Eleanor noted a number of findings from this data including: a spike in cases around Bonfire Night; a link between firework injury and deprivation; and a higher proportion of young males being injured compared to other groups. 
  • Julie Dobbin talked the group through the second presentation regarding data collected from Accident & Emergency and Minor Injury Departments throughout Scotland over the bonfire period last year (15 October to 12 November).  Similar to the data Eleanor highlighted this also demonstrated that young males were those most likely to be injured and that this tended to take place at private firework displays.  Injuries were mainly hand and wrist injuries followed by head or neck injuries.
  • Kerry Davis then talked the Group through the final presentation which was an individual case study of a young boy who was badly injured after being given and encouraged to set off a firework.  Kerry explained the scale of the injury and the work that the NHS provided for him.  Kerry also gave an estimated cost of this one incident to the NHS (~£100,000), but the Group also noted the unknown non-monetary costs to the individual and his family including the trauma and the boy’s future.
  •  A number of questions and points were raised during the subsequent discussion:
    • Fraser asked if the data was firework-related and not bonfire or other similar injuries.  Eleanor assured Fraser that all data presented specifically related to fireworks. 
    • Fraser and Tom queried if the injuries seen were the result of using either illegal or legal fireworks and noted that, in their experience, they felt the injuries were consistent with the use of an illegal banger.  Eleanor confirmed that the data they have relates to firework related injury regardless of the source of firework.
    • Alasdair noted that the Group are concerned with ensuring fireworks safety overall, and how to prevent fireworks coming into young people’s hands and causing trauma.  The case study evidence demonstrates the human and economic cost of this.
    • The data showed sparklers caused 30-40% of injuries and Fraser suggested that sparklers are a high-risk firework, as individuals do not take account of the safety instructions on the packaging.  Kathleen also suggested that this might be a good topic to bring up as a separate discussion.

Action: NHS colleagues to provide the Group with a written report of the data analysis and findings. 

Animal Welfare Impact

  • Gilly and Kathleen presented to the Group on the impact fireworks can have on animals, and provided an overview of case studies of injuries from animals relating to fireworks including dogs pulling out their own teeth and fracturing bones; along with case studies of animals being deliberately targeted with fireworks.
  • They also outlined the economic impact of the debris left behind from fireworks, particularly for grazing animals, and outlined that animals can die from consuming the debris and metal left behind from fireworks and sparklers.  The impact on farmers was detailed, including the impact on pregnant animals over the bonfire season. 
  • Gilly detailed an occasion where a young male strapped a hamster to a firework but noted these incidents are limited.  The individual concerned on this occasion received a community service penalty, because the event was filmed.
  • The key issue for pet owners is the unpredictability of private firework displays and not being able to put preventative measures in place.  Both BVA and SSPCA noted that they do not want to ban fireworks outright to the public but supported a move to public displays as this would provide a level of protection to animals and owners.
  • A number of questions and points were raised during the discussion:
    • Eleanor mentioned that her analysis does not take into account injuries to humans caused by animals. 
    • Gillian mentioned that although organised public displays are preferred, it is important to remember the cost of these can be prohibitive for some local authorities and community groups which needs to be considered.

Action: Gilly to report back to group the Pets at Home figures of sales around bonfire night to gain an understanding of monetary costs to pet owners, if this information is available.

Next Steps and Closing Remarks

  • Alasdair thanked everyone for their contributions; and stressed again that the work of the Group is time-bound and recommendations are to be made by summer 2020.
  • Alasdair paid particular thanks to SFRS for hosting and to those who delivered presentations.
  • The next meeting will be held on 2nd April 2020. Location to be confirmed – volunteering venues welcome.
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