As a Group, we identified and discussed a number of potential issues that are central to our recommendations. We are clear that these need to be fully considered alongside the development and introduction of the measures we are recommending.
The enforcement of the additional measures we are recommending has been a central theme in our discussions. We feel strongly that enforcement needs to underpin the introduction of these measures and we recommend that full consideration is given to which organisation(s) would be required to enforce these while ensuring additional enforcement responsibility is twinned with adequate resourcing (recommendation eight).
Negative and Unintended Consequences
The potential for the measures we are recommending to have some negative and counterproductive impacts and to lead to unintended consequences was raised and discussed throughout our deliberations.
It has been put forward that there are sufficient regulations already in place, and that a greater emphasis should be directed towards fully and thoroughly enforcing these. As outlined in section 2, while resource constraints for Trading Standards, and the complexity of adequately enforcing online sales, have been raised, it is clear well established processes are in place covering product safety and standards, imports, storage and existing regulations in relation to sale and use. The national multi-agency planning that is carried out every year by enforcement agencies including Police Scotland, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Trading Standards came across strongly and we heard numerous examples of this working well locally to tackle emerging issues around inappropriate storage and illegal sales.
There is also some concern that any additional measures could affect those who currently enjoy fireworks in a safe and responsible manner, without impacting on those who chose to misuse fireworks. As a Group we have been mindful of the need to strike the right balance between ensuring those who wish to use and enjoy fireworks sensibly still have the opportunity to do so, while addressing the very real concerns and issues that arise from the legitimate use of fireworks and from fireworks misuse. Our discussions have centred primarily on the private use of consumer fireworks and full definitions will be required going forward. Our working definition of organised firework displays includes displays where professional firework operators are involved in the organisation and running of the display, and which typically require a temporary/public entertainment licence from the local authority. This includes large displays organised by local authorities, charities, and organisations as well as smaller displays organised by local groups or clubs. The private use of consumer fireworks refers to all other firework related activity.
We have been mindful of the need for our recommendations to strike the right balance between addressing the drivers behind this review, and the potential negative unintended consequences described above. Our primary objective therefore has been to ensure an approach that does not prevent people being able to enjoy well organised firework displays and adults using fireworks sensibly and safely, but one that can reduce the unplanned and spontaneous purchase and use of fireworks and move it towards a scheduled and planned activity.
The fireworks industry has cautioned that the introduction of tighter restrictions in relation to the sale of fireworks can drive the sale of firework underground and lead to the creation of a black market of dangerous firework products, potentially leading to greater levels of injury. While the international case studies did not highlight this as a consequences with the introduction of additional regulations – with the exception of a complete ban on the sale of fireworks – it will be important for this to be proactively monitored and mitigated against going forward. We therefore recommend that adequate monitoring is put in place to proactively track the illegal sale of fireworks in Scotland, and ensure adequate mitigations are put in place to coincide with the introduction of new measures (recommendation ten).
We are also mindful of the potential impact on the established fireworks industry in Scotland and of those who are employed in this area. It is estimated that around 334 people are employed in the retail of consumer fireworks in Scotland, with the vast majority (251) being seasonal employees; and that the organised display industry employs around 73 people in Scotland. We therefore recommend that a full business impact assessment of the recommended changes is carried out to identify the likely costs, benefits and risks of these changes alongside the identification of measures to, where possible, minimise and mitigate these (recommendation nine).