The Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles (Scotland) Act 2022 was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 29 June 2022 and received Royal Assent on 10 August 2022.
Section 21 of the Act includes an offence which prohibits the provision of fireworks and other pyrotechnic articles to children.
This makes it illegal for anyone to provide a firework, or other pyrotechnic article, to someone under the age of 18. This includes knowingly buying, attempting to buy, giving or – in any way - making available.
The offence came into force on 10 October 2022.
Anyone that commits this offence is liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale (which is currently £5,000) or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months, or both.
This type of offence is known as proxy purchase or proxy supply, and there are already similar offences in relation to providing products such as alcohol and tobacco to children.
Police Scotland have enforcement responsibility for the new proxy purchase and supply offence. Offences in relation to the commercial supply of fireworks and other pyrotechnic articles will continue to be enforced by Trading Standards.
Existing laws: supply of fireworks and pyrotechnic articles to children
The commercial supply of fireworks and other pyrotechnics articles continues to be subject to existing legislation.
It is already illegal for any economic operator, such as a retailer, to supply F2 and F3 fireworks, and P1 and T1 pyrotechnics to anyone under 18 years of age (The Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2015)
Types of products that are included in the proxy purchase and supply offence
The proxy purchase and supply offence applies to all fireworks and other pyrotechnic articles other than category F1 fireworks and percussion caps for toy guns (intended for use by children under the age of 14).
Category F1 fireworks are not included as it is not an offence for a person under the age of 18 to possess a category F1 firework.
Percussion caps for toys that are intended for use by children under the age of 14 are also excluded from the definition of “pyrotechnic article” in the Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2015 (S.I. 2015/1553) (see regulation 3(2)(e)) meaning that such percussion caps may be sold to children directly.
While it is already unlawful for retailers to sell category F4 fireworks, and category P2 and T2 pyrotechnics to the public, these are included in the new offence to make it explicitly clear that these items should not be provided to a child.
Further information on categorisation of fireworks and pyrotechnic articles
Fireworks are categorised as either category F1, F2, F3 or F4 depending on the type and composition of the firework, including the net explosive content (NEC), and the associated hazard and noise levels. While there are some exceptions, broadly speaking categories of firework can be described as:
- F1 fireworks are typically indoor or close proximity fireworks with lower minimum safety distances, for example 1 metre. Examples of common types of F1 products include small sparklers, ice fountains, Christmas crackers and party poppers. These are not covered by the new offence
- F2 fireworks are outdoor fireworks that have an NEC of up to 600g depending on their type and have a minimum spectator safety distance of 8 metres. Examples of common types F2 products include roman candles (up to 50g), rockets (up to 75g) and batteries (up to 500g) and combinations (up to 600g)
- F3 fireworks are outdoor fireworks that have an NEC up to 3000g. They have a minimum spectator safety distance of 25 metres. Examples of common types of F3 products include larger rockets (up to 200g), mines (up to 200g), batteries (up to 1000g) and combinations (up to 3000g)
- F4 fireworks present a high hazard and are for professional use only and are not available to members of the public
Pyrotechnic articles, that are not categorised as fireworks, are given a different categorisation. This includes:
- Theatrical Pyrotechnic Articles (T1 and T2), often referred to as stage pyrotechnics proximity effects or special effects. These are items designed for use on stage and in theatres, including use by professionals for television shows, films, sporting events and concerts. Examples might include maroons and stage gerbs (theatrical fountains)
- other Pyrotechnic Articles (P1 and P2) which are most often designed for outdoor use and can include devices designed for life saving (such as distress flares and distress rockets), and paintball accessories (such as smoke devices)
Legitimate use of pyrotechnic articles by people under 18 years of age
There may be legitimate reasons for making pyrotechnic articles, such as safety flares, available to people under the age of 18. There are therefore specific exemptions from the offence in relation to the non-retail supply of appropriate pyrotechnic articles in certain limited circumstances.
The Act makes it clear that a person does not commit an offence if the pyrotechnic article is designed to be used as a visual distress signal, and the person providing the pyrotechnic article intends for the recipient (under the age of 18) to use the pyrotechnic article only for that purpose in appropriate circumstances. For example, it is not an offence if a person provides a person under the age of 18 with a safety flare to use if they need to signal for help whilst sailing.
It is recognised that some people under the age of 18 may need to use pyrotechnic articles as part of their education, training or employment in supervised settings. Such use of pyrotechnics is subject to safety obligations already placed on education providers and employers, such as health and safety legislation on managing risk in the workplace. Use of pyrotechnics may also be required when a person under the age of 18 is a member of the armed forces, a cadet force, or an organisation involved in activities such as search and rescue. These activities are also exempt from the new offence.
Sources for further information
- Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles (Scotland) Act 2022
- The Fireworks (Scotland) Miscellaneous Amendments Regulations 2021
- The Fireworks Act 2003
- The Fireworks (Scotland) Regulations 2004
- Fireworks Regulations 2004
- Explosives Regulations 2014
- The Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2015
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