This report sets out the findings of a desk-based evidence review on the impact of fireworks in the context of international legislation and regulations. This aims to support a programme of work that ensures fireworks are used safely and handled with care, and do not cause harm, distress or serious injury.
The review is split into two parts, namely:
1. a summary of current fireworks legislation and regulations internationally; and
2. a review of the available evidence on the impact of fireworks, relating to social and environmental factors.
2.2. Background and context
Fireworks are an important part of Scottish celebrations and festivals, such as Hogmanay, Bonfire Night and Diwali. However, fireworks can potentially have negative consequences and need to be used safely and handled with care to avoid serious injury.
Following a series of high profile incidents targeting emergency service workers during Bonfire Night 2017 and further firework related incidents over Bonfire Night 2018, a public consultation was held to gather views on potential changes to fireworks legislation and regulations in Scotland (Scottish Government, 2019a). While much of the legislation on the sale of fireworks is reserved to Westminster, the Scottish Government consultation aimed to identify gaps, issues and unintended consequences with the current regulatory framework.
The consultation received over 16,000 responses, and an omnibus survey was commissioned by the Scottish Government (2019b) to provide findings that were representative of the adult population of Scotland.
To further complement the consultation and omnibus survey, a review of the evidence has been carried out to provide a full evidence-based understanding of the key issues relating to fireworks. This critical part of the ongoing programme of fireworks work will provide evidence that can be used to assess the likely consequences of either keeping or changing current fireworks legislation and regulations in Scotland.
2.3. Methods and evidence-base
The body of evidence identified in this report consists of 67 studies, including academic journal articles, government reports, surveys, case studies, laboratory experiments, evaluations, evidence reviews, interviews and books. 25 of these studies were based in the UK; 14 in the US; 14 in European countries; 6 in Australia and New Zealand; 4 internationally and 3 from Asian countries including China, India and Japan. For one study identified, the country of origin was unclear.
The studies covered a range of themes, including injury (29), culture (1), the environment (14), animal welfare (36), health (8), noise (7), the impact of legislation/regulations (13) and antisocial behaviour (2).
The studies identified, their key characteristics and limitations are summarised in Appendix A. As well as the limitations highlighted in Appendix A, it is important to note that the evidence base suffered from some key shortcomings. In particular, there was a distinct lack of evidence based in Scotland or even the wider UK, and it is unclear how findings apply to the Scottish context. Further, there was a lack of literature on several themes present in the consultation and omnibus survey, including underage sales and anti-social behaviour. Where studies did exist on these topics, there were other limitations such as small sample sizes or lack of empirical data. A detailed methods section can be found in Appendix B.
2.4. Report structure
The report begins by summarising international legislation on fireworks. It then presents the key findings from the evidence review structured by theme, including findings on the impact of legislation on these themes.