Following high profile incidents during bonfire night in 2017, and again in 2018, the Scottish Government undertook work to look at the position of fireworks in Scotland. This included: a review of police and fire service activity linked to fireworks and bonfire night by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland and Her Majesty's Fire Service Inspectorate in Scotland; and a programme of public consultation, stakeholder engagement and evidence gathering on the sale and use of fireworks in Scotland, to identify what action was required going forward.
The ‘Consultation on fireworks in Scotland: your experiences, your ideas, your views’ launched on Sunday 3 February 2019 for a period of 14 weeks, closing on Monday 13 May 2019.
Over the consultation period 29 engagement events were held – 24 open public events, and five events for specific population groups, including young people. A total of 16,420 responses were received from members of the public and stakeholder organisations. The consultation responses were independently analysed and the analysis report was published in October 2019.
A representative omnibus survey “Public attitudes towards fireworks in Scotland” was also undertaken in May 2019 with a total sample of 1,002 responses. The results of this survey were published online in October 2019.
In October 2019 the Minister for Community Safety published the Fireworks Action Plan which set out how the Scottish Government would address the concerns expressed through the national consultation. The Action Plan supports the Scottish Government National Outcome of “We live in communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe” and sets out a range of specific outcomes relating to fireworks to support this overarching vision, including:
- Organised displays provide the opportunity to bring communities together.
- Fireworks are used safely and handled with care.
- Fireworks do not cause harm, distress or serious injury.
The Action Plan set out shorter-term activities that were taken forward immediately, as well as longer-term actions, such as reviewing legislation, that will collectively support a change in how fireworks are used in Scotland.
The independent Firework Review Group was tasked with considering the options available to improve legislation relating to fireworks in Scotland. The Group considered the evidence available and, in November 2020, made a series of recommendations to Scottish Ministers. The Group reached a majority consensus that a fundamental shift is required in how fireworks are used and accessed in Scotland through the introduction of a comprehensive set of measures, including:
- The introduction of mandatory conditions before consumers are able to purchase fireworks.
- Restricting the times of day fireworks can be sold.
- Restricting the volume of fireworks that can be purchased.
- Restricting the days and times fireworks can be set off.
- A provision for no fireworks areas to be introduced where it is not permitted for fireworks to be set off, with local communities having a key role in influencing this.
- The introduction of a proxy purchasing offence criminalising the supply of fireworks to people under the age of 18.
A number of these recommendations have been progressed through The Fireworks (Scotland) Miscellaneous Amendments Regulations 2021 made by the Scottish Ministers in February 2021. At this time, a CRWIA was published for the development of policy around promoting the safe and considerate use of fireworks, and this can be found at: https://www.gov.scot/publications/promoting-safe-considerate-use-fireworks-scotland-crwia/.
Those regulations amended the Fireworks (Scotland) Regulations 2004, and the changes implemented by these regulations include three new measures in relation to the way the general public can use and access fireworks as follows:
- Restrict the times of day fireworks can be used by the general public to between 18:00 and 23:00, with the exception of 5 November (when they can be used from 18:00 until midnight), and New Year’s Eve, the night of Chinese New Year and the night of Diwali (when they can be used from 18:00 until 01:00).
- Restrict the times of day fireworks can be supplied to the general public to between the daytime hours of 07:00 and 18:00, alongside existing requirements on retailers around sale and storage licences.
- Limit the quantity of fireworks that can be supplied to the general public to 5kg at any one time.
In addition to this work around fireworks, over recent years the misuse of pyrotechnics, including fireworks, at events in Scotland has become more prevalent. There is evidence of pyrotechnics having been set off in crowded locations with subsequent risk of serious injury or death. This has included incidents at concerts and music festivals, at sporting events, and during public gatherings and protests. In 2018, Police Scotland approached the Scottish Government with significant concerns about the dangers of pyrotechnic misuse and highlighted the work they had been undertaking in relation to it. This included identifying any improvements that might be made around the recording of pyrotechnic incidents, as well as establishing the need for further powers or other legislative change. Police Scotland had identified the need for further work to:
- Establish if legislative change was desirable/possible and how that might best be achieved.
- Implement joint safety messaging by all stakeholders in relation to pyrotechnics.
- Improve recording of incidents involving possession/use of pyrotechnics.
Following engagement with Police Scotland, in May 2019 the Scottish Government hosted a series of stakeholder discussions on the misuse of pyrotechnics to further identify actions that could be taken to tackle the issue and to gather more evidence. Discussions involved representatives from Police Scotland, Scottish Police Federation, British Transport Police, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and the Scottish Government. The final stakeholder discussion concluded that a dedicated stop and search power for pyrotechnics, not limited exclusively to persons entering or attempting to enter qualifying events, was required.
The Minister for Community Safety publicly expressed Scottish Government support for joint actions to tackle the risk of pyrotechnic misuse, welcoming a recent Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service campaign on this issue (‘No Place for Pyro’) in January 2020 and reiterating that keeping people safe is a priority for the Scottish Government and partner agencies. In September 2020, and in light of stakeholder discussions, the Scottish Government made the decision to consult more widely on the creation of a new offence relating to possession of a pyrotechnic article, and the extension of current police powers to allow a stop and search power for this offence, and this was included alongside the proposed fireworks measures in the recent consultation.
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