Fireworks and Pyrotechnics Articles (Scotland) Bill: fairer Scotland duty assessment

A Fairer Scotland Duty Assessment (FSDA for the Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles (Scotland) Bill.

Stage 1 – Planning

1. What is the aim of your policy/strategy/plan?

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.

A 'consultation on fireworks in Scotland: Your experiences, your ideas, your views' was subsequently launched on Sunday 3 February 2019 for a period of 14 weeks to its close on Monday 13 May 2019 and was designed to start a conversation with the people of Scotland on how fireworks are sold and used. The consultation was an important step in gathering valuable evidence on a range of opinions and perspectives and covered organised displays, private use by individuals, and inappropriate use of fireworks.

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 online in October 2019.

A representative omnibus survey "Public attitudes towards fireworks in Scotland" was 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 sets 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 outcomes for fireworks to support this 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 sets out activities that have been taken forward immediately, as well as longer term actions that will collectively support a change in how fireworks are used in Scotland; and can be split into two parts: the Firework Review Group; and the non-legislative actions that sit alongside it.

The independent Firework Review Group[1] was tasked with considering the options available to tighten legislation on fireworks in Scotland. The Group considered the evidence available and made a series of recommendations to Scottish Ministers in November 2020 (report available online) and 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 subsequently been progressed through The Fireworks (Scotland) Miscellaneous Amendments Regulations 2021, made by the Scottish Ministers in February 2021. These 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 6pm and 11pm, with the exception of 5 November (when they can be used from 6pm until midnight), New Year's Eve, the night of Chinese New Year and the night of Diwali (when they can be used from 6pm until 1am);
  • Restrict the times of day fireworks can be supplied to the general public to during the daytime hours of 7am and 6pm, 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, over recent years, the misuse of pyrotechnics[2], including fireworks, at events in Scotland has become more prevalent. There is evidence of pyrotechnic articles 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, welcoming a recent Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service campaign on this issue ('No Place for Pyro') in January 2020 and reiterated 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.

The Scottish Government undertook an eight week consultation –' Use and sale of fireworks in Scotland, and tackling the misuse of pyrotechnics' - from 20 June to 15 August 2021 seeking views on how, and if, the remaining recommendations from the Firework Review Group are implemented. The consultation also sought views on the misuse of pyrotechnic articles, particularly in relation to proposed provisions to be included within the Bill. The principal policy objectives of the proposed Bill are to protect public and community safety and wellbeing by ensuring fireworks and pyrotechnics do not cause harm, distress or serious injury, and the provisions included within the Bill are intended to support a cultural shift in how fireworks and pyrotechnics are used in Scotland. This will be achieved by altering how the general public can access and use fireworks and pyrotechnics, by making provisions for new restrictions to apply to their purchase, acquisition, possession and use, with new criminal offences to apply where these restrictions are not complied with. It is not intended that the measures included within the Bill will apply to professional firework operators, nor – for a number of the measures - organisers of public firework displays, therefore enabling organised displays to continue to take place.

A total of 1,739 responses were received to the consultation and, of these, 64 were submitted by groups or organisations, including key stakeholders. Twelve online workshop events were also held – eight open to anyone who wished to attend and four for specific groups, namely: the community in Pollokshields; specialist firework retailers; sight loss organisations; and Trading Standards. The responses were again independently analysed and the analysis report was published online in December 2021.

The Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles (Scotland) Bill has been informed by the consultation responses, and by the wider programme of engagement, consultation and evidence gathering as described above, and seeks to alter how the general public can access and use fireworks and pyrotechnic articles, by making provisions for new restrictions to apply to their purchase, acquisition, possession and use, with new criminal offences to apply where these restrictions are not complied with. The Bill is in 7 parts as follows:

  • Part 1: Key concepts, including the meaning of fireworks and pyrotechnic articles and categories.
  • Part 2: Fireworks licensing.
  • Part 3: Restrictions on supply and use of fireworks and pyrotechnic articles including: prohibition on supply to children; and days of use and supply of fireworks.
  • Part 4: Firework control zones.
  • Part 5: Pyrotechnic articles at certain places or events.
  • Part 6: Exemptions and enforcement.
  • Part 7: General provisions, including interpretation, regulations, ancillary provision, Crown application and commencement.

The aim of this policy is to change how fireworks are supplied and used in Scotland with the aim of protecting public and community safety and wellbeing by ensuring fireworks do not cause harm, distress or injury.

Who will it affect (particular groups/businesses/geographies etc)?

The policy will affect:

General public: this policy aims to reduce the negative impact that fireworks and pyrotechnics can have and promote their appropriate use; and has the potential to affect how the general public use and interact with fireworks and pyrotechnics. It will change the way the public can access and use fireworks by restricting the dates that fireworks can be supplied to and used by the general public in Scotland to align with long established traditional or religious firework events. This will reduce unpredictable use of fireworks and the negative impact and harm that this can have on the population by reducing the level of firework use throughout the year, allowing those impacted to take mitigating action during specific periods of the year when it is expected that fireworks will be used. This also applies to specific groups who can be most impacted by the noise disturbance resulting from fireworks including:

  • Autistic people
  • Pregnant women
  • Young people
  • Armed Forces veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • People with sight loss conditions and users of support dogs. An engagement event with sight loss organisations during the 2021 consultation highlighted the negative impact fireworks can have on individuals and their support dogs.

Requiring applicants to successfully complete a fireworks training course is a core element of the licensing system with the purpose of ensuring that individuals who will have the ability to purchase, acquire, possess and use fireworks in Scotland are aware of how to do so in an appropriate, safe and responsible manner.

The Bill also aims to reduce the risk to the general public attending certain places, events, public processions and assemblies where pyrotechnic misuse has been witnessed, and where that misuse has the potential to cause serious harm due to the crowded environment.

Communities: the policy aims to contribute towards reducing the negative impact of fireworks on communities by reducing the volume of ad hoc private displays and sporadic use of fireworks by the public. Both the legitimate and deliberate misuse of fireworks can have a harmful effect on people and communities. Fireworks misuse is more prominent in deprived communities and urban areas and this policy will reduce the opportunity for fireworks to be purchased both outwith traditional firework periods and as a spontaneous decision. Communities will also be impacted by the power for Local Authorities to designate a place or places within its area as a firework control zone where it is not permitted for members of the public to use fireworks. The process of designating an area as a firework control zone will be informed by community consultation and involvement.

Exemptions for organisers of public firework displays to the restrictions on days of supply and use of fireworks, and the use of fireworks in designated firework control zones will ensure that community groups will be able to continue to organise firework displays in their local area, which can provide the opportunity to bring a community together to enjoy fireworks in a safe and appropriate way. Data from the Society of Local Authority Lawyers and Administrators (SOLAR) Licensing Group[3] in February 2020 highlighted that around 150 organised displays take place over the bonfire period across the 17 local authorities who responded. The majority of these had less than 500 attendees and were organised by a community group or organisation. Members of the public who are organising a display on behalf of a community group will, however, have to apply for and obtain a fireworks licence before they are able to purchase and use fireworks for the purpose of the display. This is to ensure that those involved in organising the display have undertaken the mandatory training element that all members of the public will be required to successfully complete as part of the licence application process.

Specialist fireworks retailers: this policy will directly affect fireworks retailers who are licensed to sell fireworks throughout the year. These businesses will be required to adapt existing processes and implement the new measures relating to the days fireworks can be supplied, as well as a requirement to establish that individuals are valid licence holders, or in an exempt group, before sales can be made.

Retailers licensed to sell fireworks during specific periods of the year: the policy will directly affect retailers who sell fireworks during traditional firework periods, which is when the majority of retailers sell fireworks and are required to obtain a temporary storage licence in order to do so. While there will be some change to the dates they will be able to sell fireworks to the public, they will be required to ensure processes are in place to check that an individual has a valid licence before supplying fireworks, or are in an exempt group.

Local Authorities: this policy will affect Local Authorities who will have the power to designate a firework control zone(s) in its area, and will be required to undertake consultation with the community as part of that process. Local Authority Trading Standards, who have responsibility for enforcing legislation in relation to the commercial supply of fireworks, will also be affected by this policy. This includes ensuring that retailers are operating as required by legislation, for example by ensuring that members of the public have a valid licence before selling them fireworks, and enforcing offences related to the commercial supply of fireworks.

Police Scotland: This policy will affect Police Scotland who have responsibility for enforcement of legislation in relation to the use of fireworks and pyrotechnics. Police Scotland will enforce offences in relation to use of fireworks outwith permitted days, the use of fireworks in an area that has been designated a firework control zone, restrictions on the supply of fireworks and (without just cause) pyrotechnic articles to children (including the giving of fireworks and pyrotechnics by an adult to a child outwith a commercial setting), and the possession of pyrotechnic articles at certain places and events.

What main outcomes do you expect the policy/strategy/plan to deliver?

The main outcomes of the policy changes are to protect public and community safety and wellbeingby ensuring fireworks and pyrotechnics do not cause harm, distress or injury. The provisions included within the Bill are intended to support a cultural shift in how fireworks and pyrotechnics are used in Scotland. This will be achieved by altering how the general public can access and use fireworks and pyrotechnics, by making provisions for new restrictions to apply to their purchase, acquisition, possession and use, with new criminal offences to apply where these restrictions are not complied with.

2. What is your timeframe for completing the Fairer Scotland assessment?

This assessment has been completed ahead of the Bill's introduction to Parliament on 1 February 2022.

3. Who else in the organisation will be involved in the assessment and what roles will they be playing? We'd expect involvement from policy and analytical teams as a minimum. It is rarely appropriate for one person to conduct the assessment alone.

A number of Units and Divisions within the Scottish Government have been consulted at various stages throughout this work. This includes:

  • Justice Analytical Services
  • Community Safety Unit (Pyrotechnics, Marches/Parades and Public Assemblies and Antisocial Behaviour)
  • Fire and Rescue Unit
  • Ambulance and Emergency Workers
  • Police Division
  • Equalities Unit
  • Mental Health
  • Consumer Protection
  • Dementia and Autism
  • Public Events Licensing
  • Environmental Quality.



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