Part One: Mandatory conditions at point of sale
1. The Fireworks Review Group recommended that mandatory conditions are introduced before consumers are able to purchase fireworks, and recognised that this has the potential to have a positive impact on promoting and encouraging the safe and appropriate use of fireworks in Scotland. In making this recommendation, the Review Group sought to ensure that the purchase of fireworks is a well thought out and planned transaction.
2. The Review Group suggested that this should include the successful completion of an online safety course and the payment of a fee before the general public can buy fireworks.
3. The Scottish Government proposes to introduce legislation to enable this recommendation to be implemented through the introduction of a licensing system on the sale of fireworks. It is estimated that there are around 250,000 sales of consumer fireworks in Scotland each year, and we agree with the recommendation of the Review Group that the introduction of mandatory conditions before consumers are able to purchase fireworks can play an important role in promoting safety, by ensuring consumers are aware of and understand relevant safety requirements and measures. These conditions could also be extended to cover responsible use and possession similar to the approach taken in Northern Ireland (see Case Study below).
Case Study: Northern Ireland
An international case study report, published alongside the report from the Fireworks Review Group, highlighted experiences in Northern Ireland where a firework licensing system was introduced in 2002. The Department for Justice for Northern Ireland issues a licence to members of the public to buy, possess and use fireworks. It is an offence to do so without a valid licence.
The firework licence fee is set on an increasing scale depending on the number of attendees at a display: less than 100 attendees, £30 fee, more than 100 but less than 1,000 attendees, £80 fee and more than 1,000 attendees, £160 fee. It must be stated when applying for a licence when the fireworks will be used.
Data shows that there has been a decline in the number of people injured by fireworks following the introduction of a licensing system in Northern Ireland. The number of anti-social behaviour incidents with an accompanying fireworks code has remained consistent in recent years, with no upward or downward trend.
4. In Scotland, we propose that a fireworks licensing system is introduced and could operate as follows:
- The purpose of the licensing system is to licence individuals to purchase fireworks in order to ensure their safe and appropriate use. All adults aged 18 and over would be required to apply for a licence before they can purchase fireworks. This includes members of community organisations and groups organising a public display. It was considered whether community groups should be exempt from the licensing system. However, given the purpose is to promote safety and appropriate use, it is proposed that at least one individual within such groups will require a licence. It is proposed, however, that professional firework operators are exempt from the licensing system given existing training and safety requirements that are already in place.
- The licence is not transferrable to another person and must be used by the licensee as agreed as part of the application process.
- The licence permits the licence holder to purchase fireworks from retailers in line with the law on fireworks.
- Consideration is also being given to whether a licence should be required for the possession and use of fireworks.
- Licence applicants would be required to complete an online safety training course and pay a fee to obtain a licence. It is suggested that the online safety course links with the Fireworks Code and messaging from emergency services such as the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), improving applicants' understanding of the essential safety elements to consider and follow when using fireworks. The safety course is intended to play an important role in engaging and educating those who intend to use fireworks on how to use them in both a safe and considerate manner rather than place a barrier on the ability to legitimately purchase fireworks. It is proposed that there would be an option to repeat the safety course if initially unsuccessful.
- A standard, flat licence fee would be introduced to cover the costs of setting up, running and ongoing improvements to the system; and we welcome views on what level this fee could be fairly and proportionately set at. We are also mindful that sufficient local licensing processes, such as Public Entertainment Licences, already apply to public firework displays and therefore do not propose that a scaled fee structure is introduced based on the number of people who will be attending or watching any firework display.
- It is not proposed that there will be grounds for individuals to object to licences being granted. However, it is proposed that licence applicants would be required to disclose convictions that are unspent for fireworks related offences, and that these are considered on a case by case basis and may lead to a licence being refused. It is proposed that if a licence holder is convicted of a fireworks related offence while their licence is valid, their licence could be revoked.
- A licence would be valid for 12 months upon date of issue following completion of the online safety course and payment of a fee. Consideration was given to whether the licence should only be valid for one purchase. However, we are mindful of the need for any system to be proportionate, and concerns raised by the fireworks industry around introducing unreasonable barriers to the legitimate purchase of fireworks and driving the public towards illegal supply. It is therefore suggested that the licence holder would be able to purchase - and potentially possess and use - fireworks over the 12 month licence period, subject to general restrictions on the dates and times that fireworks can be supplied to the general public and the limit of 5kg of fireworks in any one transaction.
- Following successful completion of the online safety course and payment of the required fee, proof of a licence would be sent to the licence holder. It is proposed this would be done through an email or QR code, with the option to download a printable version. This would be required, alongside valid photographic ID, to be presented to a retailer in order to purchase fireworks.
5. There are a number of options under consideration in terms of how the system could be run and administered, with an emphasis on the system being proportionate and effective for those using it. Options being considered include:
- Option 1 – A national licensing system that is administered and run centrally by the Scottish Government. This option could involve applicants logging onto a Scottish Government hosted website, successfully completing an online firework safety test and paying a fee. A completion certificate would then be issued to use as proof to retailers of a licence to purchase fireworks. The Scottish Government would be responsible for the day to day running and maintenance of the licensing system, dealing with enquiries that people may have regarding the system and obtaining a licence.
- Option 2 – A national licensing system that is administered by another public service organisation or partnership organisation. As part of this option, applicants would still be required to log onto a central website and successfully complete an online firework safety test and pay a fee, with a completion certificate issued electronically to use as proof to retailers of a licence to purchase fireworks. The organisation would be responsible for the day to day running and maintenance of the licensing system, dealing with enquiries that people may have regarding the system and obtaining a licence.
- Option 3 – A system where the licensing process is administered by individual local authorities. This option could involve a similar central website where the online firework safety test is accessed, with all other aspects of the licensing system managed and administered by the local authority. This option would be accompanied by guidance from Scottish Government to local authorities on how a licence should be issued and steps to take in this process.
6. We propose that retailers selling fireworks to members of the public without a licence would be committing an offence. The Fireworks Act 2003 (section 11) sets out that any person who contravenes a prohibition imposed by fireworks regulations is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction, by a fine not exceeding level five on the standard scale (up to £5000) or up to six months imprisonment. It is proposed that similar penalties would apply to any new offence of selling fireworks to a member of the public without a license. If the licensing system also covers responsible use and possession of fireworks, it is proposed that a similar provision and punishment would apply to members of the general public possessing or setting off fireworks without a licence. Consideration is being given as to who will have enforcement responsibility for ensuring compliance with the requirements of the licensing system.
Question 1 a). Do you agree that a fireworks licensing system should be introduced in Scotland?
Question 1. b). Please explain your answer
Question 2 a). Do you agree that any licensing system should cover the possession and use of fireworks, in addition to their purchase?
Question 2 b). Please explain your answer.
Question 3a). Do you agree that a fee to obtain a fireworks licence in Scotland should be introduced?
Question 3 b). Please explain your answer.
Question 4 a). Do you have any views on how much the licence fee should be?
Question 4 b). Please tell us your views on how much the licence fee should be.
Question 5 a). Do you agree that successful completion of an online safety course to obtain a fireworks licence in Scotland should be introduced?
Question 5 b). Please explain your answer.
Question 6 a). Who do you think would be best placed to run and administer the proposed licensing system?
- Option One: Scottish Government
- Option Two: National public service organisation or partnership organisation
- Option Three: Local authorities
Question 6 b). Please explain your answer.
Question 7. Please tell us if you have any other comments on the introduction of a licensing system and the proposed process for how the licensing system would be implemented and managed.
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