While many people enjoy fireworks on special occasions, I know that some people and animals find them distressing. Fireworks can of course be very dangerous and I am glad the use and sale of them is controlled. Events where fireworks are used should be well planned and safety should be paramount.
The Scottish Conservatives agree that a balance must be struck between the safe enjoyment of fireworks and robust regulations to prevent antisocial and illegal behaviour. We will work with both of Scotland’s Governments to seek consensus on the further steps that should be taken – but we agree that further restrictions should be looked at.
In addition, we have been campaigning hard inside and outside Parliament to condemn those who attack our emergency services around Bonfire Night and to call for stronger sentencing powers for the courts against these individuals.
The Fireworks (Scotland) Regulations 2004 allow fireworks for home use to be sold during the traditional firework periods of Bonfire Night, New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali. Suppliers who wish to sell fireworks outside the traditional periods must comply with stringent conditions before being granted a licence by their local licensing authority. This means the availability and use of fireworks outside the traditional periods has been greatly reduced.
The regulations also created a curfew preventing the use of fireworks between 11pm and 7am all year round with the exception of 5 November, when the curfew starts at 12 midnight, and New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali, when the curfew starts at 1.00 am on the night of celebration.
On 2 February the Scottish Government published the Fireworks and Pyrotechnics Bill. It proposes the introduction of a fireworks licensing system, powers for local authorities to designate fire control zones, restricting the days fireworks can be sold to the general public, a new offence criminalising the sale of fireworks and pyrotechnics to those aged under 18 and a new offence of being in possession of fireworks and pyrotechnics while travelling or at certain places without a reasonable excuse.
We are broadly supportive of these proposals, but we await to hear more detail from the SNP Government as to how they will be enforced in practice. We also want more to be done to protect emergency workers on bonfire night and throughout the year. On last year’s Guy Fawkes night alone, 13 assaults were recorded on firefighters and we condemn those in the strongest possible terms.
Currently, excessive noise from fireworks, or noise during the curfew period, can be considered a statutory nuisance and local authority environmental health officers have the power to investigate complaints of fireworks noise and act to prevent it where appropriate.
We will look carefully with an open mind at any further measures that may be appropriate to curb the antisocial use of fireworks and limit the distress and harm caused to animals.