Criminal Justice Committee
Fireworks and Pyrotechnics Bill Consultation
Letter from the Minister for Community Safety to the Convener, Criminal Justice Committee, 18 June 2021
I am writing to make you and Criminal Justice Committee members aware of a consultation I will be launching this coming Sunday (20th June) that Committee members will have an interest in. The consultation is seeking views on the introduction of four specific requirements in law in relation to the sale and use of fireworks in Scotland, as well as a new offence in relation to carrying a pyrotechnic device in a public place without reasonable excuse or lawful authority, and for police powers to be extended to allow a stop and search provision for anyone reasonably suspected of committing the offence.
The first section of the consultation considers changes to how fireworks can be used and sold. In a statement to Parliament last November, I announced my intention to implement the recommendations from the independently chaired Fireworks Review Group as a matter of urgency in order to ensure further positive change is in place for communities going forward. This follows a national consultation that was held in early 2019, ‘A consultation on fireworks in Scotland: Your experiences, your ideas, your views’, that started a conversation with the people of Scotland on how fireworks are sold and used. This was an important step in gathering valuable evidence on a range of opinions and perspectives and covered organised displays, private use by individuals, and the inappropriate use of fireworks. A total of 16,420 responses were received from members of the public and stakeholder organisations, demonstrating the high level of interest in this issue across the country. An online opinion poll was carried out to complement the consultation and provide findings that are representative of people across Scotland.
In October 2019, I published the ‘Fireworks Action Plan: Promoting the safe and appropriate use of fireworks in Scotland’ which set out how the Scottish Government would address the concerns expressed through the national consultation and continue to promote the safe and appropriate use of fireworks. As part of the Action Plan, I set up the independent Fireworks Review Group, chaired by Alasdair Hay CBE QFSM, and asked the Group to consider the legislative and regulatory options for change that emerged from the consultation and provide clear recommendations on what change is required going forward. The Group reached a majority consensus that a fundamental shift is required in how fireworks are accessed and used by the general public in Scotland through the introduction of a comprehensive set of measures, including:
- The introduction of mandatory conditions before consumers are able to purchase
- Restricting the times of day fireworks can be sold and the volume of fireworks that can
- Restricting the days and times fireworks can be set off.
- A provision for no-fireworks areas / zones 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.
The full report from the Group is available online. Some of the recommendations from the Group have been taken forward in secondary legislation through the Fireworks (Scotland) Miscellaneous Amendments Regulations 2021. The changes implemented by these regulations, which come into force at the end of this month, include:
- Amending 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).
- Amending 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.
- Limiting the quantity of fireworks that can be supplied to the general public to 5kg.
The consultation that will launch on Sunday is now seeking views on the introduction of the remaining recommendations from the Review Group that require primary legislation. That is:
- Requiring the general public and community groups to meet a number of mandatory conditions before they are able to purchase fireworks.
- Restricting the days fireworks can be set off by the general public. In addition to the Firework Review Group’s recommendations, we are also consulting on proposals to restrict the days fireworks can be sold to the general public in Scotland by retailers.
- Introducing no-fireworks areas where it is not permitted for the general public to set fireworks off.
- Introduction of a proxy purchasing offence to criminalise the supply of fireworks to people under the age of 18.
The consultation is designed to get practical feedback on the introduction of legislation from those who use and enjoy fireworks as well as those affected by fireworks including
vulnerable groups, pet and animal owners, and from local authorities, enforcement agencies, the fireworks industry, retailers and other organisations that have a role or interest in fireworks.
The second section of the consultation considers the use of pyrotechnic devices. In May 2019 I asked my officials to start discussions with stakeholders to identify possible actions that could be taken to tackle the issue of increased illegal pyrotechnic use and gather evidence to determine where there are gaps in the current legislation. These discussions included representatives from Police Scotland, Scottish Police Federation, British Transport Police, Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service and Scottish Government. These discussions concluded that a dedicated stop and search power for pyrotechnics, not limited exclusively to persons entering or attempting to enter designated sporting events, is required. This would allow the police to stop and search for the possession of pyrotechnic articles in public places and to intercept pyrotechnic devices before the person carrying them is shown to be at least attempting to gain access to a venue. Stop and search powers are generally based on reasonable suspicion of committing an offence, and it is suggested that the power here might be linked to a new offence of having a pyrotechnic article in a public place without reasonable excuse and/or lawful authority.
This section of the consultation therefore aims to better understand how the use of pyrotechnics is viewed by the public and whether the misuse of pyrotechnic devices requires to be backed with sufficient police powers.
I trust this information and advance notice that the consultation will launch on Sunday is helpful. Details of the consultation will not be made public until it is launched on Sunday morning, and I would be grateful if this information could be kept confidential until then.
Letter from the Minister for Community Safety to the Convener, Criminal Justice Committee, 6 April 2022
Letter from the Scottish Government Bill Team to the Convener, Criminal Justice Committee, 15 March 2022
Letter from the Convener, Criminal Justice Committee to the Minister for Community Safety, 30 March 2022