With many local authority and professionally-arranged fireworks displays cancelled this year due to coronavirus restrictions, a greater number of Scottish consumers may look to alternatives, such as buying their own fireworks and having displays at home. The key message this year is more important than ever – to remain safe and be mindful of others when letting off fireworks.
According to the publication ‘Scottish Fire and Rescue Incident Statistics 2019-20’, Scottish firefighters attended 24,472 fires in the one-year period 2019-20. They indicate that outdoor fires (excluding road vehicles) vary each year depending on weather patterns, and that in this one-year period there were 14,966 outdoor fires.
With such a high proportion of outdoor fires (although not all attributed to bonfires or fireworks), understanding the rules and regulations regarding bonfires and the sale and purchase of fireworks, as well as when they can be set off is important in ensuring that private displays are managed appropriately and fireworks are not being handled by children and young people who legally should not be doing so.
A survey of school students by the UK Parliament’s Education Service in 2019 highlighted that 28% said they had used, played with, or carried a firework without an adult present.
There are laws in operation, including the Fireworks (Scotland) Regulations, 2004, that state when fireworks can be sold, who is able to purchase them, as well as times that fireworks can legally be set off. Possession of fireworks in a public place by anyone under the age of 18 is one such offence.
Offences related to the operation of fireworks include –
- Setting off fireworks 11pm-7am (or after midnight on 5th November).
- To modify, tamper or misuse fireworks.
- To throw or set off fireworks in any highway, street, thoroughfare or public place (Anywhere other than your own garden is illegal).
- To sell fireworks to anyone under the age of 18.
- For anyone under the age of 18 to be in possession of fireworks in a public place.
- For anyone other than a firework professional to possess display category fireworks
- To use fireworks to cause any unnecessary suffering to any domestic or captive animal
In addition to the rules around the operation of fireworks, consideration must be given to the places that fireworks can be purchased. The regulation of sales of fireworks is important in ensuring that fireworks do not end up in the hands of children or young people who are not legally able to do so.
So, what are the rules?
The Fireworks Regulations 2004
These regulations state that sellers of fireworks must display a sign where fireworks are supplied or exposed for supply, stating that it is illegal –
- To sell adult fireworks or sparklers to anyone under 18;
- For anyone under 18 to possess adult* fireworks in a public place
*Any fireworks except for caps, cracker snaps, indoor fireworks, novelty matches, party poppers, sparklers, serpents and throwdowns.
These regulations mean that retailers require a license to be granted in order to supply or ‘expose for supply’ any adult firework. Application for such a license is made to the local licensing board, who can decline to authorise a license based on previous violations of the 2004 regulations, or those regulations previously in place regulating the provision of fireworks.
Local Authorities can charge a fee of up to £500 a year ‘in connection with the grant of a license under this legislation’.
Exceptions to licensing regulations
There are occasions of sale where such a license for sale is not required and this includes the following seasonal / holiday times –
- The first day of the Chinese New Year and the three days immediately preceding it.
- On the day of Diwali and the three days immediately preceding it.
- During the period beginning on the 15th of October and ending on the 10th of November.
- During the period beginning on the 26th December and ending on the 31st December.
Further conditions of the sale of adult fireworks
A notice must be displayed at the premises of sale, in a prominent position, amd measuring at least 400 x 300 millimetres which has letters no less than 16 millimetres high, stating the relevant required information.
This information should include –
- It is illegal to sell adult fireworks to anyone under the age of eighteen; and
- It is illegal for anyone under the age of eighteen to possess adult fireworks in a public place
In addition to this, those licensed to sell fireworks must be able to supply the following information to the local licensing authority if the total amount of explosives in the fireworks supplied is more than or equal to 50 kilograms –
- The name and address of the person who supplied the fireworks that are for sale;
- The name and address of the person to whom he is supplying the fireworks;
- The date when the fireworks were supplied
- The date when the seller supplied or proposes to supply fireworks to another person; and
- The total amount of explosives contained in the fireworks supplied.
Under Section 56 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, it is an offence for any person to lay or light a fire in a public place so as to endanger any other person or to give them reasonable cause for alarm or annoyance or so as to endanger any property.
Firework and Bonfire Safety
With safety in mind, we must not forget the impacts that the improper handling of fireworks and bonfires can have on the physical wellbeing of those directly in the line of fire.
Additionally, consideration of the more vulnerable members of our communities who may become startled by loud bangs and excessive noise is important. These groups include veterans, who may be suffer panic attacks or symptoms of PTSD, and other groups experiencing mental health issues.
So, what can you do this fireworks night to ensure you minimise the risks associated with fireworks and bonfires?
consumeradvice.scot have put together the following tips, based on recommendations that Scottish Fire & Rescue Advice has set to remain safe this bonfire night.
Be aware of surroundings if setting a bonfire at home
If a bonfire must be set at home, ensure this is kept well away from buildings, vehicles, trees, hedges, fences, power lines, telecommunications equipment, and sheds. Bonfires should not impact upon visibility on roads or otherwise inconvenience vehicles.
Be conscious of your own and neighbour’s wellbeing (including the animals)
Ensure that smoke / flying embers from the fire do not cause a nuisance to neighbours’ person or property. Remember that certain materials can cause the emission of harmful smoke and combustion. Pressurised containers and sealed vessels amongst bonfire material pose a risk of explosion – be aware. Ensure pets are kept indoors and in as quiet a place as possible.
Alcohol and fire don’t mix
Don’t go near fireworks or bonfires when under the influence of alcohol. Ignoring local by-laws and drinking in public places is still illegal. Police may issue fixed penalty tickets or send a report in relation to this to the Procurator Fiscal.
Don’t throw fireworks onto the bonfire and avoid the use of flammable liquids to ignite bonfires.
Use proprietary firelighters and avoid flammable liquids
Never leave a burning / smouldering bonfire unsupervised and never leave children unsupervised
Make sure that bonfires are completely extinguished and not left unattended. Keep children safe by ensuring they are kept away from bonfires and at a safe distance from fireworks.
Remember that behaviours and actions in relation to fireworks and bonfires, that are considered to be irresponsible or dangerous, are subject to removal.