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Scottish Government accused of rushing legislation on firework restrictions

The proposed Bill would see the sale and use of fireworks restricted to certain dates (Jane Barlow/PA)
The proposed Bill would see the sale and use of fireworks restricted to certain dates (Jane Barlow/PA)

The Scottish Government has faced accusations of attempting to rush legislation on the sale of fireworks through the Parliament.

The Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles (Scotland) Bill, which would see a restriction on the public’s use of such items, was discussed in Holyrood on Tuesday.

Community safety minister, Ash Regan, introduced the proposals in the chamber, telling MSPs that the Bill was intended to balance the enjoyment of firework displays with the need to protect the public from harm or upset.

The proposed legislation includes a licensing scheme and training for those buying fireworks, and would limit the times and areas they can be used in.

Ash Regan
Ash Regan introduced the debate on the Fireworks Bill (Lesley Martin/PA)

It would also see the sale of fireworks only taking place for 37 days of the year, on dates surrounding major events such as Bonfire Night, Hogmanay and Diwali.

“There’s no question that there is a strong desire to see a fundamental shift in Scotland’s relationship with fireworks and pyrotechnic articles, and this Bill is just part of our journey towards achieving this,” Ms Regan told the chamber.

While MSPs across all parties generally agreed with the need to bring in control measures, it was widely suggested that the timeframe for scrutinising the Bill was not satisfactory.

Labour MSP, Pauline McNeill, said that while she stood by the belief that action is required, she would not have backed the proposals at the committee stage had she been aware of the timetable.

“It’s so important for communities that we need time to make sure that we get this right,” she said.

“I do accept that part of the Bill needed to be rushed for the proxy purchase, but the rest of it, we should have been given adequate time to scrutinise it.”

Scottish Tory MSP, Jamie Greene, reminded Ms McNeill that the stage two deadline for staging an amendment to the legislation is May 19.

Ms McNeill responded: “I have to say, as a legislator, it’s totally unacceptable.

“I will not come to this Parliament and stand by and allow poor legislation to go through, even if I wholeheartedly agree with the intentions of it.”

She added: “In hindsight, had I known we would be in this position, I would not have agreed at the committee stage to do this.”

Jamie Greene
Scottish Tory MSP Jamie Greene said there was not enough time to properly scrutinise the proposals (Fraser Bremner/Daily Mail/PA)

Mr Greene told the chamber that he and his colleagues “both accept and acknowledge” that the misuse of fireworks and pyrotechnics is a “very real problem”.

But he added: “The three-stage process is what it is for a reason.

“We are a unicameral chamber. We need that much-needed time and scrutiny.

“Seven weeks is not enough. We’ve all been clear about that. The committee itself, on page 63 of our report, says the committee has very serious concerns about the Bill achieving its objective.”

He quoted the committee as having said: “There is concern that there will be no time for these concerns to be addressed at stages two or three because of the fast-tracked timetable of the Bill.”

“I agree with that view,” he said, “because this is the weakest and most cautious recommendation for a Bill at stage one that I’ve ever worked on.”

The Bill passed its first stage unanimously.

A Labour amendment, which called for the motion to include the line “and, in so doing, expresses reservations in line with paragraph 386 of the Criminal Justice Committee’s 5th Report, 2022 (Session 6), Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles (Scotland) Bill Stage 1 Report (SP Paper 164)”, was defeated by 47 votes to 62.