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Substantial changes required on proposals to restrict firework sales, say MSPs

The committee fears restrictions could lead to a ‘black market’ of firework sales. (Danny Lawson/PA)
The committee fears restrictions could lead to a ‘black market’ of firework sales. (Danny Lawson/PA)

“Substantial changes” are needed to legislation which aims to restrict the sale of fireworks, a parliamentary committee has said.

The Scottish Parliament’s Criminal Justice Committee has backed the general principles of the Fireworks and Pyrotechnics Bill.

However, the group of MSPS warned the Scottish Government to make changes to ensure the proposed measures will be effective, robust and workable in preventing the misuse of fireworks.

Proposed measures would see fireworks only sold in shops for 37 days of the year – to coincide with major events such as New Year and Bonfire Night.

The public would only be able to use fireworks on April 7 to April 16, October 27 to November 12 and December 26 to January 2.

Similarly, the three days preceding Chinese New Year and Diwali would be permitted – as well as the seventh days after the celebrations began.

Those wishing to use these types of fireworks would also require special training and a firework licence, the Bill proposes.

Concerns noted by the committee include fears that restricting the sale of fireworks could lead to a black market or illicit sales.

Playing with Sparklers
Firework sales would be limited to occasions such as Bonfire Night (Martin Stephens/PA)

And fears around proposed council “control zones”, where fireworks would not be allowed, have been raised.

Instead, MSPs recommended consideration be given to creating genuine no-firework zones by local authorities where nobody, including professional companies, can let off fireworks.

Audrey Nicoll, Criminal Justice Committee Convener, said: “We agree with the desire to address the misuse of fireworks and pyrotechnic devices.

“However, we have a few concerns about the workability of some of the proposals put forward.

“We understand that the Scottish Government is trying to find a balance between allowing responsible enjoyment of fireworks and stopping what is all too often a dangerous public nuisance, particularly for people with additional needs, and pet owners.

“And so, we have backed this Bill’s general principles at this stage, and hope to work with the Government and key stakeholders in the coming weeks and months to ensure that the issues we have identified can be addressed.

“Substantial changes are still needed to this legislation.”

The committee also commented that while it supported a ban on “proxy purchases”, where over-18s buy fireworks legally and give them to under-18s, it is unsatisfactory that the Parliament and committee have been asked to follow an accelerated timetable for scrutiny of the whole bill to allow this particular provision of the new law to be in place by November 2022.

The committee has been unable to clarify whether the Scottish Government explored asking the UK Government to make the necessary changes to ban proxy purchases, or to have the relevant regulation-making powers transferred to Holyrood.

A Scottish Government spokesman welcomed the committee report and said its findings will be considered “carefully”.

He added: “The Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles (Scotland) Bill has been developed to ensure that appropriate and proportionate action is taken to introduce further restrictions on the sale and use of fireworks, as well as reducing the misuse of pyrotechnic devices such as flares.

“A public consultation on the proposed legislation last year demonstrated strong support for the key measures in the Bill amongst those who responded.”