This year, there have been several changes to the laws around the use and supply of fireworks in Scotland. With these alterations to the rules, how can we ensure we keep ourselves and our loved ones safe when choosing to hold private fireworks displays and bonfires in our back gardens?
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.
The publication indicated 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 is important.
This includes the guidelines as to when they can be set off to ensure that private displays are managed appropriately, and that 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 offense.
New Rules for 2021
New rules on fireworks will be in place this year as revelers prepare to mark bonfire night. The laws passed in the summer will place restrictions on the purchasing and setting off fireworks.
It is intended that the tighter rules will limit the disruption caused to pets and members of the community who are frightened around this time of year, as well as improving safety.
The legislation means fireworks can only be used between 6pm and 11pm (or midnight on November 5) by the general public, and can only be sold between 7am and 6pm, while the quantity supplied is limited to 5kg per transaction.
Pets & Fireworks
Animal lovers whose pets are upset by the noise at this time of year have also been issued with guidelines. That includes moving them to the quietest part of the property, closing windows and curtains, and keeping them company while the noise continues. Creating other low-level noise like music or television can also ease an animal’s anxiety.
Anyone who suspects people are breaking new or previously existing laws in relation to fireworks should contact the police on the 101 non-emergency number.
And with COP26 in Glasgow, the public will also be encouraged to be as environmentally friendly as possible during the Guy Fawkes period.
Under Section 56 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, it is an offense 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 – Physical and psychological wellbeing
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?
Colin Mathieson, spokesperson for Advice Direct Scotland, said:
“Celebrations around bonfire night will be far more enjoyable for everyone if people take care in what they are doing and respect the law. This year there are tighter laws in place which should improve safety and reduce the upset caused to pets.
Every year the emergency services are placed under immense pressure because of private or irresponsible fires. In this of all years we need to be mindful of that pressure and do everything we can to reduce the risk and ease the burden. The days around November 5 can also be hugely stressful for pets. If you do have neighbours with animals and are intending to set off fireworks, be sure to speak to them about how you can limit the impact.
And if you’re worried about pets of your own, move them to the quietest part of the property and keep them company, and consider playing some soft music or sounds to soothe them.
With COP26 taking place in Glasgow, it’s also a good time to remember the importance of being sustainable, limiting the waste used and thinking about how you could offset some of your own carbon footprint around this time of year.”
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.
If you would like more advice on the illegal sale of fireworks, or any consumer matter, you can contact consumeradvice.scot on 0808 164 6000. We are open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday.
Advice Direct Scotland ‘s Safety and Sustainability campaign is taking place between the 27th of October and 12th of November 2021. The campaign aims to demonstrate the small changes and considerations Scottish consumers can make to help climate change, whilst saving money, and making our lives a little bit easier. For more information visit the campaign page.