SPICe regularly receives enquiries on fireworks around this time of year. This blog pulls together information from different sources on the topic. It also looks at which areas of fireworks law are devolved and reserved.
Use of fireworks
The use of fireworks is devolved to the Scottish Parliament. There are several pieces of legislation (at both the UK and Scottish level) which are relevant in terms of the supply, sale, use and possession of fireworks. These include the Fireworks Act 2003 and subsequent UK and Scottish regulations from 2004. There are also provisions in the Explosives Act 1875 and the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006. Most recently, there are the Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2010 which transpose into UK law European Directive 2007/23 on the placing on the market of pyrotechnic articles.
Sale of fireworks
The sale and supply of fireworks are reserved matters as they fall under the reservation of consumer protection in the Scotland Act 1998. The manufacture of fireworks is regulated by the Explosives Regulations 2014. These provide for the regulation of the manufacture, storage and acquisition of explosives by means of a series of defined duties, the granting of approvals, and a system of licensing.
SPICe researchers have been told that the Scottish Government has no plans to review existing legislation in this area. However if there was a review, it would require a comprehensive overhaul and the transfer of a substantial number of powers which are currently reserved – in particular consumer protection, as outlined above.
Licensing and storage of fireworks
The Trading Standards Service is responsible for the licensing and safe storage of explosives, under the Explosives Regulations 2014. Presently, Trading Standards can issue two licences relating to fireworks:
- Storage licence: required by anyone who intends to store or sell any kind of firework at any time of year.
- Supply licence: required by anyone who intends to supply fireworks.
You do not need a Supply licence (but you still need a Storage licence) if you only sell fireworks at the following times of year:
- the 1st day of Chinese New Year and the 3 days immediately preceding it
- the 1st day of Diwali and the 3 days immediately preceding it
- from 15 October to 10 November
- from 26 December to 31 December.
Supply Licences are not issued to anyone who does not have a Storage Licence.
Supply licences are only issued in very limited circumstances, primarily to accommodate:
- public displays for national public celebrations
- public displays for commemoration events
- the use of fireworks for the promotion of business.
The Scottish Government website contains a page of information on noise nuisance from fireworks.
Both the UK and Scottish Parliaments have recently considered petitions on fireworks.
Scottish Parliament petition
A petition was lodged on 22 March 2018, calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to review existing regulations governing fireworks displays in Scotland, particularly in terms of private fireworks displays in rural locations, to protect animals from fear and distress and prevent subsequent injury.
The petition was considered by the Public Petition Committee, which agreed to write to the Scottish Government and the UK Government. The Committee received a response from the Scottish Government, and a response from the UK Government Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility.
UK Parliament E-petition
A Westminster Hall debate on an E-petition relating to fireworks took place on 29 January 2018. The E-petition sought to ‘change the laws governing the use of fireworks to include a ban on public use’.
SPICe published a briefing on fireworks which outlines the legislative framework in relation to the supply, sale, use, storage and possession of fireworks. Although published in 2011, the briefing is still current.
The House of Commons library published a Standard Note in November 2017 which provides an overview of the current legislative provisions regulating the sale and control of fireworks.
Since the original blog was posted, the Scottish Government advised that they will launch a consultation to consider tighter controls on the use of fireworks.
The consultation opened on 3 February 2019 and closes on 13 May 2019.