This blog gives an update on new fireworks legislation, the Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles (Scotland) Act 2022, and particularly on the new offence of supply of fireworks and pyrotechnic articles to young people under 18, which came into force on 10 October 2022. The remaining provisions and other offences contained within the Act will be progressed in 2023. It also provides additional information on the legislative framework on fireworks in the UK and Scotland.
The Fireworks and Pyrotechnics Articles (Scotland) Act 2022 – Proxy Purchase Offence
The Fireworks and Pyrotechnics Articles (Scotland) Act 2022 (“the 2022 Act”) was passed by the Scottish Parliament in June 2022 and received Royal Assent on 10 August 2022.
The 2022 Act introduces a number of new provisions relating to the sale and use of fireworks in Scotland, and also provides for new offences, one of which involves the supply of fireworks and pyrotechnics to young people.
The 2022 Act introduces:
- a fireworks licensing system, with mandatory safety training, for people who wish to purchase and use fireworks
- restrictions on the supply and use of fireworks and pyrotechnic articles
- powers for local authorities to designate firework control zones
- restrictions on the supply and use of fireworks
- a new criminal offence to possess a firework or other pyrotechnic at certain places or events, without reasonable excuse.
Supply of fireworks to under 18s
The new offence of supply of fireworks and pyrotechnic articles to young people under 18 came into force on 10 October 2022.
During the passage of the Bill through Parliament, the Scottish Government was keen to ensure that the specific offence of supplying fireworks and pyrotechnics to young people would be in force for the traditional firework period in 2022.
This specific offence makes it illegal for anyone to provide a firework, or other pyrotechnic article, to someone under the age of 18. This includes knowingly buying, attempting to buy, giving, or in any way making such products available to young people. This type of offence is known as proxy purchase or proxy supply, and there are already similar offences in relation to providing products such as alcohol and tobacco to children.
Penalties for supplying fireworks to under 18s
Anyone that commits this offence is liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale (currently £5,000) or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months, or both. The enforcement of the new proxy purchase/supply offence will be the responsibility of Police Scotland.
The Scottish Government recognised that there may be, in certain circumstances, legitimate reasons for making pyrotechnic articles, such as safety flares, available to people under 18. There are therefore specific exemptions from the offence in relation to the non-retail supply of appropriate pyrotechnic articles in certain limited circumstances.
The 2022 Act makes it clear that a person does not commit an offence if the pyrotechnic article is to be used as a visual distress signal, and the person providing the article intends for the recipient (under the age of 18) to use the pyrotechnic article only for that purpose in appropriate circumstances. Examples would be where individuals may need to signal for help while sailing or hill walking.
It’s recognised that some people under the age of 18 may need to use pyrotechnic articles as part of their education, training or employment in supervised settings. Use of pyrotechnics in such circumstances is subject to safety obligations already placed on education providers and employers, such as health and safety legislation on managing risk in the workplace. Use of pyrotechnics may also be required when a person under the age of 18 is a member of the armed forces, a cadet force, or an organisation involved in activities such as search and rescue. These activities are also exempt from the new offence.
Further information on the new fireworks legislation can be found in the SPICe briefing ‘Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles (Scotland) Bill’.
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.
The Scottish Government website contains a page of information on noise nuisance from fireworks.