‘Remember remember the 5th of November’ goes the old saying to remind us it’s Guy Fawkes season. But should fireworks be banned from public sale? Michael Alexander reports.
Bonfires blazing, sparklers sparkling and fireworks exploding into the night sky.
It’s that time of year again when thousands of folk don their winter woollies and head out to celebrate Guy Fawkes night – often attending organised displays.
The annual tradition is staged to commemorate the foiling of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot when Guy Fawkes and fellow plotters planned to blow up the House of Lords.
But given the nuisance and safety issues that surround the lighting of fireworks every year, is it time for fireworks to be banned from public sale?
Angus show horse owner Kelsey Logan, 28, from Edzell, thinks so. One of her animal’s escaped serious injury last year after being spooked by fireworks and running into an electric fence.
Fireworks were set off without warning in the early hours about half a mile from where the self-employed animal services business owner’s horses were sleeping.
Two-year-old show horse Hero was left with a gashed leg after getting caught in the fence and was described as a “very, very lucky boy” – going on to win his class at the Royal Highland Show this year.
Kelsey, who faced a £300 vets bill, said: “Fireworks should be completely banned for sale and use to the general public.
“I think only organised events that are broadcasted and advertised should be allowed. “This gives animal owners plenty warning to be able to watch over their animals and take appropriate measures to prevent accidents.”
Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn would also like to see the sale of fireworks banned to the public.
He said current regulations are so relaxed that fireworks can be set off on any given day and for weeks and months on end rather than being limited to the major festival periods.
“This leaves pet owners and farmers unable to make adequate provisions for their animals,” he said.
“We have been made aware of numerous incidents over the years where animals have come to serious harm and even death as a result of fireworks being set off near them.
“Animals have heightened senses and their hearing is much stronger than ours.”
Ena Conyon, who runs Second Chance Kennels in Thornton, near Kirkcaldy, would also like to see them banned.
She gets angry about the impact on domestic animals and wildlife. An alternative to a ban, she suggested, would be to have “silent” fireworks like those recently introduced in the Italian town of Collechio in the province of Parma.
Scottish Fire and Rescue Service figures show that more often than not it’s children rather than adults who are injured by fireworks.
Over the past five years over 350 pre-school children, some as young as one-year-old, were treated in hospital for firework injuries.
Children’s scars may heal but the trauma for them and their parents can last for years.
However, the fire service stops short of calling for an outright ban – realising that fireworks also bring a lot of fun. Instead, it advises people to stay safe and always follow the fireworks code.
Even better, it recommends people attend organised displays where they will likely stay safer, get a better show and save money.
That’s a view shared by Hugh Ironside, captain of Cupar Golf Club, which is hosting an organised display at its golf course on Sunday evening.
Hugh said: “Firework displays are an important part of our heritage and annual entertainments calendar. They do have to be used responsibly and sensibly.
“This doesn’t mean that they should be withdrawn from sale to the public. The public are on the whole sensible and high profile awareness campaigns each year warning about the dangers of fireworks make people think about the use.”
The British Fireworks Association, which represents the part of the industry which sells fireworks to the general public, said laws and regulations have been considerably tightened over the last 20 years – and welcomed by the industry.
It says fireworks are safe if used in accordance with the instructions printed on every firework – adding that firework injuries are at an all-time low.
The association’s position is “ban the hooligan not the firework.”
However, the industry has urged enforcement agencies to use the law and powers they already have to crack down on the “misuse” of fireworks.
The call comes after reports of police and trading standard officers failing to take action in some parts of the UK after witnessing illegal behaviour.
Steve Newham, Chairman of the British Fireworks Association – the body representing over 95% of the industry which sells fireworks to the public – stresses that calls for a tightening of the law, or an all-out ban, is not the answer to anti-social behaviour.
Mr Newham added: “It is no good calling for a ban which the enforcement agencies won’t be able to enforce.
“Officers should use the powers they already have and let the law abiding public enjoy their fireworks.
“We will continue to work with the Police and others to stamp out illegal fireworks and firework hooliganism.”