Farmers press councils to have sky lanterns banned

Farmers and growers across the country are being asked to petition their local and regional councils to help put the pressure on to have the release of sky lanterns and helium balloons banned.

Sky lanterns can cause fires on farms and harm livestock. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Sky lanterns can cause fires on farms and harm livestock. Picture: Ian Rutherford

A concerted lobbying exercise to stop the release of these deceptively innocent devices – which have resulted in a number of fires and reports of considerable pain and suffering in livestock – was launched by NFU Scotland last year.

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And yesterday the union welcomed the recognition of the dangers by seven councils which had moved to ban these aerial hazards – but warned that extra pressure was required to get the remaining 17 to take a similarly responsible attitude.

Councils which have banned sky lanterns and balloons since the union wrote to them in the run-up to last year’s Bonfire Night celebrations include Inverclyde, Argyll and Bute, Fife, East Lothian, West Lothian and Dundee, with Edinburgh City Council currently putting measures in place.

They join Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Falkirk, Highland, Perth and Kinross, Orkney and Shetland, which have already banned the release of sky lanterns and/or helium balloons.

NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick said: “We need those who have yet to take action to take this forward to make our countryside a safer place for animals and people.

“Sky lanterns are seemingly innocent devices, and are beautiful to look at, but they can cause untold damage as there is no control over where these burning structures of paper, metal and wood decide to land.”

He said that across the UK there had been many reports of fires started by lanterns, and of the harm to the health of livestock when lanterns had landed in farmers’ fields and been eaten.

“There is a further risk to stock when grass is cut and ensiled for winter feed, and the wire is chopped up and subsequently contained in hay or silage.”

He said that there had been a number of reported cases where this had resulted in animals perforating their guts, leading to an often slow and painful death.

“We applaud the action already taken against sky lanterns by seven Scottish local authorities and we urge other councils to take their responsibilities as seriously. We also ask members of the public to avoid the use of lanterns and to understand the risks that these can pose.

“We look forward to hearing from those who have not yet actioned a ban.”

• Commenting on yesterday’s Budget, NFU Scotland said it regretted that more farmers had not been granted more time to prepare for making quarterly tax returns online.

The union’s parliamentary officer, Claire Slipper, said that while smaller farm businesses with turnover below the VAT threshold would now have until April 2019 to prepare for digital record keeping and quarterly updates, bigger businesses would still face early compliance.

She also said that, given the importance of the whisky sector to Scottish barley growers, the Chancellor’s decision to increase excise duty on spirits by nearly 4 per cent would put pressure on a hugely valuable supply chain.