Fireworks crackdown risks being undermined by 'bad legislation', warns Scottish Police Federation

Efforts to crack down on fireworks and flares in Scotland risk being undermined by "bad legislation", the body that represents rank-and-file police officers has warned.

The Scottish Police Federation (SPF) said parts of a new Bill have become "so convoluted, it is a defence lawyer's dream".

The Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles (Scotland) Bill proposes tougher action on the sale and use of fireworks and the misuse of pyrotechnics such as flares.

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It would see the introduction of a new fireworks licensing system, as well as powers allowing councils to designate firework control zones.

Edinburgh's Hogmanay fireworks. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA
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It would also restrict the days fireworks can be sold and criminalise their supply to under-18s.

An offence of being in possession of a pyrotechnic while at, or travelling to, certain places or events would also be brought in.

In a submission to Holyrood's criminal justice committee, the SPF said it was "very supportive of the intent" behind the legislation.

It said firework misuse had become increasingly prevalent and dangerous, while at many football games pyrotechnics were “indiscriminately” thrown in crowds.

"We have had scores of officers injured, burnt, permanently deafened and maimed by pyrotechnics in public places," the body said.

"We also know of a UK incident where the detonation of pyrotechnics in a crowded public space was mistaken as a gunfire by members of the public, giving rise to panic and alarm.”

However, the body suggested the cost of the legislation had been understated, and also raised concerns about specific aspects of the Bill relating to pyrotechnics.

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The SPF said: "The pyrotechnics sections as currently laid have become so convoluted, it is a defence lawyer's dream.

"Many points of appeal would make it quite unworkable.

"We are in dialogue with [the] Scottish Government to clarify some of their definitions, which are at best ambiguous and at worst flawed, but, for example, haven’t at the time of writing had clarification as to what number constitutes a public assembly."

The federation added: "The narrowing down of the legislation to the specific circumstances listed undermines the objective of the legislation and will lead to numerous defences, complaints and unnecessary aggravation between police officers and those responsible.

"We cannot afford to have bad legislation, especially with regard to sporting events and this risks doing exactly that."

A submission by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service backed the introduction of a licensing scheme, but said “consideration is required” to ensure members of the public know they are in a firework control zone.

The service added: "In relation to anti-social behaviour, it is important to understand why there may have been previous incidents in an area and try to tackle the underlying issues.

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"The introduction of FCZs may not solve the issue of anti-social behaviour, it could simply move incidents to a different area.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Firework and Pyrotechnics Bill is designed to ensure appropriate and proportionate action is taken over the sale and use of fireworks as well as reducing the misuse of pyrotechnic devices such as flares.

“The Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on February 1 and is now being scrutinised by the criminal justice committee.

“The Scottish Government will listen carefully to the views of all those who provide evidence to the committee as the Bill progresses.”

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