Ash Denham: London calls the shots on firework ban

Ash Denham is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh EasternAsh Denham is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Eastern
Ash Denham is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Eastern
When Edinburgh welcomes the world – at Hogmanay, or at the Festival and Tattoo – we celebrate with fireworks. Firework displays, loud and colourful as they are, can be fun and memorable family events.

But in the wrong hands a firework stops being an exciting display and starts being a dangerous, and disruptive, explosive.

On Bonfire Night in 2017 my constituents saw this first-hand, with disgraceful scenes of anti-social behaviour – including fireworks being set off at police officers and members of the public.

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Police officers responding to the disturbance, involving around 50 young people, were particularly concerned at fireworks being set off near an open gasworks.

Scenes like these are why the Scottish Government is consulting on whether there should be stricter rules on the sale and use of fireworks.

Workers in our emergency services are at the frontline of this disruption and know exactly how dangerous fireworks can be in the wrong hands. Our police and firefighters do an excellent job at minimising potential disruption – but each year there are still worrying examples.

It is not just the extreme, and mostly isolated, instances of anti-social behaviour seen in 2017 that raise concerns.

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Often the availability of fireworks in local shops and supermarkets in the run-up to Bonfire Night can lead to weeks of noise in some communities.

This can be particularly stressful for those with pets, young children, people working shifts or people with PTSD, such as veterans.

I know many of my constituents would support a complete ban on their sale to the general public, with only organised and well-regulated displays allowed.

After the events in 2017 I held a public meeting with more than 70 community members, the majority of whom supported banning fireworks outside of public displays.

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Other members of the public may support stricter regulation short of an outright ban.

The Scottish Government consultation hopes to learn more about public opinion to help shape our approach on the issue.

As Minister for Community Safety in the Scottish Government, I am responsible for the consultation and am determined to make progress. But it is enormously frustrating that, on what should be a straightforward issue, we are likely to run into the limits of devolution.

While the Scottish Government and Scottish local authorities are responsible for policing and the fire service, for tackling noise and anti-social behaviour, the UK government decides on the actual sale of fireworks.

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It is frankly bizarre that when communities in my own constituency of Edinburgh Eastern are crying out for a local solution to a local problem, our hands are ultimately tied by decisions made in London.

I want the power over the sale of fireworks to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament so that we can deliver a solution ourselves.

But in the meantime, the results of the Scottish Government consultation will shape the conversations we have with the UK government over the steps we need to take to keep our communities safe. I hope as many Edinburgh residents take the opportunity to respond to the consultation as possible.

Ash Denham is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Eastern.