Time to ban public sale of fireworks after appalling scenes in Niddrie - Cammy Day
I want to wholeheartedly commend, congratulate, and thank our emergency services for the professional and measured way they carried out their duties under the most difficult circumstances. Police officers, firefighters and paramedics have a difficult enough job already in keeping us all safe without being subjected to abuse and attacks.
Unfortunately in recent years Bonfire Night has become something of a focal point for potentially life-threatening disorder and violence. In my meetings with the police since these events it is clear that this year had the distinction of clear planning and premeditation on the part of those attacking police in Niddrie, which is a deeply disturbing development. I fear that unless we take decisive action now it is only a matter of time before we see serious injuries or even deaths on a future Bonfire Night.
Going forward, we are exploring a number of options alongside our partners to try and mitigate this level of violent disorder. The Scottish Government has now given local authorities the power to implement Fireworks Control Zones (FCZs) which would make it a criminal offence for a member of the public to ignite a firework, including on private property, within a certain area. Whilst there wasn’t time to roll these out this year, work is now underway by the council to produce a process for the implementation of FCZs in Edinburgh as soon as possible.
More powers for local authorities are always welcome. However, I’m conscious that simply outlawing the use of fireworks in a specific area will not be enough to properly address the fundamental issues we’re facing.
I believe that we need to go further and ban the public sale of fireworks, such is the unprecedented risk to public safety and order. Whilst this may seem unfair to the majority of people who celebrate and use fireworks responsibly, what we have seen this year necessitates such a response. This is a decision that would need to be made at UK Government and Parliament level and I’ll be writing to my counterparts there in the near future. I was encouraged to hear Cabinet Secretary Angela Constance’s comments that the Scottish Government are also open to dialogue on this issue. I’ll also be looking into whether we can help provide organised displays in the city, so our residents can enjoy fireworks in a safe and secure way.
I’d like to add that the runup to Bonfire Night saw a huge amount of excellent partnership work. Teams from across the council have been working closely with Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), Police Scotland, Scottish Ambulance Service and other key partners. A few examples of this were engagement with local communities, schools, and youth services on the dangers of fireworks, proactive social media campaigns, and increased patrols from waste services to collect items that could potentially be set alight. I’d like to specifically highlight the fantastic work of the Lothian Association of Youth Clubs. In several areas of the city, we saw no major incidents on Bonfire Night for the first time, which is encouraging. This community and partnership work will continue.
Finally, I’m appealing directly to our communities and encouraging anyone who might have knowledge of the incidents on Bonfire Night to come forward. You can give information anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800555111 or contact Police Scotland directly.