Helen Martin: Edinburgh has turned into Firework City

Edinburgh sisters Joan and Donna Pattie look forward to Bonfire Night in 1967 with a box of fireworks
Edinburgh sisters Joan and Donna Pattie look forward to Bonfire Night in 1967 with a box of fireworks
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POSSIBLY one of the most common phrases read in Edinburgh is “light blue touch paper and stand back”. It is Firework City.

We have formal displays following the Tattoo in summer, several taking place around Guy Fawkes period in autumn, and the Beirut-style extravaganza on Hogmanay.

But organised displays inspire ordinary folk to let off fireworks in their own gardens, not only to mark specific national events but to celebrate everything from birthdays, anniversaries or even a dinner party – all-year round.

I loathe the damn things, especially when they blast off in our neighbourhood unexpectedly. And for many, the cost, stress and difficulty of coping with pets who go awol, or shiver in terror despite being safe in the house, is a nightmare. Not to mention the effect on some elderly people and those with dementia.

Now, we have more calls than usual for a firework ban following the the “use” of these explosive objects on Bonfire Night by thugs in Pilton, Muirhouse and Craigentinny, resulting in arson and injury.

Only the insane could fail to back Tommy Sheppard, MP for Edinburgh East, who has called for a review of the laws on fireworks and the nonsense of having explosives sold in supermarkets and toy shops.

I admit my idea of perfection would be to make them completely illegal even for organised displays, including those staged at vast cost by the council. I appreciate not everyone would go along with that. But laxity has caused this modern problem.

I remember when only adults were allowed to buy fireworks and were warned to keep them safely under lock and key.

Back in the day, there were no “extensions” of November the Fifth. No matter what day of the week that fell on, it was the only night when fireworks were let off.

A few rockets fired out of milk bottles, a pack of sparklers, a Catherine wheel and a Roman candle. It took about 20 minutes max. The strength, ferocity and noise of all of them was much weaker and safer than what’s on sale now. And as for jumping bangers? They were only used by bad boys and bullies whose parents were as negligent as those of the thugs today.

Even for those who like fireworks, there is a conflict when it comes to tightening up the rules of supply. If the aim is to allow families to continue with their random, nuisance, any-day-of-the-year, garden displays devoid of consideration for their neighbours or wildlife, fireworks must be on sale somewhere. But, if they are, how can they be kept out of the reach of yobs?

So, with a total ban off the cards I’d love to see a lower legal limit on the size and power of fireworks, and a seriously high age limit for purchasers, say 25. It should be against the law for anyone to set off fireworks except on specific days of the year. There should be a tax on fireworks, doubling the cost of them. And used carelessly or aggressively, they should be classed as offensive weapons.

Better still we could substitute them all with laser light shows.

– I must apologise for incorrect criticism of Christian Dior in last week’s column about a young model being use to promote “anti-wrinkle” cream. She is the face of Capture Youth which aims to delay future skin ageing.