Helen Martin: Fireworks ban a step in the right direction

Picture: Steven Scott TaylorPicture: Steven Scott Taylor
Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
BARELY into 2016 and I have already identified my first hero of the year. Midlothian Councillor Adam Montgomery has put forward a motion to ban fireworks being sold in shops to the general public, although licensed events organisers will still be able to buy them.

It doesn’t go far enough for me, but at least it’s a step in the right direction. . . . or it would be if East Lothian and Edinburgh had the wisdom to do the same.

Fireworks have become too big, too loud and too explosive for our good. They have over-shot the runway of common sense and decency to anyone who is old enough to remember how they once brought pleasure without pain and entertainment without consequences.

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Marking Guy Fawkes Night used to involve a couple of families getting together in a back garden with a wee bonfire, some sausages, and mum or dad launching a few whizzy rockets from a milk bottle, lighting a Catherine Wheel nailed to a post and perhaps a volcano or fountain from a sand tray. Mittened kids were given sparklers to wave well away from their faces or bodies and by 7.45pm it was time for hot chocolate and bed.

Flash forward and even those bought over the counter are far more powerful and the louder the bang the better. Far from being restricted to children’s family entertainment on November 5, adults let them off from January to December at any time of night and any excuse will do . . . birthdays, dinner or a barbecue, a wedding, an anniversary, a party, Christmas, New Year, a new kitchen, passing a driving test . . .

At least the city’s Hogmanay display is predictable, but those DIY garden celebrations by the selfish and indulgent can happen at any time. One round our way a few days later caused neighbouring burglar and car alarms to go off and the police – who presumably had more important things to do – turning up to investigate.

Predictability is key. People have to know to keep their pets inside. As Councillor Montgomery pointed out, four dogs went missing last year causing huge distress to their owners, because of “indiscriminate” use of fireworks.

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Wildlife is affected too, as well as humans. The fact is, not everyone likes fireworks especially when they are unexpected. And those who do, should not have the right to impose them on the rest of us.

There was never any problem with the public buying fireworks when they were tamer, smaller, quieter, and of short duration on just one night of the year. But now they are different beasts. And yes, displays should be licensed – and well publicised locally beforehand.

I haven’t even mentioned health and safety, danger, and physical risks because I don’t think all that is Councillor Montgomery’s point and it’s certainly not mine, although perhaps the Fire Brigade and Accident and Emergency would disagree.

Today’s random, booming, banging, explosives are a disturbance, a pest, a nuisance and often cause distress to others. Adam Montgomery’s idea is not about strangling business, binding us all up in red tape or being a killjoy.

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For once we have a councillor speaking up for the “silent” majority and trying to put an end to what is, quite simply, anti-social behaviour.

Watchdog needs to show its teeth

THE Financial Conduct Authority says “a focus on the culture in financial services firms remains a priority”. Well gosh! That’s a surprise.

They won’t reveal what they discovered when they investigated banks, insurance firms and fund managers bribing financial advisers to push their products. They abandoned another investigation into pay and financial industry behaviour. And there is to be no action by them on HSBC’s Swiss operation enabling their very, very rich clients to avoid paying tax.

That seems to be about as focused as Mr Magoo. Where are the jail sentences, the punitive damages and the naming and shaming tactics we were all expecting? And what use is an FCA whose main strategy seems to be turning a blind eye and sweeping everything under the carpet?

Sorry but the force is weak in this one...

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I WAS one of the last to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If it wasn’t for the “fireworks” effects and bangs, I’d have nodded off. It had none of the intrigue, plot or compelling characters of earlier “episodes”.

Instead, just in time, it laid the foundations for the next generation of Jedis and heroes before the old guard died off, thus ensuring the continuation of the franchise and creating a few new figures that can be sold in their millions. The next one will have to be a helluva lot better or the entire SW bubble will pop like a Death Star.

Refugee issue won’t go away

AROUND 100 women were attacked, robbed and sexually assaulted by up to 1000 Arab/North African men on New Year’s Eve in Cologne and police, along with the public TV station, have apologised for covering up the attacks, for fear of inflaming opinion over Germany admitting 1.1 million migrants. This is the predictable result of confusing economic migrants , some criminal, with genuine, ID-checked refugees.

Don’t make me laugh

DONALD Trump is threatening to pull his £700 million of investment out of Scotland if he’s barred from the UK. We don’t come that cheap.

Dump the Trump.