We all know Bonfire Night can be great fun, and fireworks can be a great spectacle.
However, unfortunately, they can also result in people being injured, communities being disturbed, and our emergency workers being tested to the limit.
So, if you want to enjoy fireworks this weekend, the Scottish Government and our emergency services would encourage you to stay safe and attend an organised event where possible.
Whilst fireworks are often a great source of enjoyment, some people in areas where neighbours are setting off their own fireworks can find them noisy and a nuisance, with the disturbance causing distress to both humans and animals. Every year, we have seen antisocial behaviour involving the use of fireworks and lighting fires, and the risk of injury caused by the misuse of fireworks remains a major concern.
The Scottish Government has taken a number of actions to increase safety around fireworks and bonfires, and to stop the nuisance they can cause to local communities and to pets and wildlife.
Last year, we introduced a new law aiming to change Scotland’s relationship with fireworks. We want to encourage their use in a safe and considered way, and to send a strong message that firework misuse will not be tolerated.
It is now a criminal offence to supply fireworks to anyone under the age of 18, and the new law curbs fireworks and pyrotechnic misuse in our communities.
Restrictions are in place which make it illegal to set off fireworks in public places, including streets and parks. It is also illegal for the public to use fireworks before 6pm and after 11pm, or midnight on November 5. If you breach these restrictions, you could get a prison sentence of up to six months, be fined up to £5,000 – or both.
If you have any information relating to the misuse of fireworks, I urge you to please report it. As well as calling Police Scotland, you can also contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. They provide a unique service, allowing the public to give information anonymously in order to help prevent, detect and solve crime within communities.
We must protect our emergency service workers
Firefighters and other emergency crews are the frontline when protecting communities and keeping Scotland safe. On Bonfire Night last year, emergency crews in some areas of Scotland were subject to despicable acts of violence as they went about their duties.
This year, we have already seen riot police deployed during Halloween night in the Kirkton area of Dundee, dealing with the actions of a group of young people who started fires and caused disorder. I fully support the action of police to quell this disturbance, and it is right that we back our frontline services as they go about their duties.
Our new law makes attacks against emergency workers an aggravated offence
Our new law makes attacks against emergency workers an aggravated offence, so the courts now have the power to fully take such attacks into account when sentencing offenders, offering extra protections for our emergency services. And it is those emergency services that I would like to express my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to, alongside our community safety partners.
Both ahead of and on Bonfire Night, their continued hard work and dedication to keeping communities safe as well as the preventative work and the proactive planning they take forward each year are very much appreciated.
Look after your neighbours and local community
I would also like to thank the organisations that work all year round to promote the safe use of fireworks. I was heartened by figures this week that showed deliberate fire-setting in Scotland has reduced by more than a third in the period leading up to Bonfire Night so far this year.
This is a testament to the vital work that the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and others do in the run up to November 5, with prevention being at the forefront. From engaging with schools and community groups, educating young people on the dangers of deliberate fire-setting, bonfires and fireworks, to delivering advice on the law and what to do in the event of an emergency, their work is vital.
I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable Bonfire weekend, and that you all look after your neighbours and local community. And, where possible, leave fireworks to the professionals.
Siobhian Brown is Scottish Government minister for victims and community safety, as well as MSP for Ayr