Fireworks night is scheduled for Sunday night at Levengrove Park, Dumbarton.

By Bill Heaney

The Scottish Government is taking measures to increase public awareness of firework safety ahead of bonfire night in Dumbarton, Helensburgh and elsewhere in Dunbartonshire.

The First Minister, Humza Yousaf, told MSPs today:We have recently launched our annual public awareness campaigns across a range of media platforms.
“Those campaigns reinforce appropriate messaging around attending organised displays and how to stay safe over the bonfire weekend. I encourage everyone to familiarise themselves with those campaigns and the firework code.

“In addition, we have distributed more than 200,000 safety leaflets to retailers, the Scottish Wholesale Association, trading standards teams and third sector partners to increase awareness of firework safety and the law at the point of sale.

“It is, of course, illegal to sell or give fireworks to anyone under the age of 18, to use fireworks before 6 pm or after 11 pm—that is extended to midnight on the 5th—and to use fireworks in the street or other public places. Ultimately, that is so that the public—and, crucially, our emergency services—can have a safe bonfire night.

One MSP, Clare Adamson, revealed: “Recent data from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service shows that the number of deliberate fires in the three weeks up to 5 November has fallen by 30 per cent since 2018, to 907 last year.

“That is very welcome news but, every year, our emergency workers are subjected to immense pressure due to the misuse of fireworks, which is compounded by antisocial behaviour.

“Does the First Minister agree that the public can do a real service for our emergency services by taking the decision to attend a public display, which is by far and away the safest and most enjoyable way for a family to spend bonfire night?”

The main public display locally will be on Sunday evening in Levengrove Park at 7pm.

The First Minister said: I agree with that. Fireworks can be a great spectacle and enable communities to come together. As injuries are less likely to occur at a public display, we would always encourage people to attend one. I know that many communities, regional and national organisations and local authorities do fantastic work to organise such displays.

“We have strengthened the law around access to the use of fireworks, with the aim of reducing demand on our emergency services.

“The new law also makes attacks against emergency workers an aggravated offence that can be considered by courts when sentencing offenders. As Clare Adamson has articulated very well, I encourage people to attend those public displays where they are available.”

Conservative Russell Findlay MSP said: “Scottish National Party ministers claim that their new firework control zones will improve public safety around bonfire night, but my party has found that at least 28 of Scotland’s 32 councils have no plans to introduce them.
That includes Dundee, where riot police are on the streets to tackle gangs that are using fireworks to inflict chaos and terror.

“Will Humza Yousaf explain why his rushed firework law is being ignored by councils that are suffering from severe SNP cuts?

But, the First Minister told him: “It is for local authorities to make an application for a control zone. I assume that Conservative-led councils also do not have control zones in place. I do not think that we should blame local authorities or the Government for the actions that we saw in Dundee.

“We should be very clear that those who misuse fireworks, particularly when they endanger the public and our emergency services, should be held to account for their reckless actions.

“We should be getting behind our fire service, Police Scotland and the Scottish Ambulance Service, which all do a fantastic job in the run-up to bonfire night and on bonfire night itself.We have introduced legislation, and a number of applications are in for control zones, which will be given due consideration.

SNP veteran MSP Christine Grahame has a special interest in animal welfare.  She said: “The safety of people, especially children, is obviously paramount, but does the First Minister agree that we should be mindful of the effect of fireworks on our pets and livestock, to keep them safe, too, and that, if in doubt about what to do, people should follow the advice of animal organisations, including NFU Scotland?”

Humza Yousaf said that he agreed with her – “There is excellent guidance from a number of third sector partners, including the NFUS. I know from the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and others that some very good guidance is available.

“Christine Grahame is right that we often focus on members of the public, but we should absolutely include our pets, which we know can suffer during the lead-up to bonfire night and on bonfire night itself.

“I ask those who are unsure about animal welfare and safety during this period to please look at the range of third sector organisations that can provide excellent advice.”

MSPs who will be taking special steps to protect their dogs from firework noise on Gay Fawkes Night.

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