Fireworks Review Group (Veterans)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 13th November 2019.

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Photo of Tom Arthur Tom Arthur Scottish National Party

3. To ask the Scottish Government how the new fireworks review group, announced as part of the fireworks action plan, will ensure that the interests of veterans are represented. (S5O-03747)

Photo of Ash Denham Ash Denham Scottish National Party

I heard evidence through the public fireworks consultation that the use of fireworks can be difficult for some of our armed forces veterans and that the loud noises and strong smells from fireworks can cause considerable anguish.

Membership of the fireworks review group is currently being finalised. It will be drawn from key organisations and stakeholders. I will ensure that veterans organisations are engaged and that the voices of veterans are heard as the work to consider the future of fireworks in Scotland is progressed.

Photo of Tom Arthur Tom Arthur Scottish National Party

I welcome the minister’s commitment to ensure that the voices of veterans are heard.

Last week, I was contacted by constituents who want a ban on the public sale of fireworks. Many people in Renfrewshire South tell me that they want an end to the unnecessary stress that is caused to friends, family, neighbours and pets by inconsiderate individuals who, despite repeated public information campaigns, continue to use fireworks irresponsibly. Does the minister agree that, if the United Kingdom Government is not willing to take action on the matter, powers need to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament so that we can take action?

Photo of Ash Denham Ash Denham Scottish National Party

I do, and I reassure Tom Arthur that I, too, receive much constituency casework that calls for a ban on the sale of fireworks, in much the same way that he illustrated.

I have written to the UK Government regularly over the past year and ensured that it is engaged with the process that we are carrying out in Scotland in respect of the consultation and its outcomes. However, it is quite disappointing that the current UK Government has made it clear that it has little appetite to change the legislation on the sale of fireworks.

The recently published House of Commons Petitions Committee report clearly states that the UK Government has

“failed to act in response to legitimate concerns” expressed

“about fireworks.”

That report sets out a number of recommendations with specified timescales. I hope that the UK Government will take forward action in that regard.

If the head-in-the-sand approach to the sale of fireworks is to be maintained by the next UK Government, I would certainly welcome the opportunity to discuss how the relevant powers over the sale of fireworks could be devolved to Scotland. That would allow us to lead from the front on the issue and introduce the change that the people of Scotland have made clear to me that they want to see.

Photo of Bill Bowman Bill Bowman Conservative

I return to veterans. There are issues to do with fireworks and animals, and many veterans have companion dogs. Can the minister assure us that the review group will take full cognisance of that aspect and that the special needs of veterans and their companion dogs will be addressed?

Photo of Ash Denham Ash Denham Scottish National Party

Yes. I thank Bill Bowman for raising that issue. That theme certainly came through in the consultation. I am aware that there are a number of groups, including veterans, people with underlying mental health concerns and people who have pets, as well as pets themselves, that suffer a great deal from fireworks misuse and even from the appropriate use of fireworks because of the noise and the length of time that that can carry on.

As I said in my answer to Tom Arthur’s question, membership of the review group is currently being finalised. I cannot say what its precise membership will be, but it will be drawn from key stakeholders, and I assure Bill Bowman that veterans organisations will be fully engaged in it. I will ensure that their voices are heard as we progress through the process.