Football fans setting off flares and fireworks inside stadiums is “escalating”, a Scottish Government minister said as she announced new measures are planned to tackle the problem.
Legislation making it a specific criminal offence to possess a firework or other pyrotechnic at certain places or events – such as football matches or music concerts and festivals – without reasonable excuse will come into force from June 6, community safety minister Siobhian Brown told MSPs.
However she revealed other measures brought in as part of a Bill passed in 2022 would have to be delayed.
It had been anticipated that all restrictions included in the Fireworks and Pyrotechnics Articles (Scotland) Act 2022 would be brought in this year.
But Ms Brown said on Wednesday that parts of the Bill which create a licensing system for people wishing to buy and use fireworks will now take effect in “autumn 2024 at the earliest”.
Restrictions on the dates when fireworks can be sold and used will then be brought in “in a future financial year beyond 2024”, the minister told Holyrood’s Criminal Justice Committee.
Her comments came as she said she hopes the creation of a new offence of possessing fireworks and pyrotechnics in places such as football stadiums, together with an awareness raising campaign about the new law, would have an impact.
Kick-off at Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final between Glasgow rivals Celtic and Rangers at Hampden had to be delayed after both sets of fans set off flares inside the ground.
Conservative MSP Russell Findlay pressed the minister on why “dozens of pyros” had been able to be set off “in a highly co-ordinated action by both sets of fans”.
Ms Brown said she has not discussed the problems at Sunday’s game with Police Scotland, but she told Mr Findlay: “I did see what was happening, I think you are 100% correct it was totally orchestrated.”
Speaking about the use of flares by football fans, she added: “This just seems to be escalating and it is dangerous.”
She said fans involved currently “think they can get away with it”, but she hopes the new legislation will “reiterate” their use is unacceptable.
She explained to the committee the new measures would allow police “to look at people who are perhaps doing this at football stadiums and proactively, as they are entering the stadium, to search and remove the pyrotechnic from them and charge them”.
Ms Brown continued: “We are clear this legislation is about preventing the misuse of pyrotechnics, not about preventing the spectacle of professionally organised pyrotechnic displays at organised events.
“Neither is it about preventing the use of safety flares, it is vital we do nothing that could inhibit the passion and use of potentially lifesaving devices for those involved in activities such as sailing, mountaineering or hillwalking.”
She went on to tell the committee full implementation of all measures in the Bill would “take place over a longer period of time” than originally set out.
Ms Brown said this is because the “financial context has shifted significantly and decisive budget decisions have been required”.
She added: “We’re in a very different place now financially than we were even a year or two years ago when this was first introduced.
“This is why it has been delayed, it is just due to our finances with a fixed budget.”
However she said legislation allowing the establishment of firework control zones will come in ahead of Bonfire Night in November this year.