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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Council votes to ban sky lanterns and helium balloons 


Borders Council become the latest to make the move. 

The latest Scottish local authority has voted to ban the release of sky lanterns and helium balloons on public land. 

The Scottish Borders Council voted unanimously at a meeting of the full council to impose “a complete ban on the release of Sky Lanterns and Helium Balloons from any and all of the land it owns”. 

Most Scottish local authorities have a similar ban in place and Borders Council is the latest to recognise the risk to animal life as well as the natural environment. 

Sky lanterns are constructed using a bamboo frame with a naked flame which takes the lantern into the air. The primary risk to animal life is through ingestion. Both sky lanterns and helium balloons can asphyxiate and ultimately kill any animal that tries to eat one. 

An additional risk posed by ingestion is skin or organ perforation due to the sharpness of a damaged frame. There is no means of controlling a released sky lantern or helium balloon. The distance they travel can be miles dependent on the sky lanterns fuel and the strength and direction of the wind. The frame of a sky lantern poses the risk of entanglement and can be as deadly as a snare to any animal trapped in one. 

Sky lanterns also pose a significant fire risk. With no control over where they land if still lit they are particularly dangerous during the drier summer months. A massive fire destroyed a recycling plant in the Midlands and is thought to have been caused by sky lanterns. 

The move was welcomed by charities, with Animal Concern spokesperson Graeme Corbett calling this an “important step”. 

He added: “Sky lanterns and helium balloons pose an appalling risk to animal life whether farmed, domestic or wild as well as to our built and natural environment.

“We’ve seen the damage they can do elsewhere in the UK and around the world. This important step forward helps minimise the risk of that here in the Scotland. 

“It isn’t only local authorities who have recognised the dangers of sky lanterns and helium balloons. Organisations as diverse as animal welfare charities like Animal Concern, the National Farmers Union, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Keep Scotland Beautiful, and Glastonbury music festival all say they carry more risks than they’re worth.

“With another local authority using what powers it has to prohibit these fire hazards inevitably attention will shift to the Scottish and UK Governments to follow the leadership local government has shown and restrict if not prohibit the release of sky lanterns and helium balloons across Scotland and we call on them to act swiftly. Successive local authorities have taken things as far they can, it is now up to central government to pick up where they’ve left off.”



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John Robins
4 months ago

Excellent news. It's now up to Holyrood and Westminster to legislate to ban sky lanterns and helium balloon releases from all land, not just local authority owned land.