Opposition mounting in Borders to plans for mass release of paper lanterns

A still image of a Union Flag paper lantern being released supposedly in support of the National Health Service.A still image of a Union Flag paper lantern being released supposedly in support of the National Health Service.
A still image of a Union Flag paper lantern being released supposedly in support of the National Health Service. | Other 3rd Party
Borders MSP Rachael Hamilton is backing a plea by farmers for a boycott of a call for Chinese-style sky lanterns to be released en masse as a show of support for medics.

Night Sky Lanterns, a manufacturer of the controversial products, has launched a campaign urging people to send Union Flag paper lanterns up into the sky on Sunday nights, beginning this weekend, to accompany the rounds of applause for carers being staged on Thursdays.

The London firm is promising to donate part of its proceeds from the sales of such lanterns, billed as biodegradable and wire-free, to the National Health Service, but the Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP fears its campaign would do more harm than good.

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Mrs Hamilton, also the Scottish Conservatives’ spokesperson for rural affairs and tourism, said: “We all want to show our appreciation for the hard work of NHS staff, but releasing lanterns is irresponsible and may be inadvertently making their jobs harder at a time of national crisis.

“Sky lanterns are dangerous and start fires. They do far more harm than good.

“With the spell of dry weather continuing, there is a significant risk of wildfires, which could ruin habitats and destroy farmers’ livelihoods.

“Livestock have been known to ingest burnt-out sky lanterns which have landed in fields, and this causes serious problems for the animal.

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“Please avoid this campaign at all costs. Please continue to support our NHS through our appreciation on Thursday evenings and through donating money through safer campaigns.”

National Farmers’ Union bosses in Scotland also want to see the planned campaign scrapped, with their president, Andrew McCornick, saying: “It is unbelievable and totally unacceptable that companies are encouraging the public to demonstrate support for our hard-working front-line services by something that is at a high risk of increasing the burden on them.

“The wildfire danger assessment in Scotland for the coming days is extreme. Land, buildings and property will be placed at risk by these items, and animal health will be compromised should they land on farms.

“This must be stopped, and we call on all those we have written to – the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Police Scotland, Scottish Ambulance Service, politicians and local authorities – to rally behind a call to have the release of Chinese lanterns banned.

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“At this critical time, support for those in the front line is best achieved by following government advice, staying home, keeping safe, not undertaking any non-essential work or travel and by not engaging in any unnecessary activity that might potentially place any additional burden on our emergency services.”

“We suggest that they use social media and public statements to urge the general public not to take part in this campaign but to continue to use safe ways to thank our front-line workers, such as clapping, music and colourful rainbows in their windows.”

The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service are also urging Borderers not to join in the lantern release camapign.

The former’s chief superintendent, Mike Flynn, said: “Sky lanterns put pets, wildlife and farm animals at risk of serious injury or even death.

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“Lanterns may seem like a nice gesture, and many people are likely unaware of the damage they can do. However, lanterns pose a serious threat to all sorts of animals, and once they land they become litter.

“Animals can be caught up in the debris and get trapped. Even if they escape, these animals can get hurt in the process of doing so.

“Every single person in the Scottish SPCA fully supports the NHS and recognises the incredible effort they are making just now. We have so much respect and admiration for them.

“There’s lots of ways people can support our phenomenal NHS at the moment, and we’d urge everyone to celebrate it in a way which poses less risk to animals and the environment.”

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Alasdair Perry, the latter’s assistant chief officer, added: “We fully appreciate that people want to show their support for the NHS. However, we must discourage the lighting of sky lanterns.

“These lanterns may look striking when lit, but when released they pose a significant threat of fire and can have devastating consequences for rural environments, property and wildlife.

“This is clearly a challenging time for the emergency services due to Covid-19, and while the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service maintains a high resilience across Scotland, we would seek to avoid any unnecessary demand on our service so we can target our resources most effectively in supporting our partners and meeting the needs of Scotland’s communities.

“Traditionally, this is a period when we see a high volume of large wildfires in Scotland due to a build-up of dead vegetation in our countryside, and rising temperatures. We can’t risk adding a potential ignition to that mix.

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“While I fully understand people wanting to show their support for the NHS, I would encourage people to find a different way to do this.

“Our message is clear: –please do not release lit sky lanterns and risk potentially placing unnecessary pressure on the emergency services.”

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