SCOTTISH farmers have joined a UK-wide coalition calling for an outright ban on sky lanterns.

The president of the National Farmers Union Scotland, Martin Kennedy, this week added his name to a letter sent to UK Environment Minister Rebecca Pow calling on the UK Government to use its power to prohibit the use, supply or storage of 'injurious substances or articles' to outlaw the paper-and-wire devices that rise on hot air generated by a naked flame.

“We fully support a complete ban on the reckless release of sky lanterns," said Mr Kennedy. "Many local authorities in Scotland already ban their release on council-owned land but the Government must act now to deliver meaningful change. These dangerous items are an unacceptable risk to rural property, animal health and our landscape.

"Dry weather this spring has already seen Scotland’s wildfire risk set at extreme on several occasions. The potential damage to our land, farm buildings, livestock and environment from lantern release is unimaginable.”

The anti-lantern coalition now involves 18 organisations, all campaigning to have UK law 'catch up' with other countries, where the release of sky lanterns is considered an environmental crime due to the harm they cause animals, habitats and the countryside.

English NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said: “The global community is already recognising the dangers of sky lanterns. Countries like Australia, Brazil, and Germany already have national bans, and we must join them.

“This is a simple but incredibly effective and impactful step the government can take towards a safer, cleaner and greener rural Britain. We wouldn’t light a naked flame in our home and walk away, so why would we send one into the air with no idea whose home or habitat it could eventually destroy?”

Countryside Alliance chief executive, Tim Bonner, said: “Sky lanterns are a blight on the countryside and incredibly dangerous. Once released, there is no way of knowing where they will end up and all too often they end up strewn over fields, causing a major hazard for grazing livestock, not to mention the fire hazard risk they pose. It is high time their use was ended swiftly.”

Speaking from the National Fire Chiefs Council, wildlife lead Paul Hedley said: "Sky lanterns have been proven to start wildfires and property fires, kill or injure livestock, as well as polluting our natural environment. They put unnecessary strain on our critical services. Our advice is simple – don’t use them."

The chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, Allison Ogden-Newton, agreed: “Although beautiful and often used for sentimental or celebratory purposes, the truth is that what goes up must come down and sky lanterns inevitably become litter. We believe that asking the government to ban sky lanterns will awaken everyone to this fact.”

RSPCA animal welfare expert Dr Mark Kennedy added: "Though sky lanterns might look pretty in the sky, they pose a serious danger to horses, farm animals and wildlife.

“Sadly, many people are unaware of the potentially deadly consequences the release of sky lanterns can have for animals. Not only are they a serious fire hazard but the RSPCA has had reports of suffering animals through ingestion, entanglement and entrapment, or simply the sight of a lit lantern in the sky causing terrified animals to bolt and harm themselves.

"We know many people are already aware of the dangers sky lanterns pose to animals and we are pleased to work in coalition with the National Farmers Union and others to raise awareness within the UK government of our concerns.”