COUNCILLORS in North Ayrshire could be set to introduce a ban on the release of sky lanterns and helium balloons from land owned by the authority.

Charity Animal Concern has urged the council to introduce a ban on the grounds of the risk the items pose to animals, as well as their potential fire hazard.

Two-thirds of Scotland's councils have already introduced restrictions of some sort on the release of such lanterns and balloons amid concerns from farmers, environmental groups and animal welfare organisations.

Restrictions elsewhere were introduced after reports from locations across the country of pets, farm animals, wildlife and marine life dying after consuming the items.

The topic will be debated at a full meeting of North Ayrshire Council on Wednesday, May 15.

A motion being put forward by Councillor Jean McClung (SNP, Saltcoats and Stevenston), asks that “[the] council agrees to support the Animal Concern campaign and so imposes a complete ban on the release of sky lanterns and helium balloons from any and all of the land it owns”.

Farmers and campaign groups say animals can die from asphyxiation by eating the items after they become lodged in the oesophagus.

Sky lanterns are made from a bamboo frame and wire. Should they be damaged on landing, if ingested they can perforate flesh or internal organs leading to organ failure or internal bleeding. Both are likely to be fatal if untreated.

The calls for a ban are also supported by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, the National Farmers Union, Keep Scotland Beautiful, the Civil Aviation Authority and the Marine Conservation Society.

Animal Concern spokesperson Graeme Corbett said: “We’re delighted, after some months of discussion with North Ayrshire, that these proposals are coming to a vote at full council.

"Sky lanterns and helium balloons are a risk to life and limb for all animals, whether farmed, marine, companion, or wild.

“There’s a real head of steam getting up behind our campaign. There’s only so long MPs and MSPs can continue to ignore this.”

Animal Concern say releasing a sky lantern or lanterns is like releasing a naked flame. In the event the flame is not fully extinguished, it represents a fire hazard wherever they land.

Councillor Gurney said: “I’m pleased the council is about to vote on supporting Animal Concern’s campaign to ban sky lanterns and helium balloons.

“As many local authorities have, we want to recognise the risks that sky lanterns and helium balloons pose to animal life and welfare.

“North Ayrshire is a coastal authority, which blesses us with some spectacular scenery, but hand in hand with that is an obligation to play our part in its protection.

"We are mindful that they can be harmful to marine life too."

Local dairy farmer John Kerr, chair of the Ayrshire branch of the National Farmers’ Union (Scotland), said: “Releasing sky lanterns and helium balloons has consequences for farmers’ livelihoods.

"Animals are inquisitive, and they’re not fussy diners. If they see something lying in a field, they are likely to try it, which can be lethal. It simply isn’t possible to be vigilant around the clock.

"The risk isn’t just to livestock. Especially now as we approach hotter, drier weather, a lit lantern is a fire risk to crops, haystacks, and farm buildings.

“There is a further risk to cattle when grass is cut and ensiled for winter feed, and the wire is chopped up and subsequently contained in hay or silage.

“I’ve seen less of it on my land since East Ayrshire brought a ban in a few years ago, so you can’t tell me measures like these don’t work and don’t make a difference.”