All this heady talk about Scottish independence makes me wonder how, if it ever came to pass, the UK firearms system would work. I mean, if you live south of the Border and want to go shooting in Scotland, would you need to apply for a visitor?s permit? If you were driving, would you and your guns be checked at a customs point on the Border? It?s an intriguing thought.
Moreover, what if your permanent address is in Scotland but you are working in England for much of the year. Would you have to apply for an entirely separate certificate, in addition to your Scottish one? And, if so, would the statutory requirements be exactly the same? And spare a thought for those of us who live near the Border. People in this region are always popping back and forth over the line. How would that be affected? Even worse, what about a shoot or farm that extends over both sides of the Border? Many farmers have a field or two on either side. How would the legislation cope with this sort of thing?
I am not saying that there definitely aren?t any common-sense solutions. It?s just that none are apparent at the moment. When it comes to Scottish independence, it strikes me that there wouldn?t really be a lot of point in it if the Scots were to have exactly the same laws as the rest of the United Kingdom.
And then we come to the other possible option ? so-called ?devo- max?, which means more powers but falls short of full independence. Would Scotland still have UK firearms laws under this option, or would such matters be devolved to Holyrood, as some are already demanding? I know that things are a bit different in Northern Ireland, but the scale of routine travelling for shooting sports between Scotland and the rest of the UK is on an altogether different level.
Frankly, it all looks a bit confusing at this stage. Just about the only thing we can be certain of, I reckon, is that the interest of the shooting community will not be a major factor in whatever decision is made. So perhaps we should brace ourselves.
Animal rights extremists and badger cull trials
Sadly, there is some evidence that, in certain circumstances, terrorism works. If a determined, highly motivated group inflicts enough illegal violence for long enough,then elected governments may become so desperate for peace that they work to achieve it at almost any cost. Just look at Northern Ireland, for example, where some of the people who directed campaigns of mayhem and murder have been installed as pillars of the state.
Anyway, this got me to thinking about the forthcoming badger cull trials. A bit of a leap, you may say. But animal rights extremism is regarded by the police as a potential source of terrorism. I am not for a moment suggesting that the position of respectable bodies such as the Badger Trust could be equated with anything even approaching terrorism. But I do think that there may well be a concerted effort, by a minority of the more extreme opponents of the cull, to inflict criminal damage and even intimidation in order to achieve their ends.
It has happened before, after all. In the early 1980s, there was the so-called Battle of Folkington when MAFF, as DEFRA was then known, attempted to conduct a badger cull. Ministry Land Rovers were torched, cage traps were wrecked and workers were threatened. Given this, it is not surprising that today many farmers are worried about being seen to be involved in the new badger culling trials.
It would be particularly galling if the forthcoming trials failed to reach a statistically valid conclusion (either way) because of the sabotage and intimidation meted out by animal rights extremists. Apart from anything else, that would mean that a lot of badgers had died in vain.
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