Scottish airgun owners have from July until the end of the year to get a licence, but BASC fears that this isn't long enough for the transition

It will be illegal to hold an airgun without a licence from 31 December, but BASC says that the “lead in” period is shorter than anticipated and could place an extra burden on the police.

Apply for a certificate from 1 July

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson, last month set out new dates for airgun licensing in the Scottish Parliament. Owners will be able to apply for a certificate from 1 July, giving them just six months to comply with the new legislation. The licences were originally expected to be introduced in April and are intended to combat airgun crime.

BASC says that it will help with the transition, but believes that six months may not be long enough. The organisation’s director for Scotland, Colin Shedden, said: “BASC opposed the introduction of airgun licensing in Scotland. Offences involving airguns had been declining significantly over the past seven or eight years and licensing was seen by many as disproportionate.

“But with the legislation now in place, and licences to be made available from July, we will do all that we can to help the many legitimate airgun users in Scotland adapt to the new licensing regime.”

Scottish airgun licences a challenge to Police Scotland staff

He continued: “The six months ‘lead in’ period (before a certificate becomes a legal requirement) is shorter than we had anticipated and may present a challenge to Police Scotland staff, who will administer the new regime.”

A report, published last year following BASC pressure, showed that airgun crime was at its second-lowest in the 10-year period between 2004- 2014. It also highlighted that airgun offences account for just 0.06 per cent of crimes committed in Scotland, which is a 73 per cent reduction from the 2006-2007 period, when offences peaked at 0.2 per cent of overall crime.

People who hold existing firearms or shotgun licences will not require a new certificate until their existing authority is due for renewal, unless they wish to purchase a new airgun before that time.

Laying out the Order, Mr Matheson said: “This Government has a long standing commitment to eradicating gun crime in Scotland and this new legislation will better protect our communities by taking these potentially lethal guns out of the hands of those who would misuse them.

“Every day police, the public and animal welfare groups have to face the results of air weapon misuse, from anti-social behaviour to horrific and deliberate injuries to wildlife, pets and very occasionally people.

Not an outright ban

“We are not banning airguns outright, but ensuring that their use is properly regulated and users have a legitimate reason for them. We believe this legislation strikes the right balance between protecting communities and allowing legitimate shooting in a safe environment to continue.”

He added: “We will be publishing clear information on how airgun owners can apply for a certificate. I would encourage anybody with an airgun to stay on the right side of the law by using the six months from 1 July to apply for the right to possess an airgun.”

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams, of the Local Policing West executive team, commented: “Police Scotland fully supports the changes to airgun legislation and in support of these developments will launch an airgun surrender campaign later this year. This will allow people to hand in any unwanted airguns before licensing takes effect.”