ScotRail has announced a ban on firearms on its train services, despite National Rail Conditions of Travel allowing authorised passengers to transport firearms.

BASC chairman Peter Glenser says: “ScotRail claims its Scotland’s railway but it is 
striking at the heart of rural businesses and communities that rely on the estimated £155million injected each year into the country’s economy by country sports tourism. BASC understands the ban comes as a result of a shotgun being mistakenly left on a train. Considering the millions of miles travelled safely with shotguns and firearms each year, this decision looks disproportionate.

“Individuals travelling with firearms in the UK are regulated and authorised by the police following rigorous background checks. In fact, the UK has some of the toughest and most stringent gun laws in the world.

“We urge ScotRail to change its policy before the start of the shooting season to avoid travel disruption and to protect Scotland’s rural economy.”

Firearms ban introduced just before Glorious Twelfth

With the Glorious Twelfth just weeks away, BASC believes the decision could have a significant impact on Scotland’s status as an internationally renowned sporting destination.

Peter Glenser (who is a barrister specialising in firearms law)  has written to Scotland’s secretary for tourism, Fiona Hyslop MSP, and secretary for rural affairs, Fergus Ewing MSP, to outline and explain the association’s concerns.

Mr Glenser has also written to ScotRail’s chief executive, Alex Hynes, to request that rather than impose a punitive outright ban, the operator adheres to national guidelines. These allow a certificate holder to lawfully transport an unloaded gun with 
a train company’s permission.

Tourism concerns

There are major concerns that this Scottish firearms ban could derail much-needed rural tourism.
Andrew Grainger, project manager for Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group, said: 
“This announcement from ScotRail is of concern as it may have immediate consequences for tourists with bookings to travel to Scotland for the grouse shooting season.”

The National Rail Conditions of Travel, which operate in the UK, allow for the carriage of “unloaded firearms, properly licensed, with prior permission of the train company and carried in accordance with the law and any other specific instructions”.

Section 19 of the Firearms 
Act 1968 allows certificate holders to possess firearms in public if they have a reasonable excuse — such as transporting them to and from shooting events and competitions.

ScotRail replies

ScotRail said the decision to introduce the ban was made for safety reasons.

David Lister, ScotRail Alliance’s safety and sustainability director, said: “The safety and security of our customers and staff is our number one priority.

“Following an incident earlier in the year, when a customer left a firearm unattended on a train, we reviewed our policy and decided that the best way to keep our customers and staff safe is to ban all firearms on ScotRail services.

“We are confident that this is a decision that will have the support of the vast majority of staff and customers.”

Game shooting supports rural train lines

Liam Stokes, Head of Shooting , Countryside Alliance said: “In banning firearms from their trains, ScotRail seem to have forgotten that game shooting is the reason many rural train lines exist at all. One of the main reasons the UK’s train network is so extensive is because of the shooting community paying to travel to enjoy days like the Glorious 12th. ScotRail’s ban on the transportation of firearms on trains appears to be a mindless and prejudiced decision based on one unfortunate incident. One incident is no justification for punishing the whole rural economy.

The Countryside Alliance thanks BASC for bringing this to our attention, and we will be monitoring the situation and will act if there is no change.”