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New figures showing a major increase in the number of guns held legally in Scotland have been attributed to the increasing popularity of deerstalking.

Statistics released by the Scottish Government on 28 May show the number of legally owned firearms has reached a 10-year high.
There are now 66,893 firearms held by 26,056 people, and a further 133,940 shotguns held by 49,213 people. The figures also showed that in 2007 there were 1,203 applications for a new firearms certificate — of which 99 per cent were approved.

Sergeant Dougie Roy, the firearms licensing sergeant with Lothian and Borders Police, said: “There has been a huge increase in the number of people applying for the appropriate calibre for deerstalking. Deer are a huge problem in Scotland, so much so that they are almost out of control in some parts. What you have now got is people who were target shooters going out on deerstalking courses, liking it and applying for the appropriate calibre firearms to do more of it.”

However, the statistics prompted justice secretary Kenny MacAskill to call again for Scottish firearms law to be updated. BASC Scotland’s Colin Shedden told www.shootingtimes.co.uk “Why these new figures cause concern to some politicians escapes me. A one per cent rise in the numbers of both shotguns and firearms held by certificate holders is hardly an indication of significant change or a reason to worry. After all, it was recently confirmed at the Firearms Summit that legally held sporting firearms are not used in serious crime. BASC Scotland is more concerned about the fact that there has been a one per cent decrease in the number of firearms certificate holders in Scotland and a two per cent decrease in the number of shotgun certificate holders. We hope that over the next two years we will start to see a clear increase in the number of certificate holders in Scotland, just as we have seen increases in both the numbers of registered firearms dealers and applications for visitor permits last year.”

A longer version of this story appears in the 5 June issue of Shooting Times