Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) has called for a range of improvements to “inconsistently” implemented Scottish firearms licensing following a review of the service.

HMICS has powers to look into the “state, effectiveness and efficiency” of both the Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority (SPA). It said that while firearms licensing in Scotland has become more consistent since the formation of Police Scotland in 2013, there are still many areas requiring improvement.

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Strong concerns about speed and efficiency

As part of the review, HMICS polled almost 1,000 people who had experience with Police Scotland’s firearms service. It found that while two-thirds were generally satisfied with the service, many applicants had strong concerns about the speed and efficiency of the process.

HMICS found that the licensing had been applied inconsistently across Scotland and there had been no effort to review the new model since it was approved in 2015. It also said that firearms enquiry officers and staff would benefit from more training.

HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland, Derek Penman, commented: “I would have expected greater scrutiny over the new firearms licensing model approved by the SPA. This is reflective of weaknesses in wider governance and highlights the imperative for the SPA to put arrangements in place as a matter of urgency to oversee the implementation of major change.”

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24 recommendations for improvement

In response, HMICS has made 24 recommendations to improve the service, including a new framework to assess and monitor firearms licensing, published standards for the service applicants can expect to receive, the introduction of clear processes for GPs on how Police Scotland can be contacted if they have concerns about a patient’s suitability to possess a firearm and regular refresher training for firearms enquiry officers.

Police Scotland and the SPA will now be asked to create an action plan to address these recommendations and HMICS will monitor to see that these goals are met.

Download a full copy of the report here

Mr Penman said: “The primary purpose of firearms licensing is to protect and promote public safety. Whilst the vast majority of firearm certificate holders use their firearms responsibly and safely, tragic incidents in the past have shown the need for effective licensing and processes, which assess the suitability of individuals to possess and use firearms.

The HMICS report echoes the findings of the HMIC review of firearms legislation in England and Wales in 2015, which was also criticised for being applied inconsistently.

Mr Penman said: “The primary purpose of firearms licensing is to protect and promote public safety. Whilst the vast majority of firearm certificate holders use their firearms responsibly and safely, tragic incidents in the past have shown the need for effective licensing and processes, which assess the suitability of individuals to possess and use firearms.