There were 949 cases reported in 2008-09, compared to 1,144 the previous year.

Just under half of these (444) involved air weapons but this figure has dropped from 576 offences in 2007-08.

Although the number of both firearms and shotguns held by Scottish certificate holders is the highest for 10 years (69,481 and 137,881 respectively) firearms such as rifles were used in only 12 offences and shotguns in 55.

In contrast, prohibited pistols and revolvers were used in 137 recorded offences.

Further evidence of the law-abiding nature of certificate holders and their tight security procedures is that the number of firearms stolen in 2008-09 reached a 10 year low – with only three instances involving shotgun theft and two involving rifles.

BASC Scotland director, Dr Colin Shedden, said: “It is clear from these statistics that the Scottish government, the Police, organisations such as BASC Scotland and responsible shooters are doing their best to reduce offences involving firearms. The reductions show that targeted campaigns, education and enforcement of existing legislation are all playing their part.

“We are particularly pleased that even when we have had recent increases in the numbers of legitimately held firearms and shotguns this has not been reflected in increased offences or thefts. We are, however, concerned that despite pistols and revolvers having been banned in Scotland we now have a 10 year record in the number of reported offences – which represents a 41% increase on the previous year.”