Skip to main content

15/05/14 08:06

Proposals for new licensing laws

New licensing regime to ensure robust controls on air weapons.

New legislation to tighten access to air weapons in Scotland and other measures to improve public safety has been announced today.

The Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill, brought forward by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and published today in Parliament, sets out new proposals for a range of licensing issues including air weapons. Scottish Ministers have made clear their determination to control access to air weapons and the introduction of legislation to the Scottish Parliament has only been possible following the devolution of new powers in the Scotland Act 2012.

With reference to air weapons, the Bill will:

  • clearly define the air weapons which will be subject to licensing;
  • broadly follow the principles and practices of existing firearms legislation;
  • enable a fit person to obtain a licence to own, possess and shoot an air weapon in a regulated way, without compromising public safety;
  • ensure appropriate enforcement of the new regime with robust offences and penalties to deal with any person who contravenes the new regime.

Proposals for the air weapons regime were the subject of extensive consultation with Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority, the Gun Trade Association and other members of the expert Scottish Firearms Consultative Panel, which was convened by Kenny MacAskill in 2011 to advise on air weapon licensing. A public consultation on this issue attracted over 1,000 written responses.

Announcing details during a visit to Fettes Police station, the Cabinet Secretary was shown the type of air weapons which the new laws will cover.

It is estimated that there are around half a million unlicensed air weapons in Scotland.

Alongside air weapons, the Licensing Bill also includes provisions covering:

  • Scrap metal dealers - clamping down on metal thef through a tighter licensing regime for scrap metal dealers, including new rules that will prevent payments in cash
  • Alcohol creation of new offences of giving, or making available, alcohol to a child or young person for consumption in a public place
  • Sexual entertainment venues – a new licensing regime for lap dancing venues that will allow greater local control over the number and operation of these venues
  • Civic – introduction of a new role of Civic Licensing Standards Officer to help enforce civic licensing regimes.

Mr MacAskill said:

“We have a longstanding commitment to tackle the misuse of all firearms. The licensing scheme for air guns will help address the problems that these weapons can cause to individuals and communities in the wrong hands.

“I recently met with the mother of Andrew Morton, who tragically lost his life as a result of air weapon misuse just over nine years ago. This meeting took place close to what would have been Andrew’s twelfth birthday. To see and hear the continued pain his family has gone through only serves to make me even more determined to ensure we have robust legislation to prevent future tragedies.

“Such tragic incidents are, thankfully, very rare, but every day police and animal welfare groups have to deal with the results of air weapons being misused. As well as causing daily anti-social behaviour and vandalism they can also cause horrific injuries to wildlife and family pets by those who maliciously target animals.

“This Government will introduce a licensing regime that is fit for the 21st century and these proposals amount to one of the most robust air weapon licensing regimes in the world, much further ahead of our counterparts in England and Wales.

“The introduction of a licensing regime for air weapons represents an important first step towards devolving all powers on firearms to the Scottish Parliament, something we have long pressed the UK Government for.

“We are not banning air weapons outright but there has to be a legitimate use for them. We do not believe that there should be half a million unlicensed air weapons in 21st century Scotland, and believe this legislation strikes the right balance between protecting communities and allowing legitimate shooting in a safe environment to continue.

“This Bill also contains provisions to tackle other areas of licensing, including reducing metal theft by strengthening a licensing regime for scrap metal dealers, more robust alcohol provisions for pubs, clubs and retailers, and the powers for local authorities to decide on the numbers of sexual entertainment venues in their area. At the heart of our licensing proposals is our aim to support and encourage legitimate businesses whilst protecting public health and safety and empowering our communities .”

Notes to editors


The air weapons proposals will affect anyone who currently owns an air weapon and wants to continue to do so, those buying new air weapons, or those who wish to bring an air weapon into Scotland, for example to competitions or on holiday. Prior to the new laws coming into effect, we will allow a period where people can hand in unwanted weapons to the police.

Other licensing proposals with reference to scrap metal, sexual entertainment venues, alcohol and civic licensing were all the subject of public consultation, as well as dialogue with relevant stakeholders.