Hunting shops given knife deadline
HUNTING shops and other outlets selling non-domestic knives have been given 12 months to get a licence under a government crackdown on knife crime.
Window displays of knives will be banned, and retailers will have to keep a record of knives sold and of how they checked the age of the purchaser.
The licences will cover specialist shops that sell items such as hunting knives and machetes but will not apply to stores selling ordinary domestic knives.
Licensing boards will also have the power to set extra conditions to reflect local circumstances.
Councils will start receiving applications by 1 September, with a 1 December deadline, justice secretary Kenny MacAskill announced yesterday.
The system dates back to legislation launched by Labour in the last Scottish Parliament but not enacted until 2007, and a consultation exercise was then held. That exercise resulted in some requirements – such as CCTV cameras outside shops selling knives – being left to councils' discretion instead of being compulsory, prompting Labour accusations that the scheme was being watered down.
Announcing the timetable, Mr MacAskill said hunting and fishing knives were dangerous weapons in the wrong hands.
"That's why we're introducing this licensing scheme to make sure those who sell these knives do so responsibly and comply fully with the law," he said.
However, he stressed that there had to be room for local flexibility.
Mr MacAskill added: "Why should a shop in a small rural village selling fishing knives, rods and bait and frequented mostly by those on their way to a nearby river, be subject to exactly the same requirements as a shop in a busy street in a large city?
"We need a common-sense approach to make sure this licensing system is as effective and simple as it can be – whilst also making sure it does its job of making sure these knives don't fall into the wrong hands.
"I'm confident that we've taken on board the comments in the consultation to make sure we've got the balance between what's needed in all cases and what is best determined at a local level."
The justice secretary has delayed the introduction of the licensing scheme after concerns were raised by local authorities that they were already struggling to cope with bringing in new alcohol regulations.
Labour's justice spokesman Richard Baker yesterday repeated calls for the SNP to bring in minimum sentences for knife crimes. "The licensing scheme should have been introduced by this year, not next year, and Mr MacAskill's dithering tells us everything we need to know about this soft-touch justice minister," he said.
The licensing scheme has been opposed by retail organisation fearful of the impact on hardware stores.
Fiona Moriarty, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: "We were originally concerned about the definition of non-domestic knives but we now know the regulations won't apply to the vast majority of items sold by mainstream retailers.
"But there are other retailers where items are being sold for one purpose – to maim, harm or injure."
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