MacAskill ‘ignored’ public opinion on gun licences

Airgun owners will need a licence in Scotland in future. Picture: PA
Airgun owners will need a licence in Scotland in future. Picture: PA
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AN INFLUENTIAL shooting organisation has accused the Scottish Government of hypocrisy over its determination to push through airgun licensing despite public opposition.

A consultation revealed 87 per cent of respondents were opposed to licensing.

The British Association of Shooting and Conservation (Basc) has also highlighted figures showing crimes involving airguns have fallen 71 per cent in the past five years.

However, justice secretary Kenny MacAskill has stressed airgun licensing “will happen”.

In a letter to Mr MacAskill, also sent to The Scotsman, Basc accuses him of double standards by talking up consultation responses which support government policy, while talking down those which do not.

“Firstly, we are extremely disappointed that the members of the Firearms Consultative Panel did not get first sight of this paper or even notification of when it was going to be published,” the letter says.

“Our organisations are listed on the consultation document and we have gone to great lengths to work with the government on this issue.

“Secondly, we are very frustrated that you do not appear to be taking on board the views that were gathered.

“This phrase is repeated in many of the media reports. The analysis states, ‘Views gathered through an open consultation exercise cannot be regarded as representative of the views of the population as a whole.’

“This doesn’t appear to be the case when a consultation analysis swings in favour of government proposals.

“In your press statement regarding reducing the drink-driving limit in Scotland you stated, ‘Lowering the drink drive limit will help make Scotland’s roads safer and save lives. The evidence is clear and the vast majority of those who responded to our consultation support the Scottish Government’s plans for change.’”

It adds: “There is no public support for the licensing proposals and no evidence to support their introduction.”

Under the Scottish Government’s plans, thousands of airgun owners will be forced to apply for licences.

Critics have called the government’s plans “misconceived”, “disproportionate”, “draconian” and “heavy-handed” in the consultation.

They argued shooting is a sport which “is ideal for families, women, the elderly and the disabled”, and the “politically motivated” proposals would impact on tourism, deter newcomers from taking up the sport and impinge on personal freedoms.

However, the Scottish Government claimed the responses were not representative of the wider population, with almost three-fifths coming from England, and around a fifth from cut-out coupons in shooting magazines.

Mr MacAskill insists it is “simply not right” for airguns to be held without licence.