The Scottish Countryside Alliance (SCA) welcomes the report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) as they assess the efficiency and effectiveness of the way in which Police Scotland delivers its statutory role as the licensing authority in Scotland for firearms, shotguns and air weapons.

Since the establishment of Police Scotland in 2013, efforts have been made to deliver an increasingly consistent and effective firearms licensing service across Scotland. Significant progress has been made, including the rollout of a national firearms licensing IT system and a national firearms licensing training course. However, issues highlighted within the report suggest that improvements are required if the service is to both protect and promote public safety and deliver an appropriate service to those applying for and renewing licences to hold firearms, shotguns and air weapons.

As a result, of their findings HMIC make twenty four (24) recommendations which primarily relate to Police Scotland’s national approach to firearms licensing. The full report can be read here.

Jamie Stewart, Director of the Scottish Countryside Alliance, said: “We thank those who took the time to respond to the online questionnaire and gave their opinion based on their personal experiences of the current licencing process and to the firearms enquiry officers within Police Scotland who also made significant contributions.

“Undoubtedly the impact from the introduction of the unwarranted air weapons licensing system and the debacle over GP medical reports and associated fees has impacted on the service. While we absolutely agree the focus should be public safety, there is also plenty of room for Police Scotland to improve on operational practices and customer service. Encouragingly, the limited data that is available indicates the firearms licensing service is improving and operating efficiently with 98.7% of certificates currently being renewed prior to expiry.”

Regarding the proposal to use social media background checks to determine an applicant’s suitability to hold a licence, Jamie Stewart said: “The use of social media may be another tool in the tool box in determining the suitability of some applicants, but it must be used carefully. If Police Scotland are to consider this route further proper guidance will be needed to ensure that such measures are both legal, and proportionate.”