The Scottish Government's proposed air weapons licensing scheme is impractical and will not achieve the desired effect of reducing air weapon crime, the Law Society of Scotland claimed today.

In its submissions to the Scottish Parliament on the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill, the Society highlights a number of practical issues relating to the scheme put forward.

In essence, its Licensing Law Subcommittee points out, the scheme as set out in part 1 of the bill licenses the applicant without any attempt to correlate this to the weapon. However, air weapons, unlike shotguns, do not have a serial number and are therefore untraceable, and if a single air weapon certificate is to cover all weapons held by an individual, there should be a narration of the number and type of weapons held, otherwise the police will not know how many air weapons are in fact in circulation or whether weapons have been disposed of to a third party by a certificate holder. 

The subcommittee also notes that the certificate will not require to be presented in order to purchase ammunition. This, it argues, should be reconsidered, as air weapons in circulation which rremain unlicensed should eventually run out of ammunition.

Convener Archie Maciver commented: “Under the proposals, the air weapon certificate will apply to the person, not the weapon. In practical terms, without a narration or description of each individual weapon the police will have no way of knowing how many air weapons are in circulation, and in the absence of serial numbers, as with shotguns, these weapons will remain untraceable.”

Alcohol concerns

The subcommittee also criticises the bill in relation to alcohol licensing, for failing to address a number of practical difficulties encountered by licensing boards and the licensed trade arising from the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005, such as whether a premises licence can be transferred when the business previously carried on has already closed.

The current lack of certainty with regard to transfer causes significant problems in commercial property transactions, especially in transactions which may involve a number of licensed premises in different Licensing Board or licensing division areas", the submission states, before proposing a number of amendments that would improve the position.

However the lawyers welcome the introduction of a time limit for alcohol licence applications, while suggesting that nine months is too long a time period.

No concluded view is expressed on the proposed new "fit and proper" test for licence holders, though the subcommittee warns that it "may result in objections being made either without evidence or upon facts which are not connected to the running of the premises, and also based on allegations as opposed to relevant matters which have either been admitted or proved".

“It is our view that in terms of alcohol licensing this bill does not go far enough and that it is a missed opportunity to correct some serious issues”, Mr Maciver said.

For sexual entertainment venues, the subcommittee argues that the proposed new standalone licence should be for the licensing board to issue rather than the local authority, so that the same body is responsible for issuing alcohol licences and the proposed new licence.

Click here to view the full submission.