BASC Scotland is liaising with the government and police to resolve a ban by German airline Lufthansa on passengers travelling into Scottish airports with firearms.
Dr Colin Shedden, BASC Scotland director, said the ban was affecting people travelling to Scotland for deer stalking while in possession of valid visitor permits and that he was puzzled by the approach when there was “no legal basis for it”.
“We have been aware of the situation for the past couple of weeks and have been working both with Police Scotland and the Scottish Government to resolve the issue,” he said.
“There should be no embargo on visitors coming to Scotland with firearms as long as they have a valid visitor permit. This seems to be an issue for Lufthansa and German airports to address.”
Lufthansa also banned travel with firearms last year but was this was reversed after complaints to the Scottish Government from shooting organisations and groups with an interest in promoting fieldsports tourism in Scotland.
“A small number of passengers flying to Scotland from Germany were prevented from travelling with firearms last autumn despite having appropriate visitor permits issued by Police Scotland,” Dr Shedden added.
“Intervention by Scottish Government officials appeared to nip this in the bud. However, the problem has arisen again this autumn.
“This is despite Lufthansa and other airlines being informed by Scottish Government that there are no restrictions in place for those travelling with valid visitor permits. It appears that some travellers with firearms are still being refused.
“We are aware that the Scottish Government is in discussion with Lufthansa and have been told by the Scottish Government that the issue has nothing to do with UK gun laws or indeed communications from Scottish Government. The issue is with the airline.”
BASC has contacted Lufthansa to seek a resolution but the airline continues to blame authorities in Scotland.
Their statement said: “In the past, due to the well-known strict firearm laws and import regulations in the United Kingdom, there have been repeated problems for Lufthansa’s passengers and staff, in regards to the import of hunting weapons via our commercial flights.
“In order to avoid these difficulties with the authorities, Lufthansa has imposed a weapon embargo for its passengers on flights to the United Kingdom.”
BASC council member Cara Richardson, a sporting agent in Scotland, said: “Rural businesses and communities rely on the estimated £155 million injected each year into Scotland’s economy by country sports tourism.
“Introducing unnecessary barriers to travel is a serious detriment to Scotland’s iconic status as a fieldsports destination of choice for many people around the world.”
In the global shooting, hunting and fishing circuit, there’s a certain kudos attached to the fieldsports opportunities in Scotland
Be it our unique driven and walked-up grouse shooting, traditional open hill red stag stalk with pony retrieve or winkling a fresh run salmon from a Highland river; each year, foreign visitors arrive in their thousands.
These visitors come by various means; the Channel Tunnel, ferry into Hull or Newcastle or by aeroplane from all continents of the globe.
As with any pastime, an amount of kit is required. Some travellers choose to bring their own firearms and have, generally, done so unhampered for a very long time. This appears to no longer be the case.
To bring a firearm into the UK, a foreign visitor must acquire a UK Visitor’s Permit. This is applied for on their behalf by a sponsor who resides within the UK. Depending on their country of residence, the visitor must supply copies of supporting documents; a European Firearms Pass or similar. A declaration about their criminal record must be made on the application form and if the UK police are happy, the visitor is granted a permit.
I have processed hundreds of these in my time as a sporting agent. The permit is primarily for the use of UK Border Force personnel who check the firearm’s details on the paper with the serial numbers on the shotgun, rifle or sound moderator. The traveller’s passport will also be cross-referenced. Simple, one would think.
But a year ago, I had a client group of three chaps travelling from Germany to Aberdeen by plane with Lufthansa. They had the necessary paperwork and had checked in their luggage and three shotguns in metal travel cases. They had no cartridges.
While in the departure lounge, they were called forward over the public address system and told that they could not travel due to an ‘embargo’ in Scotland on the import of firearms. This occurred on a Sunday and these guys lived three hours drive from the German airport. They had to retreat home to secure their shotguns then travel back on the Monday. They missed their first day of sport.
I researched what they had been told and was assured by Border Force Scotland that there was no such embargo in place. Police Scotland would not be issuing UK Visitor Permits if there was! The ‘embargo’ was a line taken by Lufthansa because they no longer wish to carry firearms.
Repeats of this tale and similar have occurred on a number of occasions in the last few weeks as the sporting seasons in Scotland have come into full swing. I understand that Swiss Air, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, are also banning the transportation of firearms and travellers from Spain have faced similar restrictions.
Needless to say, any extension of such bans would have a catastrophic effect on fieldsports tourism industry in Scotland and the wider UK.
I have had contact from a German journalist who is working on this story at the other end which may serve to apply some pressure. BASC is also challenging Lufthansa and making sure they are aware of all the facts. For the sake of Scotland’s status as an iconic fieldsports destination, we hope common sense will prevail.
Lufthansa photo by Nick Herasimenka