Scottish rural businesses selling hunting and fishing knives have suffered as a consequence of a discredited licensing scheme for knife sales introduced in Scotland in 2010.  The independent watchdog, the Regulatory Review Group, has strongly criticised the legislation which it said lacks clarity and consistency, has not demonstrably improved public safety and has had a disproportionate impact on rural business.

Gun and fishing tackle shops have had to meet strict criteria and apply for a licence to sell knives in rural areas where crime is low. Sales of domestic and kitchen knives, most commonly used in crime, have remained unregulated.

Dr. Colin Shedden, director of BASC Scotland, said: “The licensing scheme fails to meet the principles of good regulation on all counts. Feedback from BASC’s trade members in Scotland helped to show the impact of the legislation.  It has hit legitimate businesses in areas where knife crime is not a problem while doing nothing to reduce the sale of knives most commonly used in crime in towns and cities. Glasgow city council issued just two licences. In the Highlands, where knife crime is almost unheard of, 22 licences were issued to gun and fishing equipment shops.

“As the Scottish Government contemplates another costly compulsory licensing scheme for airguns, we hope it will learn from the mistakes of the knife dealers’ licence. Airgun crime has fallen significantly and consistently. There has been a 71% decrease in airgun crime in the last five years. Licensing airguns will be a huge drain on police time and resources. The example of the knife licensing scheme should be a warning of the dangers of over-regulation and using a blunt tool to address complex areas.” 

“There are no valid statistics that indicate the proportion of knife crime carried out with “hunting knives” and all BASC trade members felt that the licensing scheme had made no contribution to public safety and should be scrapped.  Making the licence discretionary, as recommended by the review group, goes some way towards this.”     

The full report can be seen here:


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