38. Firearms licensing is a service provided by the police and comes at a cost in terms of processing the application itself, carrying out background checks and home visits, issuing certificates, monitoring existing certificate holders and prosecuting those who contravene the law.
39. As such, it is right that the process for obtaining a certificate should incur a fee. Under the current firearms regime, fees are generally only charged on issue of a firearms or shotgun certificate following a successful application. The Government believes, however, that it is more appropriate to charge applicants regardless of the outcome of their application. This better reflects the costs of providing the service overall and is in line with comparable processes such as applying for an MoT certificate. It is anticipated that the majority of applications would be successful provided the applicant could satisfy the need to exhibit a legitimate need for the weapon in future, and other checks.
40. At this stage we do not believe that it is appropriate or necessary to discuss the exact levels of fee which might be charged when the new regime is in place: that would be a matter for further detailed discussion and consultation. There are, however, certain principles and drivers which might be highlighted now.
41. At one end of the scale Ministers are keen to ensure that, in principle, the costs of providing such a service should be met by those using it, rather than from the general public purse. This is an issue which has been the subject of wider debate and the Association of Chief Police Officers in England and Wales, supported by the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland and Scottish Ministers, have been pressing the Home Office to raise the existing firearms fee tariff. That table of fees has not changed since 2000.
42. Against this, members of the Scottish Firearms Consultative Panel have argued that it would be inappropriate to introduce fees at full cost recovery levels as this would mean air weapons applications costing considerably more than licences for firearms or shotguns. Members have argued that this would be disproportionate and unfair in terms of the relative lethality of the different weapon types.
43. Panel members have also pointed out that many of the air weapons sold in Scotland cost less than £100 at point of sale. Should the application fee be set too high, this too would be seen as disproportionate, having a detrimental impact on the retail industry and potentially leading to a situation where owners chose not to comply with the licensing regime.
44. The Scottish Government has listened to these concerns and agrees that there is a need to set a scale of fees which aims to balance these various pressures. Fees should be high enough to make a realistic contribution to processing costs, and to properly reflect the responsibility that comes with gun ownership, whilst acknowledging the value of weapons owned and the need to ensure as many air weapons as possible are captured by the new regime.
Question 9: Do you agree that a fee should be charged for each air weapon application, whether successful or not?
Question 10: Do you have a view on an appropriate fee to be charged for new or renewed applications?