The new Air Weapons Licensing law in Scotland

About the legislation

Part 1 of the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 sets out a licensing regime for low-powered air weapons that will help us to protect Scottish communities.  

You can find the legislation at  the following link:

The 2015 Act


In summary, the legislation:

  • Sets out the air weapons which need to be licensed
  • Broadly follows the principles and practices of existing firearms legislation
  • Allows a fit person to obtain a licence to own, possess and shoot an air weapon in a regulated way, without compromising public safety
  • Sets out appropriate enforcement and penalties to deal with any person who contravenes the new regime


The Scottish Government has prepared detailed guidance to the Police Service of Scotland on air weapons licensing. 


Applicants may also wish to refer to this guidance.  You can download the document at the link below:


Download Guidance

Why was the new law introduced?

Air weapons account for around half of all offences involving a firearm in Scotland. While the number of offences is well down on ten years ago, air weapon misuse is particularly associated with antisocial behaviour, including assaults and vandalism. There are regular reports of domestic animals and wildlife being targeted, as well as less frequent injuries involving people. Thankfully fatalities are rare, but they can and do occur.

The Scottish Government introduced the licensing regime to help reduce air weapons misuse in Scotland by ensuring that only legitimate shooters have access to airguns.

Air weapons are not banned in Scotland, but licensing provides a means of ensuring that people can use air weapons in a regulated way without compromising public safety. 

What does this mean for air weapon owners and users?

From 31 December 2016 it is an offence to use, possess, purchase or acquire an air weapon in Scotland without holding a valid Air Weapon Certificate. After that date, air weapon users caught without a certificate or permit could face a fine or imprisonment of up to two years.


However, there are a number of exemptions: for example, if you only borrow air weapons at an approved club of which you are a member, you will not need an individual certificate.  Visitors to Scotland who wish to use air weapons, or bring their own to shoot, can apply for a Visitor Permit, and some people may be exempt because of their job. Details of all the exemptions are set out in the legislation and in the guidance which you will find linked on this website.

What if I don't get a certificate?

From 31 December 2016 it is an offence to own or use an air weapon in Scotland without the proper certificate or permit, unless you are exempt under the legislation. This includes buying an air weapon, someone giving one to you, or simply having an air weapon in your possession.

Anyone convicted of such an offence may be subject to a fine or, in some cases, imprisonment of up to two years.

I have an air weapon I no longer want

If you have an air weapon you no longer want you have various options open to you. You can

  • sell it or give it away to another air weapon user (who must have the appropriate certificate if they are in Scotland)
  • sell it to a Registered Firearms Dealer
  • contact Police Scotland to arrange to hand the weapon in for secure destruction.