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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-03850: John Finnie (Highlands and Islands)

Scottish Green Party

Date lodged: 18 October 2016

To ask the Scottish Government whether it considers that health authorities have adequate input to the suitability of individuals to be firearms certificate holders.

Answered by: Michael Matheson 10 November 2016

Decisions about the suitability of an individual to hold a firearm certificate rest with the Chief Constable. The police will enquire of as many people or organisations as necessary to ensure the safety of the public prior to issuing a certificate.

New arrangements for the sharing of information between the police and General Practitioners (GPs) for the purposes of firearms licensing were introduced in April 2016. This followed lengthy discussions between the Home Office, British Medical Association (BMA) UK, Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) UK, shooting organisations, the police, Information Commissioner’s Office, and others. The sharing of appropriate clinical information helps the police to determine whether an individual should be granted a firearms certificate and thereby helps to ensure the safety of the public and the applicant.

The majority of GPs in Scotland are engaging with the licensing process. A small number have decided not to do so following revised guidance issued to members by BMA (UK) in July. BMA (Scotland) have recently reminded the 14 Local Medical Committees in the Health Boards in Scotland, who offer professional advice to those GPs who pay a levy to them, NHS bodies and Health Boards, that the guidance from the BMA UK does not prohibit GPs from taking part in the firearms licensing process if they wish to do so. GPs also have a professional duty to protect the public and individuals from harm and where there is a reasonable belief that an individual, either applying for a firearms certificate or already holding one, may represent a danger to themselves or others, the doctors should inform the police as soon as possible.

Firearms legislation is largely reserved. We are liaising with the Home Office about a longer term solution to improve GP involvement in the licensing process.