Publication - Advice and guidance

Air weapon licensing in Scotland: guide

Published: 22 Feb 2019

Guidance published by Scottish Ministers on the practical application of the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015.

Air weapon licensing in Scotland: guide
3. Requirement for an Air Weapon Certificate

3. Requirement for an Air Weapon Certificate

Section 2 of the 2015 Act sets out the basic requirement to have an air weapon certificate (AWC), subject to a number of exemptions. From 31 December 2016 anybody aged 14 or above, who wishes to use, possess, purchase or acquire an air weapon will require an air weapon certificate (although see the exemptions in Appendix 3).

Section 2 also specifies that failure to comply with this requirement is a criminal offence and any person convicted could be fined and/or imprisoned for up to two years.

Young people – aged 14 to 17 years

Persons aged 14 and over but under 18 years of age cannot purchase, hire, accept as a gift or own an air weapon in their own right. This will be specified as a condition on any air weapon certificate issued to them (see Chapter 8).

People who already hold a firearm or shotgun certificate

Under section 38 of the 2015 Act transitional arrangements are in place for individuals who held a current firearm and/or shotgun certificate, issued under the 1968 Act, on 31 December 2016. These certificate holders can continue to use and possess their air weapons without holding an air weapon certificate until their 1968 Act certificates expire. At that point, section 9 of the 2015 Act allows an individual to align their various certificates so that all relevant firearm, shotgun and air weapon licences and certificates expire at the same time - generally after 5 years.

Should an existing certificate holder surrender their certificate(s), or if they are cancelled or revoked, the person would have to apply for an air weapon certificate if they wish to continue to use or possess air weapons.

Similarly, if an existing firearm or shotgun certificate holder decides to purchase or otherwise acquire a new or different air weapon, before their certificate is renewed, they will need to obtain an AWC under the 2015 Act. This is because they will be required to show that certificate to the dealer at the point of sale or transfer.


There are a number of exemptions to the requirement to hold an air weapons certificate. These are listed in schedule 1 to the 2015 Act.

Link - Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 - schedule 1

A summary of the exemptions can also be found at Appendix 3.


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