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
6. Granting the Certificate

6. Granting the Certificate

If the Chief Constable is satisfied that the statutory tests set out in the previous Chapters are met, he or she will grant an Air Weapon Certificate (AWC), under section 5 of the 2015 Act.

What the certificate covers

Unlike firearms licensing, an AWC authorises the person to use, possess, purchase and acquire any number of air weapons. Applicants are not required to list the air weapons they possess or intend to possess, and air weapons are not itemised on the certificate. Once issued with a certificate, the holder can possess as many air weapons as they can safely and securely store.

Duration of certificates

As with firearm and shotgun certificates issued under the 1968 Act, an air weapon certificate will normally be valid for a period of 5 years beginning with the date on which the certificate is granted or renewed.

A certificate granted to an individual under the age of 18 will expire when that person attains the age of 18. This is because there are specific conditions and restrictions which apply to certificate holders between the ages of 14 and 17. These are set out at section 7 of the 2015 Act. Most significantly, a young person may not purchase, hire, accept a gift of or own an air weapon. These specific restrictions no longer apply once the person reaches 18 years of age. Their certificate will be timed to expire on their 18th birthday, at which point they are free to apply for and obtain a full AWC.

The application fee for a certificate for a young person is reduced to reflect the shorter duration of the certificate.


The onus for applying to renew an air weapon certificate rests with the holder, although Police Scotland will issue reminders to certificate holders 16 weeks prior to the expiry of the current certificate to facilitate early renewal applications. In any event, applications should ideally be made no less than eight weeks before the date of expiry.

Under section 8(2) of the 2015 Act, where an individual has applied for the renewal of an air weapon certificate before its expiry but the chief constable has not, as at the date of its expiry, determined whether or not to grant the renewal, the certificate is to continue to have effect until the application is determined.

The test for renewal of an air weapons certificate is the same as the test for the initial grant.

Alignment of certificates

Under section 9 of the 2015 Act a holder of a firearm and/or shotgun certificate may seek to align an AWC with their existing certificates. The person should, at the time of application, request that the AWC should be timed for renewal with the other certificates. The AWC should, if granted or renewed, be issued for a period less than 5 years to enable it to expire on the same date as one or both of the firearm or shotgun certificates determined by the applicant.

Similarly, if an individual already holds an Air Weapons Certificate and thereafter applies for the grant or renewal of a firearm or shotgun certificate they may make an application for the air weapon certificate to be renewed as from the same day as that on which the firearm or shotgun certificate is granted or renewed.

A reduced air weapon application fee of £5.00 is charged in cases where the applicant seeks to align certificates in this way.

Transitional arrangements – "Smoothing"

Part 4 of and schedule 4 of the Air Weapons Licensing (Scotland) Regulations 2016 set out transitional arrangements to accommodate the significant number of applications generated by the new licensing regime and to help "smooth" the peaks and troughs in the firearms licensing cycle generally.

Under these arrangements, the duration of any certificate granted on an application made before 31 December 2016 could last for a period of between 12 and 33 months. Thereafter the certificate will expire and the holder may apply for a renewal under the standard 5 year duration.

The application fee payable in these circumstances was reduced pro rata to the duration of the certificate, as set out in the 2016 Regulations.

Link - Air Weapons Licensing (Scotland) Regulations 2016

These "smoothing" provisions did not apply to applications made by existing firearm or shotgun certificate holders who sought to align their certificates in accordance with section 9 of the 2015 Act, or to applications by young people. Their application and any certificate granted followed the specific arrangements set out for them above.

The statutory smoothing provisions do not apply to any application made on or after 31 December 2016.


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