Written evidence submitted by Robert David Ware (FLR0022)
As a private citizen resident in the Sleat peninsula of Skye who has submitted written evidence to the Inquiry, if I may, I would like to add a few comments having comprehensively viewed the evidence of the four attendees on Monday. I commend the Committee, its members, Ian Blackford MP and supporting staff for initiating this short inquiry following the tragic events that occurred in my community on 10th August.
It was clearly evident from viewing the comments from the four attendees that a significant divide is present with a lobby calling for tighter licensing control on one hand in the community and the representatives of two national membership organisations whose arguments seem to suggest that the licensing system is sufficient and that the status quo should remain. The evidence presented suggested that the commercial standing of the two membership organisations was more important than the real concerns of the perceived excessive number of firearms held in rural Scotland.
If I may I will repeat below a quote that was included in my own submission that was from an article published in August of this year and quotes former Police Scotland licensing officer Fraser Lamb, a member of the management team at the Scottish Association for Country Sports which stated.
'Fraser says he is in a fortunate position to help people understand as, between 2013 and 2017, he was head of Firearms Licensing at Police Scotland. He says: “It was the largest licensing authority in the UK. I saw it from the other side. I saw that people took their own lives and it was very often the case that the last person to know was the police or the doctor.”
Fraser says everyone has stresses and strains, and shooters are just the same as the rest of the population. He says although some people may need their guns for their occupation, for example gamekeepers or deer stalkers, there are many who use them for a hobby such as hunting. He believes that they should give up their guns.'
Unless I missed something I found no suggestion from Mr Lamb during his evidence session that he referred at all to his earlier statement that many use firearms for hobbies such as hunting and believed that 'they should give up their guns'.
This brings me to the point of the two membership organisations represented at Monday's session BACS and SACS although I believe that there are probably many more local and national organisations across the UK.
Let me refer to BACS first in respect of membership. From their own website the Association declares there is a membership base of c 150,000 and employs almost 150 people. The membership rates are shown here which shows ordinary membership of £85 PA and as Dr Shedden stated there are reductions for members who are in full time sector employment such as gamekeepers.
It is evident that such an Association receives significant annual income from membership fees.
This is demonstrated in the financial papers at this link https://t.co/NynWPYCrat
An annual turnover for year-ended Dec 2021 of over £12m and assets of £10m
The SACS appears to be a much smaller organisation and on their website shows these lines.
This organisation's general membership fee is £52 PA and as with BACS there are reductions for professionals such as gamekeepers.
I recall Mr Lamb saying there are about 10,000 members in SACS. Their annual accounts for y/e 31/12/2021 are shown here.
This is a less modest membership organisation financially and is deemed to be a not-for-profit entity.
In conclusion it is my view that encouraging membership is financially advantageous to all such organisations, but, for example if Mr Lamb is saying, guns should be removed from owners who are only using them for pleasure and not work it is not evident in their membership drives.
I hope this will be of use and I would echo Mr Matheson's generous and heartfelt words when he paid tribute to all of those involved on the day of tragic events of 10th August especially the unarmed officers who eventually arrested the assailant. They are a credit to Police Scotland and I too would like them to be recognised for their heroic actions in possibly preventing a further tragedy.
Thank you for allowing me to add some further observations, I look forward to hearing further of the Committee's Inquiry.