AN inquiry opened in the wake of a tragic shooting on the Isle of Skye has ­concluded some ­improvements should be made to UK firearms licensing rules.

The Scottish Affairs Committee launched the short inquiry after dad-of-six John MacKinnon was killed in a violent attack in August.

The committee heard firearms laws in the UK are among the strictest in the world and offences are ­extremely rare, while Scotland’s system for ­processing firearms licence applications is “among the best in the UK”, with fewer delays due to its automated renewal system.

But members have ­concluded there are ways to save costs, ­streamline rules and mitigate mental health concerns.

The committee was concerned after hearing the cost of an individual firearms application can cost police forces more than £500 and recommended a two-tier system should be introduced by the UK Government.

Members said individuals who use firearms for leisure should pay the full cost of their applications while others who use firearms for work ­purposes could continue to have theirs partly funded.

The UK Government has also been urged to review the way in which applicants can obtain character references, with evidence suggesting applications can canvass for referees and there is often no consultation with people closest to the applicant.

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And members recommended the UK and Scottish governments work together to examine whether the system of medical practitioners assessing an individual’s mental health can be strengthened and whether it is appropriate for medical practitioners and police to conduct interim checks on firearms licence holders.

Pete Wishart, Scottish Affairs Committee chair, said: “While communities across Scotland – and indeed the UK – are reeling from the recent tragedy on the Isle of Skye, it is imperative to consider whether firearms licensing rules are fit for purpose.

“Our committee found that ­overwhelmingly, it works well which explains the very rare instances of offences involving a firearm.

“But improvements to the system can be made. The recommendations we are making to the UK Government are practical steps that can ­protect public finances, streamline complicated legislation and put a much greater emphasis on mental health support for licence holders.”

The committee heard legislation governing the licensing of firearms is outdated and complicated after years of “added on” laws, while it is also inconsistent with shotgun licences.

Members said legislation related to shotgun licences should be made consistent with firearms and air weapon licences, with shotgun applicants needing to demonstrate that they are ‘fit to be entrusted’ and to provide character references from two individuals.

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It was suggested mental health services should also have improved advertising and a “buddy system” should be rolled out to enable individuals to recognise and raise concerns about their “buddy’s” mental health.

The former SNP Westminster ­leader Ian Blackford MP welcomed the recommendation, saying: “Simply put, the current requirement of the applicant self-selecting two referees is not fit for purpose.

“An urgent review is needed where – amongst other considerations – the views of existing and former conjugal partners must be taken into account. The public must also be reassured over reporting concerns to the police and I welcome the focus on this in the report.

“The system of GP flagging and the provision of mental health support also needs urgent review.”

“I am sure the public will also be concerned that the cost of processing firearms licenses is considerably in excess of the cost of the license. An initial application costs £88, with the fee for a renewal being £62. This comes nowhere near the cost of processing which can be over £500.

“In essence, the police budget and ultimately the cost borne by tax payers is subsidising gun owners. This cannot be right. I welcome the recommendation of a two tier system where those obtaining a licence for leisure purposes pay full fees whilst those that have a working requirement for a licence face lower costs.

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“We must also re-visit the loophole that means that shotgun license holders do not have to demonstrate that they are ‘fit to be entrusted’ as is the case for firearms.

“I am grateful that the Scottish Affairs select committee responded to my request in agreeing to launch an enquiry. Members have worked at pace and collegiately in publishing today’s report and I agree wholeheartedly with all of the recommendations the committee have made to the UK Government.

“When Parliament returns from the Christmas Recess I look forward to engaging in debate with the UK Government to ensure that all appropriate legislative changes are made to the licensing regime with the intention of enhancing public safety and security. We collectively owe it to the public in Skye and elsewhere to reflect on gun licensing and put into effect appropriate enhancements to the licensing regime.”