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I am supportive of the firearms restrictions that exist in this country. The cabinet secretary will be aware of the exceptional circumstances around veterinary surgeons, which the law recognises. Does he believe that the current restriction on the hand guns that are used by vets to euthanise large and often aggressive animals to a capacity of two shots is sufficient to guarantee the safety of vets, who are often asked to carry out that task in remote areas in which there are limited facilities for animal restraint?
I am aware of the unique characteristics of islands, which I understand from a previous role, and which I often see when I travel to our island communities. I acknowledge the unique circumstances that a veterinary surgeon in an island community might face. Those difficult factors need to be balanced. We must have at the forefront of our mind the need to protect public safety, but we must also acknowledge the importance of ensuring that, if an animal needs to be euthanised, that is done humanely. The principle is that humane-dispatch handguns should be able to fire only one or two shots before needing to be reloaded. That is well established in reserved legislation and guidance, and it is also widely supported by the police and by shooting organisations.
The website of the Humane Slaughter Association has useful guidance on emergency killing of animals, including agitated animals, using firearms. That guidance is recommended by the Scottish Government’s senior veterinary advisers. The Humane Slaughter Association advises that handguns should be used only if a kill can be achieved with a single clean shot. If it is not possible to approach an animal safely, another weapon, such as a rifle or shotgun, might be appropriate.
I recognise what Alasdair Allan said about the potential lack of restraint equipment on an island. I advise him that his constituents can consult the guidance that I mentioned and, if required, they can consult the HSA for further advice, alongside on-going liaison with Police Scotland regarding use of firearms. It might be the case that a different firearm would be required for Mr Allan’s constituents’ unique circumstances.