A COMMITMENT to licensing air guns has been underlined by the Justice Secretary on a visit to an animal care centre.

Kenny MacAskill met pet owners and staff who have seen animals seriously injured and killed in air weapon attacks.

There is currently no requirement to have any form of licence for an air gun but new laws are being passed through parliament to create a "robust" licensing scheme, similar to existing firearms legislation.

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The scheme would not ban air guns but "ensure they are used for legitimate reasons by responsible people".

During a tour of the Scottish SPCA's centre in Edinburgh, Mr MacAskill met Sarah Nisbett and her cat Teenie, who had his leg amputated after being shot three times with an air gun in March.

Another cat cared for at the centre is Blackie, who narrowly escaped death after being shot in the head in an air gun attack in Fife.

Mr MacAskill said: "Today I have seen the suffering and distress misuse of these guns can cause to animals and the owners who care for them.

"This underlines the simple truth that far from being harmless toys, these are potentially lethal weapons with the capacity to maim and kill.

"We remain absolutely committed to a licensing scheme which is practical and sensible and will ensure that those who wish to use air guns responsibly for sports, target shooting and pest control can continue to do so.

"At the same time it will go a long way towards protecting the public, pets and wildlife."