German airline Lufthansa has banned deer stalkers from flying to Scotland with their rifles after the airline received a warning for mishandling firearms at UK airports.

The decision sends the message to Europe that “Scotland is closed for business”, according to shooting enthusiasts, who estimate stalking boosts the economy by almost £70m a year.

The Scottish arm of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) insisted there is “no legal basis” for preventing people travelling with rifles if they have a valid visitor permit.

The statutory open season for deer stalking begins today and runs until February 15 next year.

To bring a firearm into Scotland, a foreign visitor must acquire a UK Visitor’s Permit. This is applied for on their behalf by a sponsor who lives in the UK.

Depending on their country of residence, the visitor must supply copies of supporting documents, such as a European Firearms Pass.

A criminal record declaration must be made on the application form and if police are satisfied, the visitor is granted a permit.

“There should be no embargo on visitors coming to Scotland with firearms as long as they have a valid visitor permit,” said Dr Colin Shedden, BASC Scotland director. “This seems to be an issue for Lufthansa and German airports to address.”

Lufthansa has blamed “well-known strict firearm laws and import regulations in the United Kingdom” but a source on an influential Scottish Government-led Firearms Practioners’ group said it was a “commercial decision”.

A recent meeting heard from a Scottish Government civil servant who sought answers from Lufthansa and the UK Government.

A source in the meeting said: “The situation appears to be that Lufthansa have received warnings for mishandling firearms at UK airports, and have chosen not to carry firearms to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness or Heathrow airports as a result. Lufthansa have told us that information will be provided to their customers accordingly.

“This is of course a commercial decision for Lufthansa and, as stated at the meeting, does not result from Scottish Government or UK Government policy.”

Lufthansa also banned travel with firearms last year, but was this decision was reversed after complaints to the Scottish Government from shooting organisations.

Shedden said: “A small number of passengers flying to Scotland from Germany were prevented from travelling with firearms last autumn despite having appropriate visitor permits issued by Police Scotland.

“Intervention by Scottish Government officials appeared to nip this in the bud. However, the problem has arisen again this autumn.

“This is despite Lufthansa and other airlines being informed by the Scottish Government that there are no restrictions in place for those travelling with valid visitor permits. It appears that some travellers with firearms are still being refused.

“We are aware that the Scottish Government is in discussion with Lufthansa and have been told by the Scottish Government that the issue has nothing to do with UK gun laws or indeed communications from Scottish Government. The issue is with the airline.”

BASC Scotland spokesman Garry Doolan said it is “difficult to quantify” how many Germans would have travelled to Scotland this year, but he warned that the impact could be felt for years to come.

“It will get worse year on year as people think Scotland is closed for business,” he said. “Our research puts total expenditure on country sports tourism in Scotland at £155m. It is estimated that around £69m per year is spent on shooting and stalking.”

Doolan also said alternative travel options are inconvenient and time consuming.

“They will have a booking to hunt in Scotland so alternative transport arrangement could be made, including taking the ferry to Hull, for example, and driving up – but the less convenient it is, the more people are likely to look elsewhere and this will damage Scotland’s appeal,” Doolan added.

“Visitors could borrow or hire a gun in Scotland., but this is not a popular alternative and would be a deterrent to people who really want to use their own kit.

“Owning a good rifle that you have confidence in is an important factor for game shooters. In essence, it is a bit like owning a comfy pair of slippers; it just feels right.”

MEP Karl-Heinz Flozenz who runs the Europe-wide EC intergroup on hunting has written to the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority "asking for some clarity", according to Doolan.

A Lufthansa statement issued to the Herald on Sunday said: “In the past, due to the well-known strict firearm laws and import regulations in the United Kingdom, there have been repeated problems for Lufthansa’s passengers and staff, in regard to the import of hunting weapons via our commercial flights. In order to avoid these difficulties with the authorities, Lufthansa has imposed a weapon embargo for its passengers on flights to the United Kingdom.”

When the Herald on Sunday asked Lufthansa for details of warnings they had received about “mishandling firearms”, spokeswoman Neda Jaafari said: “Our policy is to not disclose any details on safety and security matters, so unfortunately I cannot provide you with any more details other than our statement.”


Sporting agent and BASC Council member Cara Richardson, who organises trips to Scotland for German deer stalkers, said the introduction of an “unnecessary barrier” by Lufthansa “is a serious detriment to Scotland’s iconic status as a field sports destination of choice for many people around the world.”

“I think this issue really must be sorted,” she told the Herald on Sunday. “To the best of my knowledge in the history of passenger aviation, there has not been an incident involving a recreational shooter and their shotgun or rifle.

“The feeling amongst my continental business associates is one of nervousness.”

Richardson said there is a “certain kudos” associated with shooting in Scotland. “Be it our unique driven and walked-up grouse shooting, traditional open hill red stag stalk with pony retrieve or winkling a fresh run salmon from a Highland river; each year, foreign visitors arrive in their thousands,” she said.

“These visitors come by various means; the Channel Tunnel, ferry into Hull or Newcastle or by aeroplane from all continents of the globe.

“As with any pastime, an amount of kit is required. Some travellers choose to bring their own firearms and have, generally, done so unhampered for a very long time. This appears to no longer be the case.”

Richardson said first became aware of the issue last year when three clients were attempting to fly from Germany to Aberdeen on a Lufthansa flight.

“They had the necessary paperwork and had checked in their luggage and three shotguns in metal travel cases, and they had no cartridges,” she explained.

“While in the departure lounge, they were called forward over the public address system and told that they could not travel due to an embargo in Scotland on the import of firearms.

“This occurred on a Sunday and these guys lived three hours’ drive from the German airport. They had to retreat home to secure their shotguns then travel back on the Monday. They missed their first day of sport.

“Repeats of this tale and similar have occurred on a number of occasions in the last few weeks as the sporting seasons in Scotland have come into full swing.”

She now fears other airlines will now follow suit, further affecting travel to Scotland by shooting enthusiasts.

She added: “Needless to say, any extension of such bans would have a catastrophic effect on field sports tourism industry in Scotland and the wider UK.

“For the sake of Scotland’s status as an iconic field sports destination, we hope common sense will prevail.”