JUST days after the Scottish Police Federation announced the results of a survey showing that 64 per cent of its members want access to a handgun, it has emerged that hundreds of police officers in Scotland already privately own firearms and shotguns.

Some 327 officers have more than 1000 weapons between them, and 216 have certificates for “sound moderators”, also known as silencers.

Some of the licensed firearms are believed to be high-calibre hunting rifles, either for target shooting or culling deer populations.

Police Scotland say the 327 officers have their licences and own their weapons entirely as private individuals and are treated no differently from any other citizen in licensing terms. They also say that the “sound moderators” are used in the killing of vermin.

Freedom of Information (FoI) campaigner and legal affairs journalist Peter Cherbi spoke out after the Scottish Police Federation’s announcement, fearing a growing gun culture in the national force.

Under FoI rules he obtained details of the police officers holding private licences, which are nothing to do with their role in Police Scotland – officers using firearms in the course of their work come under a different licensing regime.

Police Scotland told him that of the 327 officers holding certificates in total, 161 officers currently hold firearms certificates, with 285 holding shotgun certificates, which means that dozens of officers have both.

In the FoI disclosure Police Scotland wrote: “The number of firearms held under a firearm certificate is 392, with a further 216 sound moderators. Further breakdown of weapon types is unavailable.?The number of shotguns held is 651.”

Cherbi pointed to the Scottish Police Federation’s (SPF) survey which stated that the “most notable result” was the number of officers who wanted to have access to a handgun – 64 per cent overall, rising to 73 per cent in the 25-34 age group.

When asked whether they would be prepared to be trained in the use of a handgun in case it were needed, 77 per cent were in favour.

Cherbi told The National: “The gun culture the SPF survey wishes to promote already seems to be ingrained in private gun ownership by police officers who hold over 1000 firearms and shotguns, and unbelievably 216 silencers

“I really can’t see Police Scotland trying to justify their own officers’ ownership of silencers for hunting, shooting and stuffing animal heads on the walls as trophies, as this is very much opposed by the vast majority of a non-gun owning population.

“We have Police Scotland regularly talking about wildlife crime – including big estates shooting and poisoning raptors – but it turns out their own officers, some of senior rank, are guests on the same shooting estates, happily blasting away at Bambi, Thumper and anything else that moves. A bit of a contradiction, surely.”

Police Scotland told The National: “Police officers with personal section 1 firearm certificates may hold sound moderators, which are subject to certification, and are items designed to reduce the noise or flash of a firearm.

“Sound moderators are often used for shooting game, deer, or vermin and, in the case of the latter, they might facilitate more effective pest control.

“They are appropriate for reducing hearing damage to the shooter or to reduce noise nuisance, for example, for deer control in urban parks, close to residential properties or to reduce recoil of the rifle.

“Firearms are certificated for multiple purposes, including big game shooting, should an applicant demonstrate good reason to possess a large calibre firearm.

“Rifles for this purpose may include bolt-action or double-barrelled rifles of various calibres and, in this country, are used in the main for target shooting and shooting large quarry such as deer or boar.”