The Practice of Martial Arts

Weapons and Scottish Law

This is NOT professional legal advice; these are the informal understandings of the senior instructors of the Academy with regards to this difficult and confusing legal area. This page should be read as guidelines, rules of thumb and good advice - under no circumstances should this be read as legal advice.

Scottish law is often very different from the laws that govern the rest of the United Kingdom. It cannot be assumed that just because an English martial arts group is able to do something with training weapons, a Scottish martial arts group will be able to do likewise.

Our understanding of Scottish law is that any object can count as an offensive weapon if it is suspected that you are carrying it for the purpose of violence, or if you are carrying it in an offensive manner. Even items as toy-like as synthetic plastic training swords or wooden wasters may count as offensive weapons; a sword does not have to be sharp or made from steel for it to count as a weapon. We believe that one should not expect police officers to take a more lenient view of synthetic swords because they are plastic and not steel; as far as we understand the law, synthetic swords can be offensive weapons just as much as steel swords.

If you are carrying a training sword to or from a training session, then it should be carried inside a closed bag (such as a guitar bag that closes with a zip) that should be worn or slung from the body in a reasonable fashion, and NOT carried in a readily accessible fashion. Carrying it in a guitar bag that has been zipped closed and slung across the back is a reasonable way of carrying a sword; carrying it in a scabbard slung from your belt at your hip, ready to draw and use, is a very unreasonable and offensive way of carrying the sword. The two golden rules here are "don't be an idiot" and "be safe".

There is some measure of protection in Scottish law to be able to carry a training sword to and from a training event. The first part of the "reasonable defence" is that you must be carrying the item in a reasonable fashion, as described in the paragraph above. The second part is that you must have a good reason for carrying the item: holding membership as part of a proper martial arts group (defined as a martial arts group with public liability insurance) and going to or from a training session is a good reason; taking a sword to show it to your friends in the pub is not a good reason. The third part is that the item must be reasonable for the activity: if you are attending a martial arts class that uses synthetic swords, then bringing a sharp steel sword is unreasonable, and therefore carrying it to and from the session is unreasonable; bringing a synthetic sword to a session where participants train with synthetic swords is quite reasonable.

The key is to be reasonable in all aspects of dealing with and transporting training weapons. If you break the law because your actions have not been reasonable then there is nothing that the Academy can do to help you.

Please note that if you decide to organise an informal training event then you still need to follow the laws and seek the necessary permissions to be allowed to use the location chosen for the activity. If you run an informal activity and run into trouble then there is very little that the Academy can do to help you. We can only confirm regular classes, sessions and events that are made known to us - if we are contacted and asked about informal training sessions of which we are not aware, then we cannot in good faith answer that we knew about it or condoned the session.

The Academy, its administrators and senior instructors will always follow the law to the best of our ability and comply with the police. We recommend that all instructors within the Academy, and all individuals acting in the role of instructor, familiarise themselves with the Academy's policies on these matters and support these policies, rather than working against the policies or giving alternative points of view.

Further Reading:

- Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995

- Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Offensive Weapons Act) (Scotland)

- Criminal law: Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Offensive Weapons)

- Knives Act 1997

- Knives: the laws on buying and carrying