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The five point plan that he presented at a press conference in Edinburgh last week reaffirmed the determination of the Scottish Executive to tackle the escalating problem of violent crime in Scotland. However, as well as giving police the power to arrest anyone found carrying a knife and increasing the purchasing age for buying knives from 16 to 18, the plans also focused strongly on restricting the trade in dangerous blades.

Although the proposals include a ban of the sale of swords, there are currently no plans to outlaw the owning of a sword in a private residence. Carrying a sword in a public place will, though, become an offence.

Mr McConnell said: “The sale of swords in Scotland today is fundamentally wrong. There can be no reason for people buying swords off the street for use or to have in their homes.”

The proposed licensing scheme for the sale of non-domestic knives and similar objects would require all shops selling such items to be registered. Any retailer caught breaking the trading laws will have its licence revoked.

“All this is extremely worrying,” said Scottish arms and armour dealer Brian Moffalt. “No one introducing these schemes seems to have any idea about the nature of the trade in antique blades. Scotland again is being used as a test ground for such laws,” he added.

Speaking to the Antiques Trade Gazette, a spokesman for the Scottish executive said that the plans were still in a very early state.

“I expect the consultation process to begin early next year, and it’s unlikely anything will become law before 2006. This is not going to be a ban on the trade. We recognise that the majority of antiques dealers are legitimate traders, and the licensing scheme will allow them to continue as such.

“The trade will have the opportunity to play a full part in the consultation process. Amongst other things, we will be trying to establish a definition as to what a sword actually is.”

Members of the trade, however, have already expressed concern that a sword might be defined in the legislation as applying to any post-Victorian blade, thereby making the trade of early 20th century swords and modern swords illegal.

Mr Moffalt said: “I’ve never heard of anyone being attacked with a genuine antique sword. Any violence that does occur is always with replicas.”

The new regulations, however, will definitely not apply to knives that make up part of Scotland’s national costume, such the skean dhu. This is excluded by the 1995 Criminal Justice Consolidation Act.