There is a LOT of conflicting information on this subject online, mostly revolving around whether or not traditional dress is "sufficient reason" to carry what is essentially a knife in public.

My questions are thus:

  • Is it legal to carry a Sgian Dubh in public whilst wearing traditional Scottish dress in the UK?
  • Does the blade have to be blunted?

Whilst all answers are appreciated, I would be particularly interested in any precedents or specific litigation related to this topic.


This is a reasonable summary of knife law although it omits the national costume as a 'good reason' (aka reasonable excuse or defence) for carrying a knife in public: https://www.gov.uk/buying-carrying-knives

It is illegal to ... carry a knife in public without good reason, unless it has a folding blade with a cutting edge 3 inches long or less .. Examples of good reasons to carry a knife or weapon in public can include:

  • taking knives you use at work to and from work
  • taking it to a gallery or museum to be exhibited if it’ll be used for theatre, film, television, historical reenactment or religious purposes, for example the kirpan some Sikhs carry
  • if it’ll be used in a demonstration or to teach someone how to use it


s49 Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995 Offence of having in public place article with blade or point (as amended) ... (4) It shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under subsection (1) above to show that the person had a reasonable excuse or lawful authority for having the article with him in the public place. - http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1995/39/part/VI/crossheading/offensive-weapons

s139 Criminal Justice Act 1988 Offence of having article with blade or point in public place ... Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (4) above, it shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that he had the article with him— (a) for use at work; (b) for religious reasons; or (c) as part of any national costume.


See Criminal Law (Consolidation) Act 1995 Sec. 49, ssec. 5(c)

it shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under subsection (1) above to [F4show] that he had the article with him... (c)as part of any national costume.

applicable throughout the UK.


Being someone that wears a kilt every day, and also the sgian duhb, I've found the 99.9% of English police are well aware of the law. I've been asked to let a few look at it, and its been promptly returned after them having had a look. The only time I'm asked to surrender it is when I'm entering a secure area, eg Courts, Scottish Parliament, Houses of Parliament and the like. In all cases it's been returned to me as I'm leaving.

The only thing to remember, if you are carrying a live blade and become engaged in an altercation it can be claimed you made a threat with the weapon, at that point without very good evidence to the contrary, it's likely to be taken from you. And that is based on an incident where somebody collieded with my car, while we were arguing who was wrong the other person started getting aggressive, I took my sgian duhb and locked it in my glove box before facing him down. He saw what I had done and called the police to say I threatened him with a knife. Fortunately for me, 3 people had observed the incident. When the police arrived I admitted I had a sgian dhub, I said as the guy was getting aggressive I had locked it away in the locking glove box and also locked the car so I could not possibly be involved in any violence while carrying a bladed weapon. The police were ready to confiscate the sgian duhb when the witnesses stepped in and confirmed what I had said. The idiot eventually admitted that I had not threatened him and had locked the knife away because he was getting aggressive towards me. (As a side note, his insurance company didn't argue the case and paid out in full saying that as he had made a false claim to the police under caution, they couldn't believe his version of the accident, and if it went to court he would have lost.)

I also have the relevant web page saved to my mobile phone, and a small laminated card with the specific law quoted on it just in case I meet some officer who does not know the relevant passage (3 in over 20 years)

  • Could you share the relevant web page and specific law here? That would be the most direct answer to the question.
    – feetwet
    Jun 10 '20 at 23:38

Appears it's legal (don't need to blunt it) outside of low tolerance areas with high security.

That being said, a police officer passing might not be familiar with the law at the scene, but after speaking with the station, should know that it's fine (expect an initial reaction of "umm naughty").


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