A consultation calling for more protection of foxes and mountain hares in Scotland has received nearly 10,000 responses.
Discussion on Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone’s proposal received 9,850 electronic submissions with around 100 paper submissions.
The bill would officially be known as the Protection and Conservation of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill and look to close “loopholes” with the hope of “ending hunting for good”.
Fox hunting with dogs was banned in Scotland through the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act in 2002, with an exemption for using dogs to flush out foxes for pest control or protecting livestock or ground-nesting birds.
Ms Johnstone expressed delight at the “astonishing response” after the consultation received 1,100 submissions in its first month.
She said: “Although the responses need to be individually analysed over the coming months, I am confident that they will show overwhelming support for bringing the indiscriminate killing of Scotland’s foxes and hares to an end.
“Foxes and hares are iconic species that are widely celebrated in popular culture and valued by rural and urban Scots alike.
“They deserve our compassion and respect, yet they are routinely slaughtered across the country in huge numbers.
“Fox hunting was meant to have been banned in Scotland in 2002, but little has changed. Hunts still go out, pursuing and killing foxes, and foxes are still being killed by hunting dogs.
“My proposal would remove the loopholes and result in a watertight ban, ending hunting for good.”
A freedom of information request from 2018 revealed on average 26,000 mountain hares are killed every year in Scotland – with an all-time high of 37,681 in 2014.
The proposals have also been supported by charities OneKind, the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, and the International Federation for Animal Welfare.
Ms Johnstone added: “Politicians have repeatedly promised to end hunting, and the Parliament passed the Protection of Wild Mammals Act back in its very first session.
“For hunting to continue despite this leads to distrust in our institutions and those leading them.
“My proposals would represent a new contract between land managers and the wider public that could help restore good faith.
“Mountain hares are routinely being killed in huge numbers on grouse moors in particular, with an average of 26,000 killed every year.
“This is a native species whose population has crashed in some parts of the Highlands, and there is simply no justification for the killing.”