New Scottish fox hunting bill set to pass 20 years on from ban

Legislation was first introduced to ban fox hunting 20 years ago but a number of loopholes have been exploited.

New fox hunting bill to pass in Scottish Parliament 20 years on from ban iStock

A Bill intended to tighten restrictions on hunting with dogs is set for a final vote on Tuesday, twenty years on from the fox hunting ban

The Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill will set a two-dog limit for all use of dogs in hunting.

It will also ban trail hunting and introduce a licensing scheme to allow the use of more than two dogs in limited circumstances.

The measures are intended to provide further safeguards for wild mammals while allowing land managers access to legitimate and humane animal control measures.

Legislation introduced 20 years ago sought to ban foxhunting in Scotland, but the Government has admitted loopholes have been exploited to allow the practice to continue.

“This Bill seeks to close loopholes in the former law as well as prevent others from opening,” said environment minister Mairi McAllan on Sunday.

“It does so in pursuit of the highest possible animal welfare standards, while recognising the need for farmers, land managers and environmental organisations to undertake legitimate wildlife management.

“The Hunting with Dogs Bill modernises the law and, I hope, when passed, will finally mark the end of illegal fox hunting, hare coursing and other forms of unlawful hunting with dogs in Scotland.”

Scottish Green MSP Ariane Burgess is set to introduce amendments to the Bill ahead of the final vote in the hope of removing loopholes that would allow dogs to flush foxes, strengthen the licensing system and ensure enforcement officers do not need extra permissions to enter Crown land.

The passage of the Bill is not guaranteed in the way that most other Government proposals have been in this session, with field sports exempt form the agreement between the Scottish Government and the Scottish Greens, meaning the party’s MSPs, including two ministers, could vote against it.

Burgess said: “Hunting with dogs is a cruel, outdated and totally unnecessary practice.

“It belongs in the past and should have ended years ago. There can be no justification for setting out with a pack of dogs to kill a defenceless animal.

“The Bill is a big step in the right direction and has a lot to commend it. But it does not go far enough. I am concerned that it will close some loopholes while opening new ones that will be exploited.

“I am particularly concerned about the proposed licensing system, which runs the risk of allowing the licensing and legitimisation of cruelty. That is why I will be moving amendments that would ensure a watertight ban.

“The 2002 Act was an important one, but, despite its intentions, it allowed fox hunting to continue. We can’t have another missed opportunity.

“We don’t want to be in the same position in another 20 years. It’s time to close the loopholes and end the cruelty for good.”

Scottish Labour has previously said the Bill does not go far enough.

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