A Bill intended to tighten restrictions on hunting with dogs has been passed after a final vote, twenty years on from the fox hunting ban.
MSPs passed the Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill by 90 votes to 30 on Tuesday afternoon, setting a two-dog limit for all use of dogs in hunting.
It also bans trail hunting and introduces a licensing scheme to allow the use of more than two dogs in limited circumstances.
The measures are expected 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.
Scottish Greens Rural Affairs spokesperson Ariane Burgess said that the Bill still retained a handful of potential “loopholes for the privileged few.”
But, despite it not going far enough, she also said that it still represented a major shift forward in protecting animal welfare.
Burgess said: “Hunting with dogs is a brutal and inhumane practice. It should have ended years ago. This Act may not go as far as we would have liked, but the changes represent a significant step forward in protecting animals from harm.
“It is thanks in no small part to the efforts of all those who have campaigned with us that we have reached this stage.
“The Scottish Greens will do everything we can to build on this and to end all blood sports in Scotland.
“In the debate I moved amendments to close the loopholes, which I fear will allow hunting with dogs to continue for the privileged few.
“We will continue to push for reform and to ensure that the Scottish Government acts on any evidence that the licensing system is being used to facilitate abuses.
“We are determined to end licensed hunting with dogs as soon as practically possible – and to finally deliver the watertight ban on fox hunting that is so badly needed.
Scottish animal welfare charity OneKind welcomed the new legislation, calling it a “monumental” decision.
OneKind director, Bob Elliot said: “This is a monumental day for Scotland. For twenty years the Scottish public have made it very clear that they want a real ban on the cruel ‘sport’ of foxhunting and now, after decades of tireless campaigning from ourselves and like-minded organisations and individuals, we finally have that ban.”
“Today we have a positive step towards wild animals finally obtaining the respect and basic protections that they deserve,” he added.
“A complete shift in mindset in how we view wild animals – as sentient individuals rather than ‘quarry’ – is desperately needed and today’s passing of the Bill shows we’re heading in the right direction.”
Burgess introduced 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.