Scottish Government moves to tighten fox hunting ban
A new bill to tighten the ban on fox hunting has been introduced but campaigners are concerned the bill does not go far enough.
The Hunting with Dogs Bill, laid before the Scottish Parliament on Friday, seeks to close loopholes by replacing a 2002 Act which first banned the practice.
Environment minister Mairi McAllan said that hunting for sport had “no place in modern Scotland” but made an assurance the legislation would not impinge on “control measures” to protect livestock.
Animal charity OneKind welcomed the bill but insisted any exceptions must be “reserved for extraordinary circumstances”.
The Protection of Wild Mammals Act saw the use of dogs to hunt wild mammals first banned in Scotland 20 years ago, except in limited circumstances.
However there have long been calls to tighten that legislation to make it easier to enforce.
The new bill will introduce a licensing scheme for the use of dogs to search for and flush out mammals.
It will also ban trail hunting, which replicates traditional hunting practices by encouraging dogs to follow the scent of a fox but without the fox being killed at the end.
McAllan said: “As well as closing existing loopholes, I am seeking to prevent others opening. We have seen from recent events south of the border, that trail hunting is sometimes being used as a cover for illegal hunting. We therefore plan to take pre-emptive action to prevent trail hunting becoming established in Scotland in order to reduce the risk of wild mammals being killed by dogs.
“However, I should like to be clear, that foxes can cause significant harm to livestock, as well as other wildlife such as ground nesting birds – so it is important that farmers and land managers have access to control measures that are efficient and humane. This legislation provides that.”
OneKind director Bob Elliot said Scottish people overwhelmingly supported a “real ban on fox hunting”.
He added: “We do not believe a licensing scheme to allow the use of more than two dogs in certain circumstances is justified. We are also dismayed to see an exception to allow the use of two dogs to ‘provide quarry for falconry, game shooting or deer stalking’.
“There should be no exceptions at all to the ban on hunting wild mammals with dogs, but if exceptions are to continue, then they must be reserved for extraordinary circumstances and only the use of two dogs should be permitted.”
The Scottish Greens have also expressed concerns about the bill, backing an outright ban.
Field sport, which includes hunting, is one of the few matters excluded from the party’s cooperation agreement with the SNP.
Rural affairs spokesperson Ariane Burgress said: “Polls have repeatedly shown that the public back an outright ban, yet the Scottish Government continues to tinker around the edges. That’s why blood sports remain an area excluded from the Bute House Agreement and why this bill will need to deliver a real watertight ban if it is to get the backing of Scottish Green MSPs.”
Scottih Labour has also send the licensing scheme will create a new loophole for would-be hunters.
Animal welfare spokesperson Colin Smyth said: "You cannot license cruelty and Scottish Labour will fight to scrap this loophole.
“We need to make this the last tally-ho for hunting and consign this archaic ‘sport’ to the history books once and for all.”