The SNP and the Greens suffered another split – this time over plans to crack down on hunting with dogs.
Foxhunting was banned almost twenty years ago by the MSPs, but hunting continues in some forms.
SNP Environment Minister Màiri McAllan’s proposals aim to protect foxes, hares and other wild mammals from being hunted and killed by packs of dogs.
The new bill would allow dogs to be used to “search, track or flush out a wild mammal”, but only for “specified purposes”.
These include preventing serious damage to livestock, wood or crops, protecting human health or preventing the spread of disease.
The Scottish Greens, who share power with the SNP in government, issued a separate press release on the plans.
They said the proposals would only be backed by their MSPs if there was a “watertight” fox hunting ban.
Green MSP Ariane Burgess said: “Most people think fox hunting is already banned in Scotland, but loopholes in the law mean hunting continues much as before. Unfortunately, in its current form, this bill closes one loophole while it risks opening another so that this bloody practice can continue.
“Polls have repeatedly shown that the public supports an outright ban, but the Scottish Government continues to tinker around the edges. This is why blood sports remain an area excluded from the Bute House deal and why this bill will have to provide a real watertight ban if it is to gain the support of Scottish Green MSPs.
The Greens’ lukewarm response comes after the two sides took separate stances on green freeports.
McAllan said: “I want to make it clear that hunting and killing a mammal with a dog, for sport or otherwise, has no place in modern Scotland – indeed it has been illegal for twenty years. I seek to close the loopholes that have allowed this already illegal activity to persist, and my goal is to do so in a way that ensures the greatest possible animal welfare while making it easier to control legitimate predators.
“As well as closing existing gaps, I seek to prevent others from opening up. We have seen recent events south of the border that trail hunting is sometimes used as a cover for illegal hunting. therefore plan to take preventive action to prevent track hunting from becoming established in Scotland to reduce the risk of wild mammals being killed by dogs.
“However, I would 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 effective and humane control measures, and this law provides for that.
Labor MP Colin Smyth said: ‘For nearly a decade the hunts have endeavored to ignore the ban on fox hunting in letter and spirit.
“This long-awaited bill is a chance to finally right that wrong and end this needless cruelty – but this bill does not go far enough.
“The unnecessary SNP licensing system will create new loopholes as we try to close old ones.
“You cannot allow cruelty and Scottish Labor will fight to close this loophole.
“We need to make the final count for hunting and put this archaic ‘sport’ in the history books once and for all.”
Robbie Marsland, director of League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, said: “20 years ago, almost to the day, Parliament attempted to introduce legislation which would stop registered mounted fox hunts using packs of dogs to hunt and kill foxes in the Scottish countryside. .
“Unfortunately this legislation was not worth the paper it was written on and with only one successful prosecution in two decades it has done nothing to stop the cruelty of the hunt, instead creating a series of loopholes that have allowed hunters to circumvent the law.
“The evidence filmed by the League Against Cruel Sports over many years has finally convinced the Scottish Government that something needed to change and today we wholeheartedly welcome an important step towards that change.”
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