Press release from League Against Cruel Sports (24th January 2023):
The Scottish Parliament has voted to pass the new Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill. The vote was passed by 90 for and 30 against, with no abstentions.
The new legislation was introduced last year, two decades after a failed attempt by the Scottish Parliament to ban hunting with the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act, back in 2002.
The new Bill will bring into force a number of measures which significantly curtail mounted hunting activity, including reducing the number of dogs which can be used to hunt a wild mammal to just two, instead of a full pack, and reducing the number of dogs which can be used below ground to just one.
The Bill also includes a pre-emptive ban on trail hunting. Trail hunting is a sport which was created after hunting was banned in England and Wales following the passing of the Hunting Act in 2004. Its inclusion in the Bill means trail hunting can not be established north of the border.
The League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, has welcomed the new legislation. Director Robbie Marsland said:
“As of today, Scotland has the most robust law anywhere in the UK to prevent the cruelty of chasing and killing wild mammals for sport – and this is something to celebrate. Despite a persistent campaign from those resolute to keep hunting alive in the Scottish countryside, the Scottish Government has been determined to end the sport of hunting, a sentiment which has today been supported by the Parliament.
“The passing of the Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill now provides an opportunity to right the wrongs of the last two decades and close the loopholes which allowed hunters to continue with hunting as though the law didn’t exist.
“The inclusion of a ban on trail hunting is a significant victory for Scotland, meaning hunts will not be able to use this so-called sport as a smokescreen for traditional hunting.”
The new Bill also includes a licensing system which will allow for a full pack of hounds to be used in certain circumstances. The detail of the scheme has yet to be developed but animal welfare campaigners have concerns this has the potential to be exploited.
Robbie Marsland added:
“After twenty years of flawed legislation it is critical that this Bill is not simply a way of creating new loopholes for hunters to exploit, and the League is yet to be convinced the licensing scheme won’t do this.
“Despite the best of intentions to ban hunting, the determination and deep rooted defiance among those who wish to chase and kill foxes should not be underestimated. The League will work closely with Nature Scot and other stakeholders to ensure the licensing system is robust, effective and fit for purpose.”
The Hunting with Dogs Bill is expected to receive royal assent in the next few weeks and come into force in the autumn.
This is a significant win for campaigners in Scotland, including REVIVE coalition members the League Against Cruel Sports and OneKind, and will increase pressure on the Westminster Government to follow suit.
The proposed licensing scheme, which will allow the use of more than two dogs in “certain limited circumstances” has undoubtedly been brought in to help fend off any legal challenges but the details and effectiveness of the licences remain to be seen.
For example, will the licensing authority NatureScot think that footpacks running amok in public forests, killing foxes to protect gamebirds on grouse moors (e.g. see here) is an appropriate and licensable activity? We’ll see.