Scotland’s new team of 56 SNP MPs could be poised to vote against a planned repeal of the fox hunting ban south of the Border – despite the move having no impact on Scotland.
Nationalists have previously indicated they would not vote on the issue, but the party’s Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, has said he is now looking “very closely” at it after being contacted by campaigners opposing the Conservatives’ plans.
Scotland become the first part of the UK to ban hunting with dogs in 2002, followed by England and Wales two years later. But Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to hold a vote on repealing the ban.
The SNP has traditionally not voted on “devolved” issues at Westminster which don’t affect Scotland, but Nicola Sturgeon said during the election campaign that this could change for issues such as health.
And Mr Robertson said yesterday that the party will also consider doing so for fox hunting after a “massive lobbying” campaign which has seen Nationalist MPs being contacted.
He said: “SNP MPs still have to consider the legislation, which we haven’t seen. We need to see it, but of course we will be looking at that closely.
“You do of course understand that the UK government imposes its fiat – its will – on Scotland without any significant legitimacy whatsoever, so we’re having legislation foisted on Scotland with only one MP.
“So we have to look at all of the issues coming forward in this new Parliament following the independence referendum on its merits and we’ll be doing that when we see the legislation that is proposed by the government.”
Mr Cameron is coming under pressure from Conservative MPs to honour the party’s election manifesto pledge to hold a free Commons vote on repealing the ban on hunting with dogs.
The votes of the SNP MPs could prove crucial on the outcome. Pro-hunting campaigners believed they have achieved the “magic number” of 286 MPs in the new Parliament needed to overturn the ban, but this was based on the SNP MPs staying neutral.
Mr Robertson added: “We have to look at all of the opportunities we have to exercise our voice and our vote at Westminster and we will be doing it on the basis of seeing the proposals that are actually made and then making up our mind.
“There are a lot of people who care passionately about this issue and I understand why. Many of them have been getting in touch in recent days and I would like to assure them that we will be looking at the case they’re making very, very closely and will do so on the basis of the legislation when its proposed.”
Labour’s Holyrood environment spokeswoman, Sarah Boyack, called for the Nationalists to oppose the end to the ban as fox hunting is a “brutal and unacceptable practice”.
“The barbarism of fox hunting is clear for all to see,” Ms Boyack said.
“Scotland’s moral voice as part of the UK doesn’t end at Berwick-upon-Tweed and the SNP must make clear they will vote against any bill which would repeal the hunting ban.”