The banning of fox-hunting with dogs remains one of the landmark pieces of legislation to be put on the statute book since the Scottish Parliament was convened in 1999.
Controversy surrounding the passage of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act at that time was significant, but since the ban was introduced in 2002, arguments have continued to rage over the suitability of the legislation. The law is said to be unenforceable, and the fact that in 14 years there have been no successful prosecutions in relation to mounted fox hunting points to this being true.
There are also claims that the law is often flouted, and if this is also true, it cannot be much of a surprise. Fox hunters did not want government interference in their traditions in the first place, and once they have taken off on horseback, leaving protestors far behind, who is to say what happens out on the hills?
It is for this reason that Lord Bonomy’s recommendation that independent hunt inspectors could be introduced is to be welcomed. A third-party observer should be able to assist in disputes over what is permitted by the law, and the presence of the inspector should also ease the suspicions of the anti-hunting campaigners who believe that hunts are a law unto themselves.
It is encouraging to hear the Scottish Gamekeepers Association say they have “no problems with increasing transparency”. And inspectors will surely be welcomed too by the anti-hunting lobby, who currently try to take on the role themselves.
It is far better to have an arbiter on location, than to ask a court to fulfil that role many months later.