Scottish Election 2021: Greens pledge ban on Scottish fox hunts

A legislative loophole which allows fox hunts to take place in Scotland, despite an apparent ban introduced almost two decades ago, will be closed should a new Bill proposed by the Scottish Greens get through the next term of parliament.

The Scottish Greens are pledging to ban fox hunting for good by bringing forward a new Bill in the next parliament.

Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone, who is standing in Lothian, proposed a Bill in 2019 to close the loophole and has pledged to push on with the law if re-elected.

“Most people think fox-hunting is already banned in Scotland but loopholes in the law mean that hunting continues much as it did,” she said.

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“It is my intention to close these loopholes and end all hunting with dogs for good.”

Ms Johnstone said that previous consultation on a ban had received “an overwhelmingly positive response from the public”.

She said she had managed to bring in protections for mountain hares, but "the cruel chasing and killing of foxes with dogs still continues. Let’s put an end to it after May.”

Hunting with hounds was effectively banned in 2002, but dogs can still be used for flushing out foxes to be shot as a pest control measure. "Accidental” killing of the fox by hounds is also permitted.

According to animal campaign group, OneKind, there are still ten hunts in Scotland, killing over 800 foxes a year.

The law in England and Wales is tougher than that in Scotland, after SNP MPs said they would vote against an attempt by the UK government to relax the foxhunting ban in 2015.

Downing Street had planned to revisit the issue after the proposed introduction of English votes for English laws (Evel) in parliament. But the SNP’s decision to break with tradition by voting on an English-only matter meant No 10 withdrew from the idea.

The Scottish Government has previously committed to reforming fox hunting legislation, to bring it into line with English law, which would restrict the number of dogs allowed for flushing to two, except under licence – although the idea of “licencing cruelty” has already been criticised by opposition parties.

However the consultation on the new measures was halted as a consequence of the Covid pandemic.

Ms Johnstone said: “A strong group of Scottish Green MSPs in the next parliament could do so much more to protect Scotland’s wildlife.”

However Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg said: "Our members don’t hunt foxes, they control fox numbers using packs of trained scenting dogs, on foot, for the benefit of game, threatened ground nesting wildlife and farm livestock.

“Standing round forestry blocks for hours on end in the rain is not fun. Using trained dogs is the only way to effectively manage foxes in dense forestry, where you can’t snare and shooting is unsafe. It is a tool to do a job that needs doing.

“If the Scottish Government was to back this latest piece of Green ideology, it would harden the perception in the eyes of rural workers that jumping into bed with the Greens has been a major mistake in Scotland's countryside."

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