XL bully ban Scotland: SNP ministers and Humza Yousaf must have known ban in Scotland was inevitable

Humza Yousaf’s U-turn on the XL bully ban seemed wholly predictable

It’s hard to avoid the obvious pun – the SNP’s handling of the XL bullies saga looks like a bit of a dog’s breakfast.

Humza Yousaf announced on Thursday that Scotland will follow England and Wales by introducing a ban on the breed.

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A ministerial statement is expected next week, but the First Minister said the Scottish Government had essentially been left with no choice.

XL bully. Picture: Jacob King/PAXL bully. Picture: Jacob King/PA
XL bully. Picture: Jacob King/PA

"I am afraid that it has become clear in the past few weeks that we have seen a flow of XL bully dogs to Scotland as a result of a number of people bringing such dogs to the country,” he told MSPs.

“Ultimately, although we have a very good system of dog control notices and we take a deed-not-breed approach, we must respond to the situation as it currently stands. Therefore, we will do what we need to do to ensure public safety.”

It was a wholly predictable U-turn. Legislation introduced by the UK government has made it illegal to breed, sell or walk XL bullies in public without a lead and muzzle in England and Wales, and owners must apply for a certificate of exemption for current pets before the end of the month.

This led to reports of large numbers of dogs being transported across the border to avoid the restrictions. Mr Yousaf previously insisted Scotland was not a “safe haven” for the breed, but that was certainly the perception held by some.

Last week, the First Minister told journalists he was keeping a ban under review, but did not think it was “required or needed given the strict regime that we have in place in Scotland at the moment”. This position always seemed unlikely to hold.

If the worst was to happen, and a child was attacked by an XL bully, the Scottish Government would have been subject to intense criticism – fairly or unfairly. As it stands, SNP ministers now find themselves in the slightly bizarre position of banning a breed they won’t admit to having any concerns about.

Siobhian Brown, the community safety minister who will deliver next week’s statement, previously shared a graphic on social media of an XL bully featuring the words: “Dangerous breed? Nope. Breed specific legislation? Nope.”

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The First Minister’s spokesman said the ban was about the “large numbers” of XL bullies being brought into Scotland, rather than concerns about the breed itself. But as one journalist pointed out, would ministers have had such a problem with large numbers of teacup chihuahuas flooding north?

It’s important to acknowledge that animal welfare groups have raised legitimate concerns about the XL bully legislation, its implementation, and how it will work in practice. But the fact remains the Scottish Government must have foreseen this situation unfolding.

In a letter to Ms Brown last month, the UK Government’s animal welfare minister Robbie Douglas-Miller set out its position. “If an XL bully owner in England and Wales travelled to Scotland and sold or otherwise transferred the dog to someone in Scotland, this is unlikely to be an offence,” he wrote.

How did the Scottish Government think this would play out?



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