Scotland politics

Scotland's hunting law to be strengthened, pledges minister

Fox hunting Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Fox hunting with dogs was banned in Scotland in 2002

The Scottish government has pledged to strengthen the rules around hunting following a judge-led review.

A new code of practice will be established and a better monitoring system introduced.

At the end of last year, Lord Bonomy said fox hunting laws needed to change.

The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 saw fox hunting with dogs banned, but there were exceptions to the rules.

The law stated that dogs could be used to stalk or flush out a fox in the interests of pest control, protecting livestock or ground-nesting birds.

That prompted mounted hunts in Scotland to be offered to farmers, landowners and estate managers.

Prosecution time limit extension

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said she was "determined to ensure the highest possible levels of animal welfare".

She added: "This package of measures will substantially improve the language used in the existing legislation, address inconsistencies in the law, and strengthen the scrutiny and accountability of hunts."

The Scottish government will now invite interested parties to develop the code of practice for hunts and explore the potential for a new monitoring scheme.

It is also going to consult on Lord Bonomy's proposed changes to the existing legislation, including looking at an extension to the time limit for bringing prosecutions relating to hunting offences.

Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg said a code of practice, setting out "what is expected of everyone", could only be a "good thing".

He added: "The principal area of our members' expertise is how foot packs carry out legal fox control in Scotland, and terrier work.

"We have confidence in the accountability of these operations and will be willing to play an active role in taking forward any measures to consolidate this further, if or where necessary.

"As has always been the case, as wildlife managers, the SGA's chief concern is that our members retain the tools which are vital to the control of abundant foxes, scientifically proven to have a detrimental impact on the survival of ground nesting birds."

The League Against Cruel Sports welcomed the move by the government.

Director of the group in Scotland, Robbie Marsland, said: "This is a good first step in making the law which prevents wild mammals being hunted, chased and killed for sport clearer and more suited to its intended purpose.

"We agree with Lord Bonomy that hunts are using exemptions within the current legislation as a decoy for continuing with traditional hunting practices and that their activities are incidental to pest control."

Scottish animal protection charity OneKind also welcomed the Ms Cunningham's announcement saying "voluntary measures and independent monitoring of hunts could be useful interim measures".

The organisation added that its priority remained seeing a "real hunting ban in Scotland".

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