Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Tim Bonner writes:
It is one of the great paradoxes of our age that as activists and the political classes become more and more obsessed with animal rights issues the public remains largely unmoved. Hunting, of course, remains the totemic issue but despite acres of press comment and social media posts our research, as well of that of others, consistently confirms that it is utterly irrelevant to the way people vote. This rejection of public priorities is fundamentally bad politics and nowhere is there a better example of that than in Scotland.
New research published by the Scottish Countryside Alliance this week has showed again that hunting is completely irrelevant to Scottish voters. YouGov asked 1,031 Scottish voters what issues had the most impact on their vote at the General Election last year and not a single respondent listed hunting when asked for their opinion unprompted. When asked to rank issues by impact 98% of voters said hunting was not in the top 5 issues that affected their vote.
Yet the Scottish Government is currently considering its response to an independent review and public consultation into the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002. The political debate over hunting with hounds had been largely settled by the Act which banned ‘traditional’ hunting, but allowed most other fox control to continue. The hunting community was not happy with the unjustified restrictions, but hunts adapted and for more than a decade the issue disappeared from political discourse. For better or worse the hunting debate had been resolved.
In 2015, however, animal rights groups, using the opportunity of a debate over hunting legislation in England and Wales and the leverage of online activism, persuaded the Scottish National Party to reopen the long-settled debate over hunting legislation. Once taken, that decision led inevitably to the current position where the Scottish Government is faced with a choice between confirming the current settlement as recommended by its own reviewer, Lord Bonomy, or enabling a much wider debate which could end in further totally unjustified restrictions.
As it ponders that choice the Scottish Government needs to consider the real priorities of voters as so clearly illustrated by this latest polling, and not rely on the views of those in the political and media bubble which are so at odds with what those voters actually think.
Follow me at @CA_TimB
(Photo credit: Simon Hargreaves)