Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Tim Bonner writes:
Two years ago the Scottish Government appointed one of the most senior law lords, Lord Bonomy, to review the protection afforded to pest animals controlled under the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002.
After a detailed inquiry Lord Bonomy reported late last year and concluded that fox control was necessary, that using dogs to flush to guns was an effective method of control and that any restriction on the number of dogs was unjustified and would cause problems for farmers seeking to protect their livestock.
He also made recommendations about the clarity of the law and around the perception of how it was enforced. The Scottish Government has responded to those recommendations and is producing a Code of Practice for hunts, and consulting on changes to the law. The Scottish Countryside Alliance, the gun packs and other rural representatives are fully involved in that process.
In the light of such a detailed and robust review of the legislation it was disappointing, if not surprising, that SNP activists have pushed a motion to further restrict fox control with dogs through the SNP National Council. The motion is in complete contradiction to Lord Bonomy’s findings and conclusions, and represents the worst type of political prejudice. Bizarrely it even discriminates between those who choose to control foxes from the back of a horse, and those who do so from quad bikes or on foot, which can have absolutely no relevance to the welfare of foxes.
At a time when rural communities in Scotland face so many challenges, not least the fundamental changes that Brexit will bring, it is quite extraordinary that any politicians are giving serious consideration to returning to the pointless pursuit of hunting. It would be a sad day for the Scottish Parliament, and Scottish politicians, if the long-settled issue of hunting with hounds were to return to the top of the political agenda.
The SNP National Council also voted to license grouse shooting estates again pre-empting the Scottish Government which has announced a grouse moor management review group to focus on the future sustainability of grouse moors. Shooting in Scotland is worth an estimated £200 million a year and supports the equivalent of 8,800 full-time jobs in the country. This vital rural support network that embraces so many environmental, economic and social benefits does not deserve to become part of an unscientific political game played by some SNP activists.
Follow Tim at @CA_TimB