You may remember that, in July last year, in the blink of an eye the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) went from a clear and often repeated policy that it would not vote on the Hunting Act because it only affects England and Wales, to a clearly stated policy that it would vote on the Hunting Act because it could.
We all know that the reason for this was an irresistible opportunity to provoke the Conservatives and David Cameron after the Government had announced its intention to amend the law on hunting to bring it into line with Scottish legislation. The SNP, however, felt it had to provide some ‘cover’ so despite the fact that no one believes for a second that the motivation for its policy u-turn had nothing to do with hunting, it announced that it would be reviewing hunting legislation in Scotland.
That cover was blown from any number of directions, amongst them the fact that the Scottish Environment Minister Aileen Macleod had written to our own Director for Scotland just three weeks earlier telling him that the Scottish Government had no plans to look at the legislation. The Scottish law is also one of those rare statutes that no one has been particularly unhappy with. Gun packs have been able to manage the fox population, whilst animal welfare organisations like the SSPCA had welcomed the law when it came in and raised no criticism whatsoever during the 14 years it has been in force. Anti-hunting groups have tried to claim that the law is not being adhered to, but only when similar legislation was mooted in England and Wales, and last week Police Scotland completely rejected their claims in evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs Committee.
The SNP Government is, however, committed to its review and has put a senior Judge, Lord Bonomy, in charge. We will, of course, be submitting evidence and have absolutely no doubt that it will show that the law is effective and workable. Unfortunately we also have little doubt that this whole process, like those that have gone before, will have much more to do with politics than with principle and evidence.
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