by Countryside Alliance

On Friday, 29 October, the Scottish Government announced that a consultation will take place on proposals to strengthen the law relating to the use of dogs to hunt and flush foxes and other wild mammals in Scotland. 

The Scottish Countryside Alliance is consulting with stakeholder organisations, as well as its members and interested parties, before responding. We will remain engaged with MSP’s across Scotland. We will also be urging those who live and work in the countryside to respond directly and lobby at local level, to ensure that unnecessary and ill thought out legislation is not responsible for the loss of effective and humane working practices throughout Scotland.

In December 2015 it was announced that Lord Bonomy, a senior Scottish judge, would lead the review, which was to investigate the operation of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act. The aim of which was to ascertain whether it is providing a sufficient level of protection for wild mammals, while at the same time allowing effective and humane control of these animals. Lord Bonomy’s report, which was published in November 2016, was unequivocal in its recognition of the need for fox control and the important role that the hunts play in providing that management. 

In January 2019, the Scottish Government announced its intention to bring forward legislation to implement Lord Bonomy’s recommendations. They also announced that the Government would “be going further” than its own review and that the legislation would include the introduction of a two dog limit for flushing to guns. This directly contradicted Lord Bonomy’s findings as he was clear in his rejection of calls to limit the number of dogs which can be used, stating that it could “seriously compromise effective pest control in the country”.

The Scottish Government is now further consulting on a smaller number of factors including: limiting the number of dogs used to flush foxes, licensing of the use of packs (only granted when certain criteria are met) and the banning of trail hunting.

Jake Swindells, the director of the Scottish Countryside Alliance responded to the announcement: “The government’s proposals are unnecessary, unjustified and directly contradict the conclusions of the independent review carried out by Lord Bonomy. It is difficult to imagine a more pointless or illogical consultation, but if the government is determined to push ahead it must ensure that farmers can continue to protect their livestock and wildlife. 

“Any licensing scheme must be fair, equitable and accessible so the livelihoods of farmers and land managers are not compromised.”

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