Jake Swindells, Director of Scottish Countryside Alliance, gives an update on the current stage of the Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill as it nears it's third week of the evidence stage.
In February of this year, the Scottish Countryside Alliance accused the Scottish Government of "compromising the livelihoods of farmers" through introducing legislation which was "in direct contradiction" of its own independent review conducted by Lord Bonomy. A further breakdown of the Bill, written by Jake Swindells, can be read here.
The Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill is now well into the oral evidence stages. As of Wednesday 1 June, The Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment (RAINE) Committee will meet once a week for six weeks, hearing from expert witnesses who represent each element of the Bill. The Committee have already heard from the Bill Team from the Scottish Government who are responsible for the drafting of the Bill. Committee members were exploring the thought process behind some of the controversial points in the legislation, such as the reduction of a pack to two dogs, the exception of applying for, and being granted a licence to operate with a pack, the ban on trail hunting and the cost and practicalities of licensing. There were some robust questions and not all were answered in full.
On Wednesday 8 June, it was the rural sector that sat in front of the Committee to give evidence. Representatives from the Scottish Countryside Alliance (SCA), National Farmers Union Scotland, National Working Terriers Federation and Scottish Hill Packs / Scottish Gamekeepers Association were asked about many of the same issues that were put to the Bill Team. As you might imagine, many of the answers differed from those given to the Committee last week. The reality of the impact that the Bill would have in its current form was explained and taken on board by the Committee. It was explained that a 14-day licence would not work and, if there is to be a licence, which is absolutely unnecessary, then it would have to be easily attained, workable for anyone who needed to utilise it, fair to everyone across the rural sector and affordable. It would also have to be granted for an extensive period of time in order for effective pest control to be carried out.
Following this evidence session, the Committee heard from the GWCT and the RSPB. You can watch the session in its entirety here.
The next session will take place next Wednesday 15 June when representatives from the animal welfare sector will give evidence in the morning. In the afternoon session, Lord Bonomy will sit in front of the Committee to answer questions on the government-commissioned independent report that he produced prior to the Bill being drafted.
It is recognised that the Scottish Government have included many of Lord Bonomy’s recommendations but much of the critical evidence he included has been ignored. It is our hope that the Committee seek clarification with Lord Bonomy on the points that the SCA and sister organisations have highlighted in writing.
Previous and live sessions from Holyrood can be viewed here.