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Scottish Government to Restrict Fox Control


Scottish Government to Restrict Fox Control

This afternoon in Parliament, RANE Minister Mairi Gougeon made her long-awaited statement on how the Scottish Government intends to implement the findings of Lord Bonomy’s report on the operation of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002. For those unfamiliar, this legislation regulates the use of dogs in fox control in Scotland.

At the Scottish Government’s request due to pressure from antis, Lord Bonomy carried out a review in 2016 into the operation of the legislation, and how it might be ‘improved’. SACS committed an extraordinary resource to this review process on behalf of all our members who use dogs – whether hounds or terriers – in fox control activities. Members will be aware already of our robust written evidence submissions and consultation responses, as well as our extensive input into the new Code of Practice for Mounted Packs. Our commitment to opposing further restrictions (because this would not be justified) on fox control has been consistent and relentless, and most recently our Director of Policy met with the Minister in late 2018 to provide her with member case studies on terrierwork and hounds, and explain why the use of dogs in effective fox control is essential.

Today, the Minister announced that the Scottish Government intends to take forward ‘many’ of Lord Bonomy’s recommendations during the remaining term of the current Parliament. In addition, the Minister announced that ScotGov has chosen to ignore Lord Bonomy’s strong recommendation of maintaining the use of a full pack of hounds, instead choosing to seek to mirror the inept English legislation that limits the number of hounds to just two. It is no mystery why this particular incompetent decision has been taken: just as with Westminster during the English fox-hunting ban, the Scottish Government appears to have chosen to pursue the politics of prejudice.

And just as with the recent Welsh Government restriction on pheasant shooting, irrefutable evidence is apparently no longer considered relevant by our elected representatives; many politicians appear to be more concerned with keeping their seats by pandering to ignorance and partisanship, rather than acting with integrity and standing up for what is right. If this is the new political reality, anyone who values truth and fact – regardless of their view on fieldsports – should be horrified by the precedent that this decision sets.

One ray of hope remains, which is that ScotGov intends to explore the option of licensing the use of multiple hounds/terriers where there is a proven pest control need. Having spoken today with the Minister’s hard-working department, SACS will be back at Holyrood over the coming weeks to work directly with her team on how such a licence could be effectively developed and implemented. We note that the Minister made clear in her statement today that she does not intend to hinder fox control in areas where it would be impossible without the use of multiple dogs, and we intend to hold her to her words.

To read the Minister’s statement in full, click here. Without further clarity from ScotGov we can say no more for now, but we will keep members informed on next steps and progress; there is unlikely to be any legislative change in the immediate short-term, and any new Bill will require further consultation. So for now, it is business as usual for our members who carry out fox control using dogs, and in the meantime, we encourage any member who objects to today’s Ministerial statement to write to their MSP. If you would like guidance on what to say, please contact the office.