Scottish hunting ban bill released

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The Independent Online
SCOTLAND LOOKS set to be the first area in the United Kingdom to ban fox hunting under a bill detailed yesterday amid noisy demonstrations by pro-hunting protesters.

Hunting with dogs would become illegal under what is likely to be the first private member's Bill to be enacted by the Scottish Parliament. The Bill is expected to become law by early next year - making the blood sport illegal in Scotland ahead of England.

The Home Office is considering whether proposals to outlaw hunting in England and Wales should be made a Government Bill, part of a general law-and-order Bill, or to support a backbencher putting it through the Commons. However, the changes may not be in place until after the next general election.

The Scottish Bill's author, Mike Watson, the Labour MSP for Glasgow Cathcart, said the legislation would outlaw hunts which use dogs, hare-coursing or terriers to attack wild mammals underground. Prison would be the ultimate punishment for law-breakers.

However, Mr Watson said that dogs could still be used to flush foxes and other quarry from cover so they could be shot, and he stressed fishing, falconry and other forms of hunting would not be affected.

Mr Watson rejected compromise legislation including the suggestion this week by a cross-party group of Westminster MPs that a licensing system should outlaw some cruel practices, making it possible for some hunts to survive.

"A middle way is not something that convinces me," he said, adding that a new opinion poll showed 71 per cent of MSPs will vote for a ban and only 15 per cent against.

Most Tories are expected to vote against a ban, while Liberal Democrats are divided on the issue. The Liberal Democrat heartland of the Borders is home to most of the Scottish hunts.