Fox hunting Q&A: Why has the vote been scrapped and what is behind the SNP's stance?

Nicola Sturgeon previously said the SNP wouldn't vote on English laws

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Q | Last week the Government said it was going to give MPs a vote on relaxing the fox-hunting ban, but now it has scrapped the plan. Why?

A | In short because it knew the measure wouldn’t pass. The plan was to change the rules on fox hunting in England and Wales to broadly replicate more relaxed ones in Scotland, but on Monday evening the SNP announced it would vote against the proposals. Ministers knew this meant the change  would be defeated in the Commons and so have withdrawn it.

Q | But why is the SNP voting against the fox-hunting proposals if the plan is to replicate the status quo in Scotland, where it is in government?

A | That’s a very good question. Not only is the broad thrust of the Government’s plan in force in Scotland but in February this year, Nicola Sturgeon said the SNP would not use its new-found power in the Commons to vote against measures that did not affect Scotland.

But now the SNP has said it would vote against the change in retaliation for the “lack of respect” the Prime Minister had shown the party on the issues of devolution and English votes for English laws (Evel). In interviews, Nicola Sturgeon claimed that Evel would make Scottish MPs “second-class citizens” in the Commons.

Q | Is that true?

A | No, not really. Under the proposals, English MPs would have an effective veto on legislation that only affects England. But every piece of legislation would also have to pass a vote of the whole House – giving the SNP just as much power as it currently has to defeat government legislation. Thus even when Evel comes into force, the SNP would still be able to block the Government’s plans on fox hunting in England.

Q | So why is the SNP taking this stance?

A | Westminster conspiracy theorists think that by opposing the fox-hunting proposals the SNP is actually trying to goad the Tories into toughening up Evel to stop such situations occurring again. That in turn would come pretty close to establishing a de facto English parliament, which in turn might provide the SNP with a good reason for saying that the constitutional relationship with the UK had changed enough to justify a second independence referendum. The SNP of course denies this.