Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish National Party, has fired a warning shot to David Cameron this morning, confirming her party will oppose controversial reforms to the hunting ban when a vote is called later this week.
Speaking on the Today Programme, Sturgeon said the SNP will be voting against the Government on contentious changes to the Hunting Act, passed in 2004, and that her party will use this as an opportunity "to remind the Government of how slender its majority is.”
With a narrow Tory majority of just 16 votes, once the non-voting Speaker, Deputy Speaker, and Sinn Fein MP’s are taken out of the equation, the vote on hunting may well be a defeat for David Cameron’s Government.
Cameron has promised a free vote in the Commons on the issue, meaning there will be no party whip, leaving MPs to decide how they want to vote with no consequence. As it stands, reports suggest there is a band of 30-40 Tory MPs keen to oppose the Government, including the Sports Minister, Tracey Crouch, who has hit out at the “spin of the pro-hunt lobby.” If even half of these Tory MPs voted against the proposed changes, it would mean certain defeat in the Commons.
Nicola Sturgeon, who is not herself an MP, set out other specific reasons as to why the 56 strong SNP contingent at Westminster will be voting against the Government on Wednesday.
“Firstly, there has been overwhelming demand from people in England for the SNP to vote on this issue,” suggesting the amount of communication she has had from people outside of Scotland is “unprecedented.”
The Scottish First Minister argued that David Cameron is “out of touch with the majority of English opinion” on the matter, and that the SNP had a responsibility to represent the rest of the UK on such issues.
Sturgeon also hinted that the SNP decision to vote, even though changes would not affect Scotland, is a response to the disrespect she feels her MPs have been subject to since winning a landslide across Scotland in May.
“Since the election, Cameron’s Government have shown very little respect to the mandate that Scottish MP’s have,” Sturgeon argued, citing the Government’s attitude to changes to the Scotland Bill as a prime example. She also hit out at the rhetoric surrounding English votes for English laws, which Sturgeon feels will make “Scottish MP’s second class citizens in Westminster.”
Sturgeon has also responded to criticism that Scottish law is currently less strict on fox hunting, with some arguing that proposed changes to English law would simply put legislation south of the border back in line with its Scottish counterpart.
Sturgeon said that this debate has “thrown a spotlight onto Scotland’s fox hunting law.” She conceded that this had highlighted the situation in Scotland, “which has made Scots feel that in fact Scots law needs to be as tight as the English.” Sturgeon went on to say a re-examination of the law on hunting in Scotland is now “inevitable.”
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