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Scotland plans to ban trail hunting

A new Scottish government bill says hunters will need a licence

Scotland has introduced the Hunting with Dogs Bill which makes it illegal to hunt a wild mammal using a dog except in limited circumstances. Trail hunting using an animal based scent will also be banned under the proposed laws. However exceptions will allow the continued use of dogs for falconry, deer stalking and rat control.

This follows on from The National Trust and Natural Resources Wales stopping issuing licences for trail hunts on their land in November 2021.

The Scottish government says that the Bill was created: “to address concerns that people are illegally using dogs to hunt foxes and other wild mammals.”The key difference now is that no more than two dogs can be used to flush out quarry, such as foxes, unless a licence has been granted. Those breaking the law are liable to a fine of up to £40,000 and/or 12 months in prison.

The option of limiting the number of dogs which could be used to flush foxes from cover was considered and rejected by an expert review in 2016 with the review’s author, Lord Bonomy, concluding that it would both be less humane and would, “seriously compromise effective pest control in the country.”

Scottish Environment Minister Màiri McAllan commented: She said: “I want to make clear that chasing and killing a mammal with a dog, for sport or otherwise, has no place in modern Scotland – indeed it has been illegal for 20 years. However, I should like to be clear, that foxes can cause significant harm to livestock, as well as other wildlife such as ground nesting birds – so it is important that farmers and land managers have access to control measures that are efficient and humane. This legislation provides that.”

A spokesperson for the National Farmers Union of Scotland said: “NFU Scotland stresses the need to maintain effective, practical and pragmatic control of wild mammals, including foxes, in a farming and crofting context to prevent damage to livestock, crops, plants and habitats and limit the spread of disease, as well as to reduce predation on protected wildlife species.”

Tim Bonner, CEO of the Countryside Alliance commented directly to Shooting UK: “Whilst this is a pointless and unjustified piece of legislation it does include a licensing scheme which will allow packs of hounds to be used to control foxes to protect livestock and for environmental benefit. That is what packs are currently doing in Scotland and we will be working to ensure that they can continue to do so under the new licences.”

Scottish ministers have also announced that coursing of rabbits and terrier work, all force draconian restrictions or total bans under the new legislation.

The bill allows for a licensing system for the use of more than two dogs. However the workability of such a scheme has been questioned. Perthshire deer stalker Calum Gillies asked: “How do they expect someone to keep a foot pack fit and available at short notice? You can’t have a pack of hounds sitting around waiting to see if someone gets a licence approved. Do we expect the government to turn around a licence at short notice if a farmer is experiencing predation at lambing time and can’t deal with it any other way as happens at the moment. Do they expect a huntsman to stay in a job where they don’t know if there’s going to be any work?”

The use of a single terrier to flush foxes or mink from underground would continue to be allowed without a licence, however it would only be permitted under strictly limited conditions and it is not currently clear whether a terrier could be used as part of protecting gamebirds.