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Political correspondent Elizabeth Quigley
"MSPs are deeply divided over a ban on fox hunting"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 2 May, 2001, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
Hunting ban bill stumbles
Foxhunt
The bill has been dogged by controversy for years
The move to ban fox hunting in Scotland appears to have failed to pass its first parliamentary hurdle.

It had been thought that the Rural Development Committee had put off taking a final decision until beyond the general election.

But events at Tuesday's meeting - which was held in private - are thought to have moved faster than expected, although the committee's final report has still not been completed.

A leaked account of the meeting says that MSPs are now set to recommend that the plans should be shelved.

Mike Watson
Labour MSP, Mike Watson proposed the bill
MSPs on the committee were deeply divided over proposals to ban hunting with hounds which some believe are too complicated, unworkable and will cause suffering among people in the countryside.

The committee had been due to finalise its stage one report into the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill during the private session in Edinburgh.

Labour MSP for Glasgow Cathcart Mike Watson, who proposed the bill, and several members of the committee, felt pushing ahead would be "inappropriate" in view of the impending general election and the foot-and-mouth crisis.

However, it appears the committee has taken the decision not to recommend the key principles to the rest of the parliament.

Wishful thinking

Les Ward, of the Campaign Against Hunting with Dogs, claimed that all was not lost.

"We all know there are those on the committee who want to see this Bill defeated, and even before the evidence was taken had made clear they would do everything in their power to defeat the Bill" he told BBC Radio Scotland.

But he said not all members of the committee were at Tuesday's meeting, and he said the reported lack of support for the bill was "probably wishful thinking" by those opponents of the Bill.

Mr Ward said he understood there were two votes on the committee at Tuesday's meeting.

The first vote - on whether there should be a vote on the Bill - split 5-5 and one Labour MSP was not present at the meeting, he told BBC Radio Scotland's Leslie Riddoch programme.

"They voted 5-5, and the chairman voted that they should proceed to the vote," he said.

"As a result of that vote, those who have always been opposed to the Bill now saw their opportunity and have voted, as I understand it, to reject the Bill."

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See also:

18 Jan 01 | Scotland
Hunt vote 'will assist' Scots ban
18 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Pro-hunt activists vow to fight on
18 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Hunting: How they voted
17 Jan 01 | Scotland
Fox vote fuels Scots MPs row
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