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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 17:27 GMT
Late bid to close hunt bill loophole
Fox hunt
The bill will be voted on next week
More than 50 amendments have been lodged to the bill which is seeking to ban fox hunting in Scotland.

The rush of last-minute amendments includes several from the sponsors of the bill in an effort to close an apparent loophole.

This opened up when the bill was altered at committee stage to allow gamekeepers and hill packs to continue culling foxes.

Observers have suggested this means that the bill as it stands does not actually outlaw mounted hunts, despite two years of debate at Holyrood.


After more than two years of deliberation the proponents of this deeply flawed bill now realise they have created a legislative monster

Allan Murray
Scottish Countryside Alliance
There is now likely to be a row over the amendments in the run-up to the final decision on the bill next Wednesday.

Even if the bill receives parliamentary approval, it almost certainly faces a tough test in the courts.

The Protection of Wild Mammals Bill has been sponsored by Labour MSP Mike Watson, who now holds the post of sports minister.

Last September the Scottish Parliament voted in favour of the general principles of the bill.

After that vote the proposed legislation went forward for line by line scrutiny in committee.

The deadline for amendments to the bill closed at 1630 GMT on Friday.

Hunting dogs
Observers say there is a loophole in the bill
Allan Murray, the director of the Scottish Countryside Alliance, said the supporters of the proposals were becoming "more desperate by the hour".

He said: "After more than two years of deliberation the proponents of this deeply flawed bill now realise they have created a legislative monster.

"It is a legal minefield that will trigger a flood of challenges through the courts.

"They are trying to ban mounted hunting and at the same time still allow the use of dogs for pest control.

"Legally, this is an impossible trick to pull off and no amount of last minute re-drafting of this bill can solve that fundamental issue."


That loophole will be closed because the will of the parliament was overwhelming

Les Ward
Scottish Campaign Against Hunting with Dogs
The Countryside Alliance is now planning a protest the night before the debate which will see 200 beacons lighted across Scotland.

However, Les Ward, the chairman of the Scottish Campaign Against Hunting with Dogs, voiced confidence that MSPs would back the bill.

He said: "The bill was perfectly sound when it was introduced into the parliament, but during stage two the rural development committee accepted wrecking amendments which now allow hunting with dogs to take place.

"However, that loophole will be closed because the will of the parliament was overwhelming and the will of the parliament remains to get rid of the brutal and barbaric practice of hunting with dogs."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Scotland's John Knox reports
"Tension is mounting on both sides of the argument"
Anti-hunt protester Les Ward
"When the bill started it wasn't a mess."
See also:

07 Feb 02 | Scotland
Rural Rebels 'put lives at risk'
12 Dec 01 | Scotland
Safety warning for hunt ban MSPs
26 Sep 01 | Scotland
New challenge to hunt bill
19 Sep 01 | Scotland
Vote supports hunting ban
11 Jul 01 | Scotland
Hunting bill MSP 'optimistic'
11 Jul 01 | Scotland
Hunting bill hits major setback
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