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Wednesday, 13 February, 2002, 21:01 GMT
Passions rise over hunt bill
The Rural Rebels were present in the parliament
Click here for a live stream of the debate between 1300 and 1900 GMT.

Scotland has became the first part of the UK to ban fox-hunting, when MSPs voted to pass a bill to outlaw hunting with dogs.

A marathon debate in the Scottish Parliament ended at 1915GMT with MSPs deciding to pass The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill.

The debate was marked by protests outside the parliament in Edinburgh and the official residence of the first minister, where one demonstrator was arrested.

The bill, which has taken more of the parliament's time than any other piece of legislation, has aroused strong passions on both sides of the fox hunting debate.

Pro-hunt placard
Campaigners protested against the ban

The Rural Rebels, in their trademark orange boiler suits, have emerged in recent months as the most vociferous opponents of the bill, which was sponsored by Mike Watson MSP.

They staged a noisy protest at Bute House, barracking ministers arriving for a meeting of the Scottish Cabinet. Protesters waved placards reading "Unjust, Unfair, Unfit".

There was a heavy police presence and by 0815 GMT one of the demonstrators had been arrested.

Noel Collins, a small holder from Ayrshire and a Rural Rebel, said: "These people are interested in their rights and they have been denied those rights.

Mass rally

"If MSPs wish to vote the Rural Rebels out of a job then they have a responsibility to understand the issues and the concerns that have been expressed.

"If they do not want the legitimate protest then the Scottish Parliament must respond to the legitimate concerns."

In the Borders, where half of Scotland's 10 mounted hunts are based, Kelso racecourse has been the venue for more demonstrations.

Flag and huntsman
Scotland has 10 mounted hunts
Members of hunts from Britain and Ireland gathered for a mass rally organised by the Scottish Countryside Alliance.

SCA director Allan Murray vowed that they would "fight in every court in the land" to have the ban overturned.

In the parliament chamber, supporters accused MSPs who had placed amendments of trying to "wreck" the bill.

MSPs considered 107 amendments during the six-hour debate.

Thorny issue

A bid by a Tory MSP to delay the vote on the bill to another day was defeated.

Alex Johnstone said that the business of the day was too "complicated" to allow MSPs to know what the final shape of the bill would be.

Three amendments aimed at providing compensation for those made redundant by the ban were rejected.

And much confusion surrounded the possibility of a loophole that would allow mounted fox hunts to continue.

Some members claimed that hunts could proceed if hounds were muzzled and the fox was not killed by the dogs but was shot.

Mike Watson MSP
Mike Watson: Members' Bill
Meanwhile the anti-hunt lobby also held a demonstration in Edinburgh.

The BBC's Andrew Cassell
"English hunts are also getting increasingly worried"
BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor reports
"MSPs backing a ban say Scotland can lead the rest of the UK"

Fox Hunts
Is Scotland right to put a stop to the bloodsport?
See also:

13 Feb 02 | Scotland
Hunt bill is 'moral duty'
13 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Hunt lobby's hopes may be dashed
13 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Labour MPs step up hunting call
13 Feb 02 | Scotland
Fox hunting: The arguments
13 Feb 02 | Scotland
Fox hunting: The bill
08 Feb 02 | Scotland
Late bid to close hunt bill loophole
07 Feb 02 | Scotland
Rural Rebels 'put lives at risk'
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