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Wednesday, 13 February, 2002, 20:16 GMT
Fox-hunting ban passed
A bill to ban hunting with dogs in Scotland has been passed after a debate lasting more than six hours.

The bill, which sports minister Mike Watson introduced as a backbencher two years ago, will become law after receiving royal assent.

But it appears very likely that the legislation will be challenged in the courts, with some opponents claiming it has loopholes which could be exploited.

Supporters of the bill are delighted that Scotland will be the first part of the United Kingdom to ban mounted hunting with hounds, effectively outlawing fox-hunting, fox-baiting and hare coursing.

Hunt supporters have vowed to challenge the ban
It carries a penalty of heavy fines or a six-month prison term.

Critics of the bill argued that it remained an unworkable mess and they said that MSPs had created a loophole which will allow Scotland's 10 mounted hunts to continue their activities in a restricted form.

MSPs voted by 83 to 36 with five abstentions to pass the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill.

In a controversial move, they opted not to provide compensation to people who lose their jobs or businesses as a result of the ban.

Countryside campaigners, who maintained a strong presence around the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh throughout the day, will be angered that three separate compensation schemes were rejected by MSPs.

Pest control

There was much confusion during the debate about whether there was a loophole that would allow mounted hunts to carry on.

Mounted huntsmen could chase a fox in the interests of pest control - provided their dogs were muzzled and the fox was either shot dead or killed by a bird of prey - critics of the bill said.

Supporters dismissed the loophole saying that hunts would be foolish to try it.

Concerns were raised during the marathon debate, in which 107 amendments were considered, that the legislation could hamper gamekeepers in their work.

Dogs in trailer
Hunting with dogs has been banned
After the vote Glasgow Cathcart MSP Mike Watson, who introduced the member's bill in 1999, said he was "delighted" it had been passed.

He said: "It's a good day for the Scottish parliament and for a modern Scotland."

It is likely to be several weeks before the bill receives Royal Assent.

To mark the final debate in the Scottish Parliament, protest groups had mounted demonstrations throughout the day.

In the Scottish Borders, where half of Scotland's 10 mounted hunts are based, Kelso racecourse was the venue for demonstrations where up to 1,000 people, 150 horses and hound packs gathered.

Rural Rebels

Outside the Parliament, crowd barriers had been in place overnight but the large crowds that had been predicted did not materialise.

Instead, protesters staged an early morning demonstration outside Bute House, Scotland's First Minister's official residence.

A noisy crowd from the pro-hunting Rural Rebels, many dressed in orange boiler suits, barracked ministers as they arrived for a meeting of the Scottish Cabinet.

Countryside campaigners have warned that the passing of the hunting ban by the Scottish Parliament could lead to chaos on the England-Scotland border.

Allan Murray, director of the Scottish Countryside Alliance, vowed to take the battle to retain hunting to the courts.

He said: "Today rural Scotland has been betrayed by the Scottish Parliament.

"Our politicians have made it clear that the voice of rural people, in their view, counts for nothing."

The BBC's Andrew Cassell
"Members of Scotland's hunts rode out in defiance"
Background and analysis of one of the most contentious issues in British politics

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The Scottish ban



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13 Feb 02 | UK Politics
13 Feb 02 | UK Politics
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