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Saturday, 16 March, 2002, 12:29 GMT
Royal Assent for Scots hunting ban
Huntsman and flag
The Scottish Parliament backed the bill last month
The bill to abolish fox hunting in Scotland has received Royal Assent - only days before MPs will vote on a ban for England and Wales.

The Queen signed the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill a little over a month after the legislation was passed by the Scottish Parliament.

The bill has now passed the final stage before becoming law - clearing the way for the ban to be in force before the start of the next hunting season.

Rural protester
Protesters have promised to challenge the law
A vote on banning hunting with dogs in England and Wales will be held in the House of Commons on Monday.

MPs and Lords will be offered three options - a complete ban, the preservation of the status quo and the so-called "middle way.

The Scottish Parliament voted on 13 February to outlaw hunting with hounds north of the border, effectively stamping out mounted fox hunts, hare coursing and fox baiting.

Offenders will face penalties which could mean a heavy fine or a six-month prison term.

The decision ended a process which began more than two years earlier when Mike Watson, then a Labour backbencher and now the country's sports minister, announced his intention to bring forward the bill.


There will have to be a commencement order brought forward before the act becomes legally enforceable

Scottish Executive spokesman
The Queen granted Royal Assent at Buckingham Palace on Friday, which means that the bill now becomes an act of parliament.

"Essentially the legal powers are there to be called upon," said a Scottish Parliament spokesman.

"Now it's up to the ministers at the executive to decide when to bring into force the legislation."

A Scottish Executive spokesman said: "There will have to be a commencement order brought forward before the act becomes legally enforceable.

"Our intention, as has always been spelt out, is that this should take place before the start of the next hunting season. We are talking about the autumn of 2002."


The bill may have received Royal Assent but this draconian legislation will be challenged

Allan Murray
Scottish Countryside Alliance
Opponents of the legislation have promised to challenge the new law under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Allan Murray, the director of the Scottish Countryside Alliance, said: "This is by no means the end of the fight to preserve hunting in Scotland. The battle will go on.

"The Scottish Parliament has passed legislation which we believe to be fundamentally flawed.

"It is based on ignorance and prejudice and undermines a way of life that Scots have enjoyed for generations."

He predicted that there would now be a lengthy legal process which could involve court hearings in Scotland, London and Strasbourg.

"The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill may have received Royal Assent but this draconian legislation will be challenged," he said.

Background and analysis of one of the most contentious issues in British politics

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The Scottish ban

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See also:

16 Mar 02 | UK Politics
15 Feb 02 | Scotland
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