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2001: Thousands rally for Scots countryside

Thousands of countryside campaigners have taken to the streets of Edinburgh in the largest demonstration of its kind ever witnessed in Scotland.

They are protesting against decisions being made on rural affairs.

More than 10,000 people joined the Scottish Countryside Alliance to protest against a bill to ban dog-hunting, the uncertain future of rural schools and the handling of the foot and mouth crisis.

Protesters are also upset about the Scottish Land Reform Bill, which will open up the countryside and extend the rights of communities to buy their land.

The event, called the March on The Mound began in Edinburgh's Meadows at around 1200 GMT and it made its way through the city towards the Scottish parliament.

It won support from rural organisations including the National Farmers' Union, the British Association of Shooting and Conservation, game-keeping and other countryside groups.

'Frustrated and angry'

The march follows repeated accusations from rural campaigners ministers at the Scottish Executive do not understand their needs and have ignored their complaints.

Sounding horns, chanting and stomping through the city centre the demonstration included campaigners from across the UK and from as far afield as Australia, Norway and Europe.

In a rousing speech the Countryside Alliance director Allan Murray said: "The countryside is frustrated and angry. Countryside people feel their traditions and rights are being taken out of their hands.

"They feel ignored, patronised and dictated to by people with an urban mindset."

But in a statement the Scottish Executive defended its position and said it was committed to driving the rural agenda forward.

"Rural development is a key priority for the Scottish Executive, which has made a commitment to support and enhance all aspects of rural life in Scotland," the statement read.

"In doing so, recognising rural Scotland is an integral part of Scotland and critical to its success."

In Context
The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act, which came into effect on 1 August 2002, effectively banned mounted fox hunts, hare coursing and fox baiting.

It signalled the end of a long-running battle between those for and against the activity.

The Scottish Countryside Alliance (SCA) said the new legislation would lead to unemployment and cause businesses to go bust.

The SCA vowed to fight to overturn the legislation despite losing a legal fight at the Court of Session in Edinburgh the day before it came into effect.

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