with Horse and Hound

Scottish National Party Delays Attempt to Relax Hunting Ban

In a reversal of expectations, the Scottish National Party (SNP) has threatened to oppose the pro-hunting effort to relax a key provision of the Hunting Act in England. The SNP move appears to doom chances of passage.

As Foxhunting Life reported last week, British Prime Minister David Cameron, a former foxhunter, decided not to test the Hunting Act with a free vote in Parliament for a total reversal—an effort that would consume much Parliamentary time with questionable chance of success—but to attempt a statutory change instead. Cameron’s proposal would relax a key provision of the Act and consume only ninety minutes of Parliamentary time before a vote.

Pro-hunting factions believed they had a chance of success, having been assured by SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon that the party would refrain from voting since it was an English issue. However, pressure from the party’s anti-hunting constituents in Scotland persuaded SNP MPs to announce their readiness to participate in the vote and defeat the bill. The SNP reversal is somewhat surprising in that the statutory change sought by Cameron would, if passed, bring the foxhunting laws in England more in line with those in Scotland.

In the wake of the SNP turnabout, Cameron will delay this week’s planned introduction of his proposal to amend the Hunting Act. The ramifications of pursuing his original course now transcend the relatively unimportant (to most) subject of foxhunting and enter the more explosive realm of Scottish independence. If Cameron goes ahead with the vote, and if SNP MPs vote with the Labour Party as threatened, a new precedent of SNP votes on purely English matters will be set, and renewed pressure could arise on fragile Scottish-English unity.  

Read more details in The Guardian article by Rowena Mason and Libby Brooks and the more recent AP report.

Posted July 14, 2015
Updated July 15, 2015