Section 1A — Exception: stalking and flushing from cover

Part of Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 13th February 2002.

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Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party 2:30 pm, 13th February 2002

I intend to speak only once this afternoon, on this issue. The reason is the reason given by Sylvia Jackson: this is by far the most important debate that we will have this afternoon on the formulation of this bill.

I agree with Tricia Marwick that it is essential that we produce good legislation. A requirement of good legislation is to provide the clarity that allows people to understand the implementation of the legislation. Another requirement is for the legislation to have some force. In these respects, John Home Robertson's earlier intervention was especially helpful in clarifying the status of the advice from the law officers. It will be the law officers who will have to cast their eyes over this particular point.

I support a ban on mounted fox hunting and I want to vote for the bill at stage 3; however, I want to ensure that the legitimate activities of pest control are absolutely protected by the bill. I am certain that there is wide agreement on that point of policy across this chamber. I know that the Minister for Environment and Rural Development and his deputy share that agreement.

Strenuous efforts have been made to ensure that the bill contains adequate protection for pest control activities. However, there is one omission—and it is seen in the issues raised by amendments 94 and 41. I support amendment 94. It clarifies a point on which there is wide agreement. It is legitimate for packs of dogs to be used to flush foxes out of woodland so that they can be shot by marksmen at the periphery of the woodland. However, in the real world, foxes will be injured and may escape. There has to be provision in the bill, in this section, for a single dog to be used to dispatch a fox that may be injured.

I say "a single dog", because that relates to amendment 94, in the name of Fergus Ewing, which I urge members to support. It is important to specify a single dog because every other provision in the bill that creates an exception or relates to the dispatch of a fox allows for more than one dog to be used. That is true of sections 1B and 3(1)(c), both of which permit "a dog" to be used. It might be a curious definition, but in the bill "a dog" potentially means more than one dog. The bill would create a situation where it may well be possible for several dogs to be sent to dispatch an injured fox. That is unacceptable and contradicts the intent of the bill as outlined by the sponsors and the relevant amendments that were helpfully lodged by the Rural Development Committee.

That is why I think, dispassionately, that amendment 94 gives utter clarity: when a fox emerges from woodland, is shot and needs to be dispatched, it should be explicit that it is done by a single dog.