The next item of business is a debate on motion S1M-2726, in the name of Bristow Muldoon, on the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill, and on one amendment to that motion. I invite those members who wish to speak in the debate to press their request-to-speak buttons now. I call Bristow Muldoon to speak to and move the motion.
Before I get to the main part of my speech, I want to express my thanks to Mike Watson and Tricia Marwick for all the hard work that they have done over the past two and a half years to bring the bill to the stage that it is at now. I suspect that neither of them expected it to take so long to reach its conclusion, but the work that both members have put into the bill is worthy of recognition. I also thank them for giving me, one of the co-sponsors, the opportunity to step in at this stage, following Mike Watson's elevation to the Cabinet.
The bill has been roundly attacked in many quarters and for a wide variety of reasons. Some people have claimed that it is not clear what the bill set out to achieve. I refer them to the comments that Mike Watson himself made at stage 1, when he referred to the principles of the bill as he saw him. The first principle of the bill was to ban mounted fox hunting, the second principle was to stop hare coursing and the third principle was to ban fox baiting. Those seem to me to be very straightforward aims.
I do not want to get involved in a series of what-ifs with Conservative members. The bill quite clearly bans the three practices that are set out in its general principles. The six key amendments that were passed today ensure that that is the case.
All the wrecking amendments that were lodged—mainly by Conservative members—at stage 2 have been taken out of the bill. If Conservative members believe that the bill is flawed, they should not vote for it. I suspect that they will not vote for it.
Conservative members have made a determined attempt to derail the bill and to ensure that it does not achieve what it aims to achieve. They have failed and should recognise that—rather than spin a series of untrue statements to the press, as they have done all afternoon.
The bill set out to ban three practices that have no place in a modern Scotland. That is the challenge that the chamber faces this afternoon. Do we want a Scotland that preserves medieval practices or do we want to move into the 21st century and say to the world that unnecessary cruelty to animals will not be tolerated in Scotland?
I want to address issues that have been raised about gamekeepers and concerns that some gamekeepers have expressed. The amendments that have been passed today mean that gamekeepers and hill packs will be able to go about their legitimate pest control activities. Anyone who suggests otherwise distorts the content of the bill.
Another frequent distortion relates to employment and people losing their jobs. Many figures have been bandied about, mainly by Conservative members, although I cannot remember those members being greatly concerned about unemployment during their 19 years in power. They have become concerned about fictional unemployment. If people in areas where there is mounted fox hunting take opportunities to get involved in other equestrian sports, there will be absolutely no need for reductions in employment. If experience in West Lothian is anything to go by, it is possible that there will be an increase in employment in related activities.
No, thank you.
The bill set out with three straightforward aims: to ban mounted fox hunting, hare coursing and fox baiting. The amendments that have been passed today will achieve those aims. I urge members to join me and move Scotland into the 21st century.
That the Parliament agrees that the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill be passed.
Many members will wish to speak, so I hope not to use up my time allocation.
There are so many reasons not to pass the bill that time will not permit me to address them all. The general public will be stunned that we are sitting here late to debate this subject when our
The phrase "warped priorities" sums up the bill exactly. We seem to be hellbent on passing a bill that by no means absolves the hill packs, gamekeepers, land managers, farmers and farm tenants whose livelihoods depend on vermin control. I say to Bristow Muldoon that we seem to be intent on passing a bill that bans hare coursing and fox baiting, despite the fact that fox baiting is already illegal.
I am far from certain that the bill will ban mounted fox hunting. As long as the clear intent of hunters becomes to shoot or kill by lawful means any member of a pest species that is flushed by hounds, they will be pursuing a legal activity under the bill. The bill should not be passed as it will not even properly ban its principal target—mounted hunting.
As my amendment suggests, the bill does not offer adequate provision for compensation. The figure of £150,000 that Karen Gillon mentioned is nothing short of pathetic. It may be the price of the Liberal Democrat vote, but it is still nothing short of pathetic. Without that provision, the possibility of a robust challenge under the European convention on human rights is inevitable.
Those who will lose their jobs and houses—if they are to do so—will have had little understanding of the niceties of the Executive-led amendment in Karen Gillon's name. The amendment would have compensated a few landowners, but would have done nothing for the honest, hard-working—I did not use the phrase "working class"—and decent law-abiding people who will be most affected by this hopeless bill.
I urge members to have regard to the good name of the Parliament. If we pass the bill tonight, we will be passing a bill that is so badly put together and so unclear as to intention that it will be challenged in every court in this land and probably in Europe as well. Are we really in the business of giving the legal profession a more secure future than they already enjoy?
I have always said that if Lord Watson's bill had simply declared that it would ban mounted fox hunting and hare coursing it would have been passed 18 months ago without any difficulty, but it was not that simple. If it was a mess of a bill at stage 1 it remained one throughout stage 2, despite the best endeavours of the Rural Development Committee to narrow it down to address the will of this Parliament as stated in the stage 1 debate. If the committee did not succeed in doing that, the weakness is with the bill, not with the committee.
I think that the bill remains a mess, despite the
I appeal to every member in the chamber—never mind about the toffs and never even mind about the Tories—to do this Parliament the best favour they possibly can and prove to an ever more sceptical public that we MSPs can make a sensible and right decision. Support my amendment and drop the bill.
I move amendment S1M-2726.1, to leave out from "agrees" to end and insert:
"does not agree that the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill be passed because the compensation provisions are inadequate."
I have a problem, because more than 20 members want to speak. I cannot possibly call even half of that number. I will do the best that I can, but I apologise in advance to those whom I disappoint.
Thank you, Presiding Officer. I had not expected to be called so soon.
I have not participated in today's debate up to now; I did not speak in the debate on the amendments. I am speaking in a personal capacity. I am proud to be able to speak at this stage in the debate. I am not proud on a personal level, because we did not get to where we are with the bill because of my efforts—certainly not by them alone. A great many other people contributed—it is important to say that they include both those who are for and those who are against the bill—to get us to where we are now.
I am confident that the Parliament as a whole will soon vote to end mounted fox hunting, fox baiting and hare coursing. That is why I am proud. I am proud that the Scottish Parliament will take that decision and will legislate to make Scotland the first part of Britain to end those cruel and unnecessary activities. It will be the first legislature
I stated at the start of the process that I would listen to representations. I am certain that those who are opposed to the bill, most of whom have been implacably opposed to it from the start, will not regard that as satisfactory. The basic aims of ending mounted hunting, fox baiting and hare coursing could not be compromised, but I argue—even if those on the other side of the argument do not accept it—that significant concessions have been made, particularly in respect of the use of dogs underground, which became an especially contentious issue. That has led to the bill allowing gamekeepers and the hill packs to continue many of their important tasks of conservation and pest control. They lobbied very strongly and effectively. I hope that they accept that that concession was made, even if they did not get everything they wanted.
This has been an example of the member's bill process allowing the issues to be up for debate before all members of the Parliament have their say. Indeed, no other member's bill has received such scrutiny. I venture to suggest, on behalf of all members, that it is unlikely that another bill will receive such scrutiny in the time that we are in the chamber. That will probably be welcomed. When the process began in September 1999, it could not have been envisaged that it would take two and a half years to reach its conclusion.
No one can say that the bill is rushed and ill considered, because everyone with something to say has had the opportunity to say it. I was rather surprised to see that the Countryside Alliance is quoted in today's newspapers as saying that not all the evidence and arguments have been heard. Members who have been bombarded with information by letter and e-mail, or who have been personally lobbied by people with various views, would refute that suggestion. Every opportunity to make arguments has been taken, which is entirely appropriate for a member's bill. The process has shown that the Parliament has the capacity to frame legislation other than that which emanates from the Executive. That is important.
I want to touch on one of the points Alex Fergusson made. Of course the issue is not a priority for the Parliament; no one, least of all me, has argued that. The priorities are jobs, education, health and transport, which is why, during the past two and a half years, the Parliament has legislated on precisely those issues. That does not mean that there should be no opportunity to legislate on issues that members raise. That is what the Parliament was designed to do and the bill is an
I do not accept that. Any member could have introduced bills on those subjects as early as they wanted. I happened to introduce the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill at the beginning of the Parliament. I am confident that most proposed member's bills will be dealt with in due course.
I thank the people who have assisted with the bill and those who have contributed to the lengthy process of scrutinising it, whatever their views. I thank the animal welfare groups that argued and campaigned tirelessly—it is appropriate for me to name Les Ward, Peter Hastie, Suzanne Veitch and Corinne Evans of the Scottish Campaign Against Hunting With Dogs. I thank Andrew Mylne who, on behalf of the Parliament, gave me impartial advice and information whenever I sought it. Even when I did not seek advice, he came to me to be helpful and to ensure that the process was smooth. I thank Tricia Marwick for her sterling work in support of me during the past years and Bristow Muldoon for stepping into the breach when it was necessary.
The process involved many people. We can be proud of the position that we have achieved. We have forged a path that other parts of the United Kingdom will follow; the House of Commons will follow us in due course. The bill is an example of what the Scottish Parliament can do; it is not the most important issue, but that does not make it unimportant.
I ask the members of the public, who are here as spectators, not to applaud. There has been one round of applause for each set of spectators. That is an adequate sufficiency for the rest of the day.
It is almost exactly two years since Mike Watson introduced the bill. He made it clear to the then Rural Affairs Committee as early as 4 April 2000 that the aim of the bill was to end cruelty associated with the use of dogs. In his presentation to the committee, he sought to draw a clear distinction between hunting as a sport and hunting as a legitimate pest-control activity. Committee members were perplexed to say the
Despite what Mike Watson said, the bill did not distinguish between mounted hunts—which operate largely for sport—and hill packs, gamekeepers and others who use dogs in their everyday work to control pests, especially in upland Scotland. It is therefore not surprising that the committee spent a great deal of time considering the impact that the bill would have on the wider rural community. It also—but not primarily—considered mounted hunting and hare coursing. It found that 90 per cent of foxes escape from the mounted hunts and that it is therefore a particularly ineffective form of pest control. Mounted hunts and hare coursing are clearly sports.
Members will remember that the Rural Development Committee recommended rejection of the bill at stage 1 on the ground that although it supported Mike Watson's aim of ending cruelty, the bill would not achieve that aim. In fact, in certain circumstances, the bill would increase cruelty. Why? Because it focuses on the use of dogs and, although well intentioned, entirely misses the point that dogs can be used in both cruel and humane ways and are most certainly not the common factor in determining cruelty.
Members voted to reject the recommendations of the Rural Development Committee and to continue with this flawed bill. It is the only time that the Parliament has rejected the good advice of a specialist committee. Many attempts were made to rubbish the efforts of the committee, and what a mess we have been in since then—typified by the debate this afternoon.
Although the bill did not concentrate on mounted hunting or hare coursing, it was clear from stage 1 that members thought that it should. We are presented today with a bill that clearly distinguishes between hunting for sport and pest control, but it falls well short of effective and robust legislation. Instead of an honest bill that addresses the issue that people wanted it to address—hunting for sport—we have a bill that outlines a catch-all offence:
"A person who deliberately hunts a wild mammal with a dog commits an offence."
It then proceeds to list a range of exceptions to that rule, which is what the battle of the amendments today has been about: the debate has been about whether those legitimate exceptions are loopholes that would admit the mounted hunts, or are necessary for the protection of effective pest control. Instead of a bill focused with clarity on ending cruel sports, we have a
A number of mistakes have been made throughout the bill's progress. It should not have been presented as it was—by the member in charge of the bill saying, "Here it is, but I shall amend it." The committee had no choice but to consult on the bill as introduced—and not on what it might have been. The Parliament should never have rejected out of hand the recommendations of the committee. That has not happened before or since, and it was a recipe for disaster.
The worst mistake was made on the issue of compensation. I cannot stomach Conservative comments about Liberal Democrat votes, as the Conservatives made sure that no compensation package would be made available to the Parliament. That mistake has been compounded by the disaster of our having to vote on this flawed bill today. I hope that common sense will prevail at this late hour, but I am not optimistic that it will. I urge members to reject the bill.
This has been a long and tortuous process. Many people who are against the bill say that we have already spent too much time on it and should be discussing other issues. It is interesting to note, however, that the same people have delayed the bill by insisting on extra evidence. Their action has, in fact, lengthened the time that we have spent on it.
I was concerned about the way in which the bill was first drafted and I voiced my concerns. Rather than shout that the bill was fatally flawed before it was debated in Parliament, I resolved to raise those issues with the promoters of the bill. I was concerned that the bill would not allow the use of terriers underground, which practice is required to allow fox control in barren, rocky areas, of which there are many in my constituency.
Foxes live in dens below the ground or in rocky cairns and take refuge when anyone comes close. There is no ground cover for them to hide in, so it is natural that they return below ground and stay there until the threat has passed. It is therefore extremely difficult to dispatch a fox without the use of terriers below ground to flush it out before guns can be used. I am well aware that gamekeepers, farmers and crofters who use terriers in that way have no truck with fox baiting, but they need to be able to control fox numbers. I am happy that the bill has been amended to take into account their concerns.
The bill has been amended in a way that does not leave loopholes for those who take part in the cruel sport of fox baiting. When I first spoke to Mike Watson about that issue he was a bit
Mike Rumbles said that the bill is a mess. I am a member of the Rural Development Committee and I can say that Mike Rumbles worked hard to ensure that the bill became a mess. I am pleased to say that he did not succeed. We all know that fox numbers must be controlled, but most of us want that to be done as humanely as possible. The bill will ensure that that happens. I urge members to support it.
I thank the clerks of the Rural Development Committee for their work. No member has mentioned that much of the committee's work improved the bill and was not challenged. However, I believe that the bill should be opposed for four reasons: it is flawed, unworkable, inconsistent and unfair.
I believe that the bill is flawed because its concept is wrong; it seeks to ban three activities, none of which is defined. Instead, the bill sets out a wide definition of a crime, but fails to distinguish between pest control and sport, as has been pointed out. It was almost inevitable that problems would arise because of the bill's flawed concept.
I hope that the bill will not prove to be unworkable, but I am mindful of the fact that the only good thing that the police could say in evidence about the bill was about the licensing system. The police said that they would be able to go into the countryside and say, "Please, sir, show me your licence." That provision has gone, so I believe that the police will find the bill difficult, perhaps impossible, to enforce.
I am extremely concerned that the amendments that the gamekeeper bodies, the National Farmers Union of Scotland and the Scottish Crofters Union said were essential have not received today what I would regard as a better hearing. I hope that those members who say that gamekeeping will be able to continue are right. I feel that they are not right. In particular, I think that there will be a serious problem with mink, as Jamie McGrigor pointed out, not least in the river in Lord Watson's constituency of Cathcart, where the kingfisher and the water vole might become extinct.
I made up my mind about the way that I would vote on the bill when I visited Dumfries with my colleagues in the Rural Development Committee. We had a meeting with the Borders traders council, which was led by Peter Leggate and Wendy Turnbull, to whom Alex Fergusson referred. I realised then that the bill's victims would not be those who pursue mounted hunting for recreation, but would be grooms, farriers, saddlers and other people who earn a living by carrying out perfectly lawful activities. I had to ask myself at that point—I speak as an ordinary MSP and not as shadow minister for rural development—whether I could vote to hand out P45s to people. One of the Borders traders group said to me, "Fergus, it seems to me that the priorities of the promoters of this bill put foxes before people and I believe that to be very seriously wrong." The bill's procedures, particularly those at stage 3, were fundamentally flawed. They did not allow a proper opportunity for consultation for the bodies affected. I believe that the minister did not even afford such bodies a meeting. How can that procedure be defended? I beg to oppose the bill.
I must declare an interest at this stage. I am a rural rebel, but not one of the orange variety. As I have lived in the countryside almost all my adult life, I will rebel against the myths that have been put about by those who have opposed the bill.
Myth No 1. Everyone who lives in the countryside supports fox hunting. That is absolute rubbish.
Myth No 2. The many thousands of people who enjoy horse riding in Scotland also enjoy fox hunting. That is untrue. The vast majority of horse riders in Scotland have never participated in fox hunting in their lives.
Myth No 3. Those who oppose fox hunting do not understand the need for fox control. Speaking as somebody who has lost all her hens to foxes, I can say that I accept the need for control of foxes. However, the key to the issue of pest control is that it should be humane. The bill, as amended, will allow for that.
Myth No 4. Perhaps the biggest myth of all is that the Executive does not care about rural Scotland. Let us consider the facts: £150 million extra for Scottish farming; £30 million into rural transport and 300 extra rural buses; £30 million into foot-and-mouth disease recovery; £27 million into the Scottish fishing industry. Are those the actions of an Executive that does not care about rural Scotland? Of course not.
The Protection of Animals Act 1835 made bull
I opposed this bill at stage 1 and will do so again this evening. My constituency will probably be the most seriously affected by this legislation. The effect on our local economy has always been my main concern about this bill.
Research by the Borders Foundation for Rural Sustainability has shown that 3,500 part-time jobs or 875 full-time equivalent jobs are supported by the activities that the bill deals with and around £29.6 million of expenditure is generated by game shooting, hunting, fishing, stalking and falconry. Around 900 to 1,000 local businesses service those activities in one form or another. A key point is the fact that many of the businesses are interdependent. For example, 35 per cent of farmers in the Borders generate income from on-farm diversification enterprises, which are predominantly country sports. However, the hoteliers, bed-and-breakfast owners, shopkeepers, feed suppliers, farriers, saddlers, gunsmiths, specialist clothing manufacturers, hauliers, retail outlets and others will regret the passage of the bill.
The imposition of the legislation comes directly after the foot-and-mouth disease crisis, which had many detrimental effects. We are only just beginning to recover from all that that pestilence brought to us and this bill will inflict unnecessary hardship on our local economy. I am especially concerned that the loss of equestrian activity in hunting will impact on equestrian activities in the rest of our area, particularly on the sustainability of Borders festivals.
I share John Home Robertson's concern that the bill should never have been brought before the Parliament. It was a serious misjudgment. The Rural Development Committee's time would have been far better spent on other, more important, matters.
The Scottish Parliament is supposed to represent the whole of Scotland and protect minorities. Passing this bill today will fly in the face of the part of the country that I represent. An ample demonstration of the feeling in my constituency, if one were needed, is that in a poll that was carried out by the local newspaper 15,000 people phoned to oppose the bill but only 700 people supported it.
I urge the Parliament to reject this piece of legislation.
I congratulate Mike Watson, Tricia Marwick and everyone else who has been involved in bringing this bill to fruition, including the clerks of the Rural Development Committee. As one who sat on that committee for over two years and spent a great deal of time dealing with the bill, I can say that a lot of hard work has gone on behind the scenes. We have travelled a very rocky road to get to this point. Some people have tried to bump us off that road, but we made it. To allude to the words of a song from the 1980s, I am certainly "glad it's all over".
There is support for the bill throughout rural Scotland and urban Scotland. There is support for the bill the length and breadth of the country. I represent North-East Scotland, and the majority of people who write to me are in favour of the ban. The Parliament was elected to drag Scotland into the 21st century. That is what we will be doing by—I hope—passing the bill today. We are taking a lead and setting an example to other countries.
I hope that Ireland will consider the example that this Parliament is setting today.
The Parliament has listened to many people in Scotland. The Parliament was always concerned that people who were engaged in genuine pest control would be able to continue to make a living. We have achieved that by listening to their concerns. We have been presented with a good case. When the Rural Development Committee and the Parliament heard a good case, it listened and amended the bill accordingly.
I will go through some of the changes to the bill briefly. It now allows the use of dogs to flush out foxes from underground or from cover. The bill as introduced would not have allowed that. The bill now allows someone to send dogs below ground to kill orphaned cubs because we believed that that was the most humane option. The bill as introduced would not have allowed that. Licensing was dumped at the request of the gamekeepers and other groups. If the guns miss and the dog automatically chases the fox and kills it, the gamekeeper will not be breaking the law. That is another change. The bill also allows a dog to be sent after an injured fox because that is a more humane option. That too was not in the bill at the beginning.
Many people have hijacked the bill, but I say to members that the real rural rebels in my
I urge Parliament to pass the bill so that when people wake up in Scotland tomorrow, the country will be a little bit more civilised.
Before anyone votes to ban hunting in Scotland, they should think clearly about the alternatives that would take the place of the present arrangements for vermin control. That control has always been achieved by a combination of foxhounds, terriers, firearms and trained people.
One cannot train a gun; one can only train a person to use it properly. However, dogs are not only trained to the highest standards but already possess the genes that enable them to achieve the highest standards of efficient control with the minimum of cruelty. Foxhounds and other dogs are as important a tool of fox control as sniffer dogs are to the police in locating drugs and explosives. If we take that tool away, we will leave a weakened control force in Scotland's countryside. The chances are that other methods will be used that are not only illegal, but more inhumane.
By voting for the bill, members will condemn some foxes to slower, more lingering deaths, increase the pressures on farmers through destruction of lambs and on gamekeepers through destruction of their game and greatly lessen the population of ground-nesting birds. In other words, members will leave poorer people in a poorer countryside.
Members will also create a new category of crime and thus a new class of criminals in the rural population. Many will regard the bill as a totally unjustified attack that is aimed, in malice or in ignorance, at the heart of rural tradition. How will it be policed? Will mounted police be recruited and fitted out with brand-new horses to chase groups of riders? If so, who will pay for the vast new expenditure for rural mounted police squads? In short, passing the bill will create serious problems for the police and the courts and will create an extra strain on the Scottish Prison Service when people refuse to pay their fines.
The fox is one of nature's cruellest predators. Anyone who, like me, has seen the results of a
I was one of the signatories to the bill when Mike Watson and Tricia Marwick lodged it. I followed very closely the evidence that was given to the Rural Development Committee and the Rural Affairs Committee. I spoke in the stage 1 debate. I take exception to Alex Fergusson's view that because I did not attend those meetings, I am not entitled to lodge any amendments—especially as I sat on one of the committees that considered the bill and reported to the Rural Affairs Committee some 15 months ago.
We must remember what the bill is about. It is not about technicalities and amendments; it is about banning mounted fox hunting, hare coursing and fox baiting. They are barbaric sports that have no place in a modern Scotland. We have debated the issues and those in favour of the bill have won the arguments. Hunting with dogs fails on every count—on the grounds of humaneness, necessity and need.
It is a tribute to our Parliament that despite continued—and, I must say, desperate—attempts to sabotage the bill, we will still be able to pass a competent bill. Let us not sully the reputation of the Parliament by failing to deliver what the majority of Scottish people have consistently said that they want. The opportunity before us was a long time coming. We can do what Westminster could not, not because there was insufficient support in the House of Commons for such a bill—an overwhelming majority of members of Parliament were in favour—but because vested interests in another place clearly prevented such legislation.
I call on the Scottish Parliament to have the courage of its convictions and to seize the opportunity to ban a vicious and unnecessary so-called sport.
This is difficult for me, because I was originally a signatory to the bill before it was in draft form. Although I supported it in principle at
I said that I was open to the debate and I have listened to the debate. It is not a matter of ballot boxes—I will mention that before other members do. The response to the bill that I received was split 50:50. I view the bill as legislation that does not do what it was intended to do.
I am concerned that we will criminalise gamekeepers and that there is no compensation—not for the rich, to whom I did not speak, but for very ordinary people, many of whom are self-employed and whose jobs will be imperilled if the bill goes through.
As a piece of legislation, the bill is so convoluted that it is in chaos and is unworkable. Indeed, it is bad law. Therefore, I will not support it.
Since the bill was lodged two years ago, I have never wavered in my commitment to the bill. My opposition to fox hunting is based firmly on the values that were instilled in me while I was growing up on the island of North Uist. A child who is brought up in a crofting community is taught to respect nature. I was taught to appreciate the wonder of creation and to treat animals and all wildlife kindly. Those values still permeate the people in the crofting communities whom I represent.
My opposition to fox hunting—which has been articulated by John Home Robertson and Rhona Brankin—is based firmly and squarely on the indisputable fact that hunting foxes with hounds is cruel. As far as I am concerned, animal welfare always was and always will be the issue. Fox hunting is a pursuit that should not be tolerated in a society that calls itself civilised.
Since the bill was lodged, we have had to endure many bogus arguments. I will highlight one such argument—the assertion that hunting foxes with hounds is an efficient way to control pests. That is complete nonsense. If Jamie McGrigor would be so kind as to visit my constituency, I would be delighted to show him an efficient way of exterminating and eradicating a pest—the mink. A scheme that is supported and financed by the Scottish Executive is under way. It is legitimate, efficient and—most important—it is humane.
Some of those who have supported fox hunting—I emphasise that it is only some—have been engaged in a flawed and fraudulent campaign. They have sought to portray the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill as urban Scotland's articulation of its contempt for the countryside. That is a distortion, which is a contemptible campaigning tactic. The debate is
Any bill that bans fox hunting and hare coursing is a credit to this institution.
Presiding Officer, I am conscious that, due to various points of order, the start to the debate was delayed. I am also conscious that a large number of members still wish to speak. Under rule 2.2.6(d), I want to move a motion without notice to extend the meeting of the Parliament.
Division number 53
For: Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Butler, Bill, Campbell, Colin, Canavan, Dennis, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Elder, Dorothy-Grace, Ewing, Fergus, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Ferguson, Patricia, Fergusson, Alex, Fitzpatrick, Brian, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Godman, Trish, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Grahame, Christine, Harding, Mr Keith, Harper, Robin, Hughes, Janis, Hyslop, Fiona, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Jenkins, Ian, Johnstone, Alex, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, MacDonald, Ms Margo, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, Maclean, Kate, Martin, Paul, Marwick, Tricia, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McIntosh, Mrs Lyndsay, McLeod, Fiona, McLetchie, David, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Monteith, Mr Brian, Morgan, Alasdair, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Mundell, David, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Neil, Alex, Oldfather, Irene, Paterson, Mr Gil, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Radcliffe, Nora, Robison, Shona, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Russell, Michael, Scott, Tavish, Sheridan, Tommy, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stone, Mr Jamie, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinney, Mr John, Thomson, Elaine, Wallace, Ben, Watson, Mike, Welsh, Mr Andrew, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan
Against: Brown, Robert, Crawford, Bruce, Ewing, Dr Winnie, Gorrie, Donald, Henry, Hugh, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, McAllion, Mr John, McGugan, Irene, Smith, Elaine, Young, John
Abstentions: Fabiani, Linda, Grant, Rhoda, Home Robertson, Mr John, Macmillan, Maureen
I shall be brief. Like my friend Christine Grahame, I started out by supporting the bill, but by the time that it had reached stage 1, I had decided to vote against it. Even if I had not voted against it at stage 1, I would definitely have decided to vote against the bill this afternoon.
I am not entirely happy with some of the company that I keep. I am certainly not happy with the orange loons in the public gallery, whose behaviour has been anti-democratic and disgraceful. I am not happy that I am on the same side as The Daily Telegraph. I am happy that each of us has the right to decide what we will do, but this afternoon has been a tragedy and a farce.
I want to address my remarks to those members who think that they have struck a blow for progress—the word "civilisation" was used—and for animal welfare. I am afraid that that is not the case. What will happen is that the legitimate activities of gamekeeping and conservation will be damaged possibly beyond repair. Members will have deprived people of their livelihoods without compensation. That is unforgivable and will, I am afraid, come back to haunt the chamber and haunt Scotland.
Most important, we have refused to show a tolerant and inclusive face, which we should show even to those whom we dislike and disapprove of. We have taken the idea that the best is the enemy of the good. As a result, certain people have forced issues that, with a moment's thought, they would have realised could only be damaging. The attitude in some parts of the chamber has been, "We are the masters now." That has no place in a new Scotland. That applies to the left and to the right. If we are trying to build a new Scotland, the attitude that there should be no compensation for some because we did not get it is not an attitude on which we can base a new democracy or a new nation.
This has been a bad afternoon for the Parliament. I regret having been here. I hope—despite the babbling that is coming from the Labour benches—that the Parliament may learn, over time, how to tolerate even those whom we dislike.
Today has been a positive day for the Parliament, and although I disagreed with just about everything that Mike Russell said, it has been positive precisely because he had the right to say it. Today we have had genuine debate. Members from different parties have agreed with one another, and members from the same party have disagreed with one another. There has therefore been an opportunity for genuine debate and discussion, without party whips and party lines. At decision time, the important thing will be that the bill will be carried because it is right. The bill will be carried because the message that it sends from this Parliament is right.
People have said that the bill is not a priority. In August 1999, Mike Watson and I had a discussion not long after we had both submitted our respective member's bills—mine to abolish warrant sales and Mike's to ban hunting with dogs. At the time, Mike Watson said that he had been thinking of introducing a member's bill to abolish warrant sales. It is probably an irony that my bill was debated first but that Mike's bill will become legislation before the abolition of warrant sales. That is a pity—a pity that I want to point out to the Tories.
The Tories have prattled on today about their concern for people. It is a pity that the only party that voted as a party to prevent the abolition of the humiliation of warrant sales was the Tory party. Tory members should be ashamed of themselves for having taken that action.
Members will support the bill today because the message that it will send out, loud and clear, is that the type of Scotland that we want to create is a Scotland that is tolerant, a Scotland that is compassionate, and a Scotland that is no longer prepared to stand by and watch cruelty inflicted on animals in the name of sport. That cruelty has to be rejected. If the Parliament has the courage to reject it today, I agree that that will not have been action on a priority issue, but it will have been action on a progressive issue. That is something that the Parliament can be proud of.
I have listened with interest to the views on the aims of this so-called bill. I challenge anyone who
The bill has damaged the gamekeepers who have to go about their business. The ham-fisted way in which the bill has been put through Parliament has done nothing for the welfare of the fox. It will allow mounted pursuit of the fox to continue.
The members on the other side of the argument sat there looking as if they were on "University Challenge". However, they had none of the answers and they did not even ask the right questions.
This debate is not only about welfare issues; it is about freedoms. I am here to defend the right of people to hunt foxes. I know about freedom. People sneer when I mention the Army. I did not run a local authority and I did not go on strike, but I defended real freedoms. I saw people on the streets of Belfast and I shovelled bodies into bin bags, between bigoted communities that would not allow freedom and would not tolerate minorities.
That is what we are doing today—we are failing to tolerate minorities. There are endless reports—discursive or inconclusive—about the cruelty that is inflicted on the animal. People tell me that because they do not like the by-product of an act, the act should be stopped. Some people do not like the by-product of killing a fox, but some people get kicks out of that. I do not hunt, so I get no particular kicks from that. Some people get kicks out of bondage, some people get kicks out of horror films and some people get kicks out of watching boxing, but it is not my sanctimonious right to take those things away. It is not my right to legislate against the ways in which people get their kicks.
Many people in the Parliament fought for the freedom to have a Parliament. Some parties campaigned for Scotland's freedom. How quick we have been today to limit the freedom of the people of Scotland. I will not support the bill.
That speech demonstrates why Ben Wallace should be at Westminster, rather than here.
I spoke and voted against the bill at stage 1. It became clear to the Rural Development Committee that the bill was flawed, unworkable, unenforceable and would prevent legitimate pest control in rural Scotland, but the Parliament
Several members of the Rural Development Committee have said that the bill was clearly flawed and would not do what it sought to achieve. It makes me wonder why there was no attempt to introduce a committee bill to address the issue of fox hunting on its own, rather than adopting a destructive tactic and suggesting that that was not an option.
That was one of the suggestions that was made by the committee, but it was not supported.
The Scottish Parliament rejected the committee's view at stage 1. However, nothing that has happened during today's debate has convinced me that the bill is now a workable piece of legislation. I would be interested to hear whether the Scottish Executive thinks that the bill, after all the amendments that have been made at stage 3, is now enforceable. I believe that the Deputy Minister for Environment and Rural Development is going to speak in the debate and I ask him to give the Parliament an assurance that the bill can be enforced in rural Scotland.
The bill brings uncertainty to the activities of the gamekeepers, hill packs and terrier packs—those who go about the legitimate business of trying to control the fox population in areas where foxes are a pest. It is important that that service continues for farmers and crofters. The bill will bring great uncertainty as to whether such pest control can continue.
Even worse, the bill is a lawyer's charter. The courts will be left to sort out the mess that we have created today.
The bill might have had one redeeming feature—that is, if the compensation amendment had been accepted. Like many of my colleagues, I was utterly gobsmacked that the Tories chose to put politics ahead of the people who will be affected by the bill. Instead of standing up and supporting the gamekeepers, the Tories chose to abandon the only amendment that had any chance of success. They put politics before the gamekeepers and they should be condemned for that. [Interruption.]
Thank you. I was making a legitimate point.
The bill and the way that it has been forced through against the informed views of the Rural Development Committee will do the Parliament no credit. It is a flawed and unenforceable piece of legislation that all of us in the chamber will come to regret.
I will be brief because the debate has been lengthy, and properly so. Parliament is now approaching a point where it must make a decision. Creating a new criminal offence is not something that any Parliament should do lightly. Any dispassionate observer—if there are any left—would agree that some 23 months of discussion and deliberation cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be described as either cursory or superficial. The members of the Rural Development Committee are to be commended for the thorough and professional job that they have done.
The bill has come in for criticism from some quarters in the chamber today; members have suggested that it will not be workable or that it will be unenforceable. I believe that to be untrue. Although the bill was not constructed in the way that it would have been if it had been an Executive bill, as Richard Lochhead rightly pointed out, it has been amended at stage 2 and now at stage 3. If the majority of MSPs vote in favour of the bill, it will pass into law.
I put it to the chamber, and to Phil Gallie, that that is what Parliamentary democracy is all about. It is a measure of the Parliament's strength that it can address difficult and contentious issues in a mature manner.
Members are now free to vote as they choose on the fate of the bill as amended. I encourage members to consider not only today's debate, but all the evidence that they have read or listened to since they voted in favour of the principles of the bill on 19 September 2001.
I begin by thanking the minister for his co-operation. I also extend my thanks to Mike Watson for the civility that he has always shown, even to opponents of the bill, during the bill's passage, particularly at stage 2.
However, I do not agree with Mike Watson and I do not agree with what he said today. One thing is absolutely clear about the bill. It is such a pig's ear that Tony Blair will run a mile from it. After the mess that has been made today, it is absolutely clear that we will not see action on banning
We have not banned hunting. That is where Tommy Sheridan and the other supporters of the bill have been conned. The bill will still allow people to go out in their red coats, to shout their tally-hos and to smear themselves in whatever they like. They will still be allowed to go out drag hunting. If a fox comes along, there is nothing to prevent those people from killing it.
The bill's supporters have not banned the killing of foxes by dogs. Of course, foxes are the priority. Rabbits do not matter; they can just be torn limb from limb. If a hawk is doing that, that is fine. Hawks can even pull foxes apart. We went through a great pretence to ensure that one of the amendments deleted the word "dog", but there is no concern about birds of prey.
As Elaine Murray eruditely pointed out during the stage 1 debate, the bill has nothing to do with cruelty. It has everything to do with the hijacking of the parliamentary process by lobbyists with a very determined agenda. When it came to the bit, the lobbyists were not satisfied just with banning mounted fox hunting, a measure that they could have got through the Parliament with an overwhelming majority, even though I would have voted against it. The law would then have been on the statute books. The lobbyists could not accept that, however; they had to push and push their own agendas so that the bill covered gamekeepers and other people carrying out legitimate activities in the countryside.
That is what the bill's supporters have countersigned today by voting through all the amendments that repealed the Rural Development Committee's work. The bill's supporters have done the work of the people at the extreme end of animal activism. They have been conned, just like the Liberal Democrats were conned, into accepting £150,000 to sell out people's right to challenge the bill under the European convention of human rights.
The one positive vote was that against Karen Gillon's amendment 84. That vote will ensure that the bill goes all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, where people will be able to argue for the compensation that they deserve.
Members will no doubt agree to put the bill on the statute book. That will be a
Even if the bill's supporters believe that the bill will do what they say that it will, there is not a toff—as some people would describe such a person—who cannot now go to Northumberland and hunt. Even better, there is not a toff who cannot go to Ireland, which positively wants people to hunt there. It is interesting that, in his discussions with the Irish Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport will be saying that Scotland has entered a new dawn and that Ireland, which is our partner, is some sort of barbaric state because it allows fox hunting. That is the ridiculous situation that has been created today.
This is the end of this particular chapter of what will be a long and sorry story. I hope that everyone who is concerned for the Parliament as a legislature, rather than as a body that allows sentiment to prevail, will vote against the bill.
I start by thanking a number of people and organisations. I thank the members of the Parliament who accepted the guidance from Bristow Muldoon, me and others of the pro-bill support group and the tight amendments that we suggested would make the bill complete, remove the wrecking amendments that were accepted at stage 2 and ensure that no wrecking amendments were accepted at stage 3.
I thank my parliamentary staff—Craig Milroy and Karen Newton—for the extra work that they have had to do in connection with the bill. I thank Les Ward, from Advocates for Animals, and the Scottish Campaign Against Hunting with Dogs. I thank Peter Hastie for the work that he did on the bill, but I will not praise him too highly, because that might cause him difficulties in his new employment. I thank the Scottish Gamekeepers Association for the constructive way in which it has engaged with the Parliament on the bill. It has done a power of work in lobbying, on which it is to be congratulated.
Mike Watson and I gave a commitment to the Parliament at stage 1 that the final bill would do three things: it would ban mounted fox hunts; it would ban hare coursing; and it would ban fox baiting. I am satisfied today that we have achieved
George Lyon said that the bill would be challenged in the courts. Well, what a surprise. I seem to recall that the bill was challenged in the courts before it even got to the Parliament. It was challenged in the courts in an attempt to prevent this day from happening.
I agree with John Home Robertson that the bill is not a priority for the Parliament. It has never been a priority for Mike Watson, Tommy Sheridan, Bristow Muldoon or me. I have been progressing other matters in the Parliament, but just because the bill is not a priority does not mean that it is not worth having.
Euan Robson said that the bill would devastate the Borders economy. I say to him that the Borders has suffered grievously during the past few years. It has lost hundreds of jobs at Viasystems and elsewhere. However, very few jobs are associated with the hunts. If the hunt owners would go over to drag hunting, there would be no job losses. That would be the sensible thing for them to do. Why will the hunt owners not go over to drag hunting? A master of foxhounds said, "We will not indulge in drag hunting because it would be like having sex with a condom on." Perhaps he, rather than me, should explain that.
I want to make it clear to those inside and outside the chamber that the bill will not be the forerunner of future bills. The Scottish Countryside Alliance and others in rural Scotland have peddled lies. Those lies need to be nailed and they need to be nailed today. I will never give my support in the Parliament to a bill that would ban fishing or shooting. Those activities are an essential part of our countryside. I do not believe that any member of the Parliament would support such a move.
The bill is not about rural Scotland versus urban Scotland. There is a majority in both rural and urban Scotland for the bill. I resent being told by people who leave Edinburgh's new town every week in their Range Rovers to hunt in the Borders that the rest of us do not understand the countryside. This is our country. Rural Scotland is important to every member in the chamber.
Today has been a long day. Let us now vote on the bill.
I am always happy to oblige, especially someone in the Deputy Presiding Officer's august office. I ask the chamber's permission to move a motion without notice.
To allow for the fact that business has concluded early, I move,
That, under Rule 11.2.4, Decision Time be taken at
Motion agreed to.