Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 21st January 2021.

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Photo of Ben Macpherson Ben Macpherson Scottish National Party

I welcome the consensus on the amendments that the bill requires, and in particular on the merit of making the agreed changes to the 1953 act at this time.

I note the points that John Finnie and Claudia Beamish raised about prosecution and resources for investigation. I am happy to liaise with members, including Emma Harper, on those matters ahead of stage 2.

Claudia Beamish, Colin Smyth and Finlay Carson made points around looking again at dog control notices. I simply highlight the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee’s report on the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010, and the committee’s on-going work, which will include hearing from the Minister for Community Safety shortly.

There is also a Scottish Government-led working group that covers animal welfare policy. Participation in that forum has involved looking at both legislative and non-legislative opportunities to improve the dog control notice regime, and that work will continue. I am happy to liaise with members on those matters ahead of stage 2, if that would be helpful.

I again thank Emma Harper for seeking to modernise the legislation in a practical way, in order to address the concerns of the farming community. As Stewart Stevenson mentioned, dog attacks can have devastating effects, such as the horrific reported killing of 50 pregnant sheep in Wales just a few days ago. I know that farmers care deeply about the welfare of their livestock, and the bill will help to ensure that all animals in Scotland, whether they are farm-dwelling or companion animals, receive the protection that they deserve.

I maintain that the focused changes that are proposed in the bill will have an immediate impact in raising public awareness of not only what is in the bill, but the associated general issues, as Peter Chapman emphasised. I believe that the passage of the bill will, in due course, help to assure the farming community that this Parliament takes the matter of livestock worrying very seriously.

Given the stage that we are at in the parliamentary cycle, and the undoubted on-going impacts of the pandemic and of European Union exit, I hope that members will work collaboratively to allow the swift passage of this focused bill through stage 1 and on to completion by the end of the parliamentary session. The bill, as amended in the ways that we have debated today, will strengthen the law and help to reduce distressing attacks on livestock and the associated mental and financial hardship that those attacks cause to all concerned. The Scottish Government therefore supports the general principles of the bill and urges the Parliament to pass it at stage 1, at decision time.