New legislation to tighten restrictions on fox hunting in Scotland is to be introduced at Holyrood. Hunting with hounds was effectively banned in 2002, but dogs can still be used for flushing out foxes to be shot. The new bill will be designed to close loopholes in the existing rules, limiting the number of dogs which can be used while hunting to two.
Gamekeepers said this would make hunts "totally ineffective" and would be "a disaster for wildlife and farm stock". The government is looking at including a licensing scheme for "legitimate pest control" schemes to use more than two dogs.
The move is part of a package of animal welfare measures unveiled at Holyrood on Wednesday, including new rules requiring all abattoirs to install CCTV cameras. Fox hunting in Scotland is currently controlled by the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act, which came into force in 2002.
This in effect banned hunting with dogs, but included an exemption allowing them to be used to flush foxes out of cover so they can be shot as a pest control measure. Questions were raised about the effectiveness of the law, which police called "unworkable" and which was not used to secure a conviction until 2017.
Ministers are to accept many of the recommendations of Lord Bonomy's review of the law, which found that rules were "unduly complicated" and should be changed.