The free vote to amend the Hunting Act will not be going ahead tomorrow, due to interference from the Scottish National Party.
The Conservative government planned on tackling the repeal via free vote as part of its manifesto, but a lack of support meant that David Cameron could no longer attempt to repeal the ban entirely, merely try to relax the law.
Previously, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon had cited fox hunting as the kind of English issue that her party would not vote on, but she has now changed her mind, saying: “There has been an overwhelming demand from people in England for the SNP to vote on this issue this week.”
“The second reason is that this debate has thrown a spotlight onto Scotland’s hunting law. It’s made a lot of people think we should be tightening up our law to bring it in to line with England’s law as it stands.
“The third reason is less to do with fox hunting. Since the election, David Cameron’s government has shown very little respect to the mandate that Scottish MPs have.”
With support for the amendment starting to wane as SNP members vetoed the vote, the Conservative government decided to postpone the free vote, which will not be taking place tomorrow.
Hunts are only allowed to use two dogs to hunt foxes for pest control purposes under current legislation, but the government wanted to give MPs the opportunity to increase that number to bring the law in line with Scottish legislation, which allows unlimited dogs to flush the fox. Despite the fact that the law is only set to affect England and Wales, the Scottish National Party demanded to maintain the current English fox hunting legislation and are looking to strengthen Scottish law. Angus Robertson, leader of the SNP group in Westminster, stated that the opposition to the repeal has sent the Conservative government a message about the narrowness of its majority. Due to the outcome of today, the Conservative government is planning on introducing “EVEL” (“English votes for English laws”) effectively blocking Scottish MPs from voting on English matters in future.
Conservative MP Liam Fox, who had previously expressed concerns that the Tory government would not be able to push through a full repeal of the Hunting Act, reacted to the announcement from the SNP: “What we’ve seen is a particularly toxic mixture of opportunism and hypocrisy coming from the SNP.” He added, “It seems that while we are trying to be reasonable to the SNP they are sticking two fingers up at us.”
Tim Bonner of the Countryside Alliance remarked: “The SNPs decision clearly has nothing to do with hunting and this is now a constitutional issue. It is difficult to believe that the Hunting Act has been brought further into disrepute but this ridiculous process has achieved that.”