The Scottish government has introduced a new two-dog limit for all use of dogs in the course of hunting in a bid to prevent the chasing and killing of wild mammals by dogs for sport in Scotland.

The Hunting with Dogs Bill aims to “close loopholes in existing laws” that have allowed the practice of illegal hunting to continue, the government said yesterday (Tuesday, January 24).

The bill will also see the introduction of a ban on the practice of trail hunting. A new licencing scheme to allow the use of more than two dogs will be required for certain limited circumstances.

This is to provide farmers and land managers access to appropriate and humane control measures where necessary, the government said.

Environment Minister, Mairi McAllan, said the passing of the new bill represents a “significant step forward in protecting Scotland’s wildlife from the cruel and senseless practice of illegal hunting”.

“I am pleased that the parliament has agreed on a new law which will close the door on the illegal chasing and killing of mammals once and for all.

“I’d like to thank everyone who responded to our public consultations and interested groups for their valuable input throughout this process,” she added.

“I believe that this new legislation has struck the right balance between ensuring Scotland pursues the highest possible animal welfare standards, while recognising the need for farmers, land managers and environmental organisations to undertake legitimate wildlife management.”

Scottish Countryside Alliance

The Scottish Countryside Alliance has said that the Hunting with Dogs Bill is both “unjustified and unnecessary”.

Director of the alliance, Jake Swindells, said: “The Scottish government’s own review found that restrictions on the use of packs of dogs could compromise fox control and put both farmer’s livelihoods and threatened wildlife at risk.

“Whilst it is frustrating that so much time and resource has been wasted on this bill, the licensing scheme is, at least, an explicit acceptance by the Scottish government that the use of packs of dogs in wildlife management is effective and necessary.

“It will now be down to NatureScot, the licensing body, to ensure that farmers and wildlife managers are able to access the best options for fox control in all circumstances.”