The Scottish Countryside Alliance (SCA) is accusing the Scottish government of "compromising the livelihoods of farmers" with the introduction of a new hunting bill to parliament.

The Hunting with Dogs Bill was introduced to parliament yesterday (February 24) and published online today (February 25). Its purpose is to protect wildlife, i.e. foxes and hares, from being chased and killed by packs of dogs, and will replace existing legislation in this area.

According to the SCA, this will deprive farmers of the ability to protect their livestock and thus, their livelihoods, as using packs of dogs to flush out foxes from fields remains a common control measure on farms and estates.

"This legislation is an unnecessary and unjustified attack on rural Scotland," said SCA group director Jake Swindells.

"Depriving farmers of the ability to protect their livestock and their livelihoods would be a direct attack on their rights. Restricting the ability of land managers to protect threatened species like curlew and capercaillie is equally illogical.

"The only way the damage done by these proposals can be mitigated is by ensuring that the proposed licensing scheme is workable, practical and open to all farmers and land managers who use packs of dogs as part of their fox control measures."

Scotland's government has recognised that there is a need for predators such as foxes to be controlled in certain circumstances, and because of this the bill will allow dogs to be used to search for, stalk and flush wild mammals - if the activity meets the requirements of the bill.

And, these circumstances include preventing serious damage to livestock, as well as timber or crops, protecting human health and preventing the spread of disease.

Certain conditions will apply, including, for example, using no more than two dogs unless a licence has been granted and obtaining permission from the land owner or the person who manages or controls the use of that lands.

“However, I should like to be clear, that foxes can cause significant harm to livestock, as well as other wildlife such as ground nesting birds – so it is important that farmers and land managers have access to control measures that are efficient and humane. This legislation provides that," said Environment Minister Mairi McAllan.

However for Ian Duncan Millar, a sheep farmer from Perthshire, this is not quite good enough.

"If we are forced to a maximum of two dogs to flush out foxes it will be a totally impractical process as we know the fox will run around in the forest without fear or opportunity of the dogs flushing it from cover, or even getting close," Ian said.