Government Suspends Hunting Vote After SNP Vows to Block It

Participants Prepare For The Traditional Boxing Day Hunt
Matt Cardy/Getty Images

The government has suspended a vote on relaxing the hunting ban in England, which would have brought the law in line with Scotland, after the SNP broke their commitment to not interfere with solely English laws. An official SNP statement said the decision is a warning to the “arrogant” Tory government and a reminder of “just how slender their majority is.”

The nationalist MPs made the decision Monday night without taking a vote. Their participation would have almost certainly proven decisive in bringing the first major defeat for the Tories. The government suspended the vote this morning in response.

The move is likely to reignite both the hunting debate and that over English votes for English laws (Evel), as the government recently shelved long-awaited plans to address the discrepancy for fear they would lose that vote too.

Under the proposals, traditional hunting will remain banned across the UK, but huntsmen in England and Wales would be allowed to use a full pack of dogs to flush out foxes, rather than the two dogs that they are currently restricted to, as Scots are already allowed to do north of the border.

Pro-hunting Conservatives hinted yesterday that they would stop agitating for a complete scrap of the ban this parliament, if the law was relaxed. “I would always support measures to repeal the hunting act,” said one to The Times. “However, if we get these changes, I’m not going to stir that pot endlessly for the rest of the parliament.”

Now it is likely they will be once again be pushing for a free vote on a repeal, as promised by Cameron in the election campaign. Pushing though such a controversial amendment was always set to be exceptionally close run with Tories commanding a majority of just 12; with some certainty, the votes of the SNP’s 56 MPs would have proven decisive.

“The SNP have a longstanding position of not voting on matters that purely affect England – such as foxhunting south of the border, for example – and we stand by that,” Nicola Sturgeon wrote in The Guardian in February.

The reasons given in the official SNP statement regarding the decision, indicate that their reason’s for changing stance include asserting their power in Westminster generally, and so attempting to gain influence other issues they wish to advance. Others will see the move as unproductive, and a deliberate provocation. The statement reads:

“We are in a situation where the Tory government are refusing to agree to any amendments to improve the Scotland Bill – which are supported by 58 of Scotland’s 59 MPs – and imposing English Votes for English Laws to make Scotland’s representation at Westminster second class.

“In these circumstances, it is right and proper that we assert the Scottish interest on fox hunting by voting with Labour against the Tories’ proposals to relax the ban – in the process, reminding an arrogant UK government of just how slender their majority is – just as we will vote against the Tory welfare cuts next week, and appeal to Labour to join us.”

A demonstration against any changes to the hunting act is scheduled to take place in Westminster tomorrow. “GREAT NEWS – SNP ON FOX HUNTING VOTE – Intend to vote “NO”,” wrote Brian May of Facebook last night.


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