POLITICS

Foxhunting Vote Postponed After SNP Vow To Vote Against Changes

14/07/2015 10:53 BST | Updated 14/07/2015 16:59 BST

David Cameron has postponed plans to water down the foxhunting ban after the SNP vowed to vote against the changes.

The vote on the changes, which would have lifted the two-hound limit on hunting foxes for vermin control purposes, was due to take place on Wednesday.

Despite the changes only affecting hunting in England and Wales, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon today confirmed her party’s MPs would vote against the amendment.

The 56 SNP MPs, together with Labour and a sizeable number of Tories opposed to foxhunting, would likely have led to the measure being defeated.

Chris Pitt, Deputy Director of Campaigns at The League Against Cruel Sports, told The Huffington Post UK: "In one sense this is good news because we've got a temporary reprieve for the foxes as the Government realise they weren't going to win.

"However it does mean they will come back when they stop the SNP coming into this. We are going to carry on fighting and educating MPs.

"If this goes ahead it will it will be impossible to prosecute anyone for illegal hunting."

The vote is now expected to come in the Autumn, after new rules banning Scottish MPs from voting on matters which only affect England come into force.

However, just an hour after it was announced the Government was postponing the vote, further details were released of the so-called 'English votes for English Laws (EVEL) plan.

According to the details, statutory instruments on English-only laws, such as the one being used to amend the Hunting Act, would still require a majority in the House of Commons to pass.

Therefore, the SNP could still block the proposal in the Autumn.

Read why EVEL will not ban the SNP from a future foxhunting vote

The announcement came as hundreds of anti-hunt protesters, including Queen guitarist Brian May, descended on Parliament to oppose the changes to the hunting ban.

Among other protestors outside Parliament, Kitt Jones, of the Hertfordshire and Middlesex Badger Group, said: "We're giving Cameron a black eye. We've got 80% of the population behind us"

Tyler Halliday added: "The SNP are probably the best thing that could have possibly happened."

In February, Ms Sturgeon said the SNP would not vote on English-only matters and specifically cited fox hunting as an example. Writing in The Guardian the Scottish first minister said: "The SNP have a longstanding position of not voting on matters that purely affect England – such as fox hunting south of the border, for example – and we stand by that."

Challenged on the U-turn on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning, Sturgeon explained why she had changed her mind.

She said there been an "overwhelming demand from people in England" for the SNP to vote on fox hunting. However she also said the move was designed to punish the prime minister for not showing the Scottish nationalists enough respect in the Commons.

"Since the election, David Cameron’s government has shown very little respect to the mandate that Scottish MPs have. On the Scotland Bill, reasonable amendments backed by the overwhelming majority of Scottish MPs have been voted down," she said.

"The English votes for English laws proposals brought forward go beyond any reasonable proposition and look to make Scottish MPs effectively second-class citizens in the House of Commons. So, I think if there’s an opportunity – as there appears to be here – and on an issue where David Cameron appears to be out of touch with majority English opinion as well, to actually remind the government how slender their majority is."

The SNP's plan to vote against legislation which has no clear impact north of the border has provoked strong reactions from those unhappy at the party's power in Westminster.

In a blog for The Huffington Post UK, Ukip's Deputy Leader Paul Nuttall suggested Ms Sturgeon should be thrown in front of a hunt horse in memory of the actions of the suffragettes.

Maria Eagle MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, described the retreat as a "shambles".

She said: “David Cameron is now running scared because he knew he was going to lose the vote on fox hunting. The Government’s proposed changes to the Hunting Act have become a shambles. This has nothing to do with ‘pest control’ - it is a shabby attempt to repeal a successful piece of animal welfare legislation by the back-door.”