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Scottish Nationalists Anger UK PM by Blocking Fox Hunting Vote

The UK government wanted to relax rules on fox hunting in England and Wales, but the Scottish National Party has stopped the ballot, despite claiming they would only vote on issues north of the border.

by Megan White
Jul 14 2015, 3:17pm

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The pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) has frustrated UK national government plans to hold a vote to relax the fox-hunting ban in England and Wales.

A controversial ballot, scheduled for Wednesday, would have changed the law to allow an unlimited number of dogs to be used to "flush out" a fox, but not kill it. Opponents claimed that the move was an attempt to legalize hunting by stealth. 

Britain banned fox hunting, in which groups of riders follow a pack of hounds trained to track down and kill the animals, in 2004 after an acrimonious battle that saw hunting supporters clash with riot police outside the UK parliament.

The SNP announced on Monday that it would unanimously oppose the motion — even though the party had promised to vote only on issues that affect Scotland. On Tuesday the vote was delayed, and UK Prime Minister David Cameron's office claimed that new proposals on act would be introduced "in due course."

'David Cameron is "not master of all he surveys"'

The SNP was thrust into the British political limelight after decimating the left-leaning Labour party's support north of the border in the May general election, winning 56 of Scotland's 59 seats in an unprecedented landslide victory.

Cameron's office admitted that it was the Scottish nationalists' decision which prompted the shelving of the vote. A source said: "This happened because [SNP leader] Nicola Sturgeon has done a 180-degree turn. Her actions speak for themselves. That's why we are in the position we are in."

Cameron also described the SNP as "entirely opportunistic."

Sturgeon said this showed that Cameron had a "slender and fragile" parliamentary majority and that the prime minister is "not master of all he surveys in the House of Commons."

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The postponement was announced as animal welfare activists prepared to stage a rally outside parliament against any amendment of the Hunting Act, which outlawed the hunting of wild mammals with dogs in England and Wales in 2004, two years after similar legislation in Scotland.

Fox hunting has always been a contentious issue in Britain — supporters of the sport claim that the animals are vermin, upon which tight population control must be imposed, with opponents claiming it is an inhumane blood sport.

The recent Conservative general election victory has brought the issue back to the fore, with many members of the right-wing party claiming that the ban has "done nothing for animal welfare" and that people should have the "freedom to hunt."

Follow Megan White on Twitter: @whatmegandid

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Watch the VICE News documentary, Will Britain Bring Back the Hunt?