An animal welfare charity has praised the launch of a public consultation on a potential ban on wild animals in travelling circuses

The Scottish Government said tonight it is seeking the public's views on the issue despite their being no such cases north of the Border.

However, it is aware of concerns elsewhere in the UK.

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The move was welcomed by animal protection charity OneKind, which has a long-running petition to the Scottish Parliament on the subject.

Policy director Libby Anderson said: "OneKind believes that there are both animal welfare and ethical grounds for a ban on this outdated use of animals.

"After many delays, it is essential to create legislation that will withstand challenge, not only from within the UK but also from the powerful European circus industry."

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said there are no circuses with wild animals based in Scotland but the topic was being considered in other parts of the UK.

The consultation will explore issues such as respect for wild animals, the travelling environment and the ethical cost versus any potential benefit.

"The health and wellbeing of these animals is clearly something which is close to many people's hearts and is one of the main reasons why we are seeking views in this consultation," he said.

"I understand that circuses bring joy to a number of people, however, we must weight this up with the welfare of the animals - something that I and the Scottish Government take extremely seriously.

"We need to gain a clearer understanding of the picture in Scotland and this consultation will allow us to gain the evidence needed before pressing ahead with any decision."