THE SNP accepted a £10,000 donation from an animal rights group just weeks after its MPs blocked a vote on English fox hunting, it has emerged.

The cash, from the Political Animal Lobby (PAL), was paid into the party's coffers on August 14, after it scuppered David Cameron's drive to weaken the fox hunting ban despite the move standing to have no impact in Scotland.

Ahead of the general election, Nicola Sturgeon highlighted fox hunting as an example of an 'English only' issue which the SNP's self-denying ordinance, which means its MPs only interfere in matters affecting Scotland, meant it would not vote on.

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In February, the 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."

However, in July the party said it would vote against any move to relax the ban, forcing the Conservatives to abandon its plans after it became clear the UK Government would not have the numbers to win a vote. Labour were set to oppose changing the legislation, which led to a ban coming into force south of the border in 2005, along with a handful of Tory MPs who had vowed to rebel.

PAL is the sister organisation of Network for Animals, which has boasted of lobbying the SNP "tirelessly" in an effort to persuade the party to have its MPs wade into the issue.

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said there were "serious questions" for the SNP after news of the donation emerged. Labour also took £10,000 from PAL in September.

He said: "Can it just be a coincidence that, shortly before receiving this very generous donation to boost party funds, the SNP decided to change a decades-old policy?

"People will be extremely suspicious about this link. The SNP will clearly have a lot of work to do to persuade people this wasn't simply a bribe."

In the summer, Ms Sturgeon said the SNP had decided to vote against the move partly because of the strength of feeling in England against relaxing the ban, partly because Scotland is thinking about strengthening its own ban, and partly as an act of defiance against the way Mr Cameron has treated the SNP and Scotland.

An SNP spokesman said: "The SNP has long been against fox hunting."