FORMER Labour First Minister Jack McConnell has joined the growing criticism of the Scottish Government’s decision to reinstate tail-docking for puppies.

Lord McConnell said many people would be “astonished” at the “backward step”.

He said: “When there are so many problems in Scottish education and other areas of Scottish Government policy, I cannot believe it has given priority to reintroducing cutting tails from young dogs.

“When we introduced the ban there was clear evidence to support it and that evidence still exists today. Many Scots will be astonished that the Scottish Government has chosen this backward step.”

Tail-docking was banned outright in Scotland when Lord McConnell was head of the Scottish Executive a decade ago through the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.

However most SNP, Tory and LibDem MSPs voted to relax the ban for hunting dogs last week, meaning spaniels and hunt point retrievers under five days old can have a third of their tails amputated without anaesthetic to avoid more serious injuries in later life.

The British Veterinary Association said it was “appalled” by the decision, while the Dogs Trust called it a “significant step backward for animal welfare”.

However the Scottish Gamekeepers Association said it ended a decade of dogs have to endure painful injuries.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the procedure, involving skin, muscle, bone and nerve damage, was “briefly painful” but said vets would make the decisions in the interests of the animals, and it was “proportional” to the problem.