The new Scottish Government minister responsible for reforming fox hunting legislation has been urged to ban the “barbaric sport”.

Mairi Gougeon was promoted to the newly created position of Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment in Nicola Sturgeon’s recent reshuffle.

The Sunday Herald has learned that one of Gougeon’s first tasks will be to decide whether to overhaul the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act following a review by former judge Lord Bonomy which recommended strengthening the legislation.

Cabinet secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham, had responsibility before Gougeon took it on.

The junior minister met stakeholders this week, including the Scottish Countryside Alliance, which is pro-hunting, and animal welfare charities the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland.

Gougeon, who was first elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2016, is understood to be considering how to respond to a public consultation which showed overwhelming support for reform.

Almost all of the 18,787 respondents indicated support for moves which would strengthen the 2002 law. The Bonomy review concluded that there are still “aspects and features of the legislation which complicate unduly the detection, investigation and prosecution of alleged offences”.

The Scottish Government analysis of the public consultation said: “Between 94 per cent and 98 per cent of respondents indicated support for or agreement with each of Lord Bonomy’s proposals for reform.

“These figures reflect the very large campaign response. Among the organisational respondents, animal welfare charities and campaign groups indicated support, whereas countryside management and sporting groups generally indicated opposition.”

The 2002 act banned hunts from using dogs to track down and tear apart foxes. The existing legislation still allows huntsmen to use dogs to flush animals from cover before they are shot.

The Scottish Countryside Alliance has always insisted all hunts have operated within the law since the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act was passed, but animal welfare charities have gathered evidence which appears to contradict this position. The new season begins on November 1.

Robbie Marsland, director of the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, said: “With this year's hunting season getting closer, it's disappointing that we are still in the same position as previous years with a law which is highly ineffective in doing what it was intended for.

“However, we are pleased to have a new minister tasked with progressing Bonomy's recommendations and we are keen to work productively with her to ensure that fox hunting is really banned in Scotland – for good.”

Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone added: “New minister Mairi Gougeon can hit the ground running and show real commitment to animal welfare in Scotland by making this legislation fit for purpose, properly banning fox hunting for once and for all.

“I will do all that I can to support her in ending this barbaric sport. Polling shows she will have the support too of the overwhelming majority of people in this country.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are committed to ensuring the highest welfare standards for all animals – including those in the wild.

“Almost 20,000 people responded to our consultation on Lord Bonomy’s recommendations and we have now published the consultation analysis which the newly appointed Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment Mairi Gougeon will consider before setting out next steps as part of her remit which includes animal welfare.”

The Scottish Countryside Alliance did not respond to a request for comment.