Fox hunting is banned in Scotland. Yet since November 1, which marks the beginning of the fox hunting season, hunts will have been riding out with full packs of dogs at their heels in search for foxes to kill.

In England and Wales they will be more constrained, largely thanks to the SNP. Earlier this year, their dramatic intervention in Westminster prevented the Conservatives’ scrapping amendments to the Hunting Act. In doing so, they stated in no uncertain terms that “we totally oppose fox hunting”. To the relief of animal welfare groups, they also confirmed they would review whether the Scottish ban is strong enough.

The Scottish ban on hunting with dogs was introduced back in 2002. The symbolism of the newly formed Scottish Parliament taking assertive action on this issue in spite of opposition from a noisy and powerful minority was not lost on anyone involved at the time.

On the day that the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 was finally passed, SNP MSP Richard Lochhead, now Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment, declared that “the Parliament was elected to drag Scotland into the 21st century. That is what we will be doing by—I hope—passing the bill today. I urge Parliament to pass the bill so that when people wake up in Scotland tomorrow, the country will be a little bit more civilised.”

Fourteen years on, we’re still waiting for that morning. Exemption clauses that were introduced during the Bill’s passage effectively undermined the legislation, particularly when it comes to hunting foxes.

Basically, whilst intentional hunting is banned, packs of dogs can "flush" – chase out of cover - foxes as long as the intention is to shoot the fox once it emerges. "Accidental" killing of the fox by hounds is also permitted.

This means fox hunting appears to continue, in spite of the apparent will of the Parliament to ban it. The hunts are pretty honest about what’s going on. The Buccleuch Hunt observes that “all Scottish packs use the exemption allowing foxes to be flushed to guns”. In other words, they’re all exploiting an enormous loophole in the law. The League Against Cruel Sports investigation of Scottish hunts in the 2014/15 season gave the impression this is routine. They filmed half the hunts in Scotland between December and March and didn’t report seeing a single gun.

We believe this has been happening for some time. Back in 2007, one hunt follower in the Borders told a OneKind field officer the hunt was working “by the rules” that day, as the “antis” were around. Other reports from Scottish hunts show grisly scenes depicting horrific cruelty.

One example shows video footage of a terrier being sent underground to trap a fox. When the fox is finally dug out with the dog still latched on to its face, the huntsmen tear it off before stepping on the fox’s throat and finally shooting it.

Compare this situation for a moment with the smoking ban, introduced by the Scottish Parliament back in 2005. The legislation does what it says on the tin, and if you light up in a restaurant nowadays you can expect zero tolerance from the management and, if it came to it, the police. “Accidental” smoking is unlikely to work as a defence.

Before the supposed fox hunting ban was introduced in 2002 there were ten operational mounted fox hunts in Scotland. There are still ten today. What’s more, there have been a grand total of zero successful prosecutions of mounted hunts whereas there have been a series of prosecutions in England and Wales under the more robust Hunting Act.

A fox hunting ban has the overwhelming support of the Scottish public, and is also apparently Scottish Government policy. The SNP has promised a review to strengthen the ban, which is welcome, but we have had no indication since the drama in Westminster in July as to how and when this review will be taken forward.

With every blow of the bugle announcing another hunted fox on Scottish soil, the credibility of the Parliament is undermined. Animal lovers and those who believe in a functional and progressive Scottish Parliament should therefore be united in calling for a speedy and determined review of this legislation so that it does what it’s meant to do: ban fox hunting.

Harry Huyton is the Director of OneKind.