A ROYAL loophole means the Scottish Government's plans to ban hunting with dogs will not apply to the King. 

The Scottish Greens have said it could mean the monarch, his staff, and associates not being "subject to the same laws as the rest of us" when it comes to fox hunting.

The claim comes ahead of the stage three vote on the Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill in the new year.

While it has been against the law to hunt a wild mammal with a dog in Scotland since 2002, there have been some circumstances where it is allowed, including using dogs to flush out foxes for pest control or protecting livestock or ground-nesting birds.


Màiri McAllan, the SNP environment minister, has promised that the new legislation will close those loopholes.

The League Against Cruel Sports Scotland said that if the minister sticks to her word then today's Boxing Day hunts should be the last.

Robbie Marsland said: “For two decades mounted hunts have ridden roughshod over a law which is riddled with loopholes. It has been a long process of determined campaigning to get to this point, but we are confident we are on the cusp of ending traditional foxhunting once and for all.

“However, there is still work to be done, and after 20 years of flawed legislation it is critical that this bill is not simply a way of creating new loopholes for hunters to exploit.”

Scottish Labour, who introduced the original ban when in government, said they thought the SNP law would not go far enough. MSP Colin Smyth said: “Hunts have shown that they will ruthlessly exploit any loopholes, so our laws must be watertight.

“Instead, the SNP are determined to repeat history by watering down their legislation with an unnecessary licensing scheme. We cannot license cruelty and we cannot let this barbaric sport continue in any form.

“Labour will keep fighting to close this loophole and deliver a real ban on foxhunting once and for all. We need to make this year’s Boxing Day hunts the last tally-ho and consign this archaic sport to the history books at last.”

Under section 25 of the Bill, officials will need permission from the royals, or the authority managing land in their stead, to investigate any suspected offence which has taken place on property owned by the Crown.

The Greens said that the loophole would give land managers a veto over evidence gathering on Crown Estate land – which stretches to some 37,000 hectares in Scotland.

Ariane Burgess, the Scottish Greens’ spokesperson for rural affairs, said that the Bill “falls far short of what is required”.

Ms Burgess said: “Given the long historic links between the aristocracy and hunting, it’s particularly galling to see a potential loophole which could block police from entering Crown land to gather evidence in cases of suspected illegal hunting.

“King Charles, his staff, and associates should all be subject to the same laws as the rest of us, and it’s not right that police will need to ask for permission to do their job.

“I’ll be discussing with the Scottish Government how to strengthen this bill at the final stage later this year, including ensuring the royal family are subject to the same legal requirements when it comes to animal welfare as every other citizen in Scotland.”

The Herald:

Earlier, Ms McAllan said: “The chasing and killing of wild mammals for sport has no place in modern Scotland, but loopholes in existing legislation have allowed this illegal activity to persist.

“The Hunting with Dogs Bill aims to close those loopholes.

“Protecting wild mammals from cruelty is a priority but it is important to note that foxes can cause significant harm to livestock.

“So, while we work to end illegal hunting and pursue the highest standards of animal welfare, we must ensure that farmers and land managers have access to control measures that are both efficient and humane.

“I am pleased with the progress that the bill has made so far and I look forward to the stage three debate early next year.”