14 Jul 2015

SNP foxhunting move a raiding party into English lawmaking

The government has pulled the vote on foxhunting after the SNP’s decision to break its own pledge and to vote against the relaxation of the ban in England.

Nicola Sturgeon spoke at last night’s SNP MPs’ group meeting and her argument won the day.

There was a detectable though not strict generational difference in the room, I am told – some more seasoned party hands wary of breaking the already crumbling commitment to standing aside from English only votes.

Nicola Sturgeon is today emphasising the waves of post and emails she got urging her to come to the rescue of English foxes and act in line with English public opinion. One SNP MP said he was already being “deluged” with messages of thanks and support from both sides of the border after the pulled vote.

The first minister is making much of this as a principled stand, but in truth it was a highly political raiding party into English law-making to teach proud David’s army a lesson (on English votes for English laws – Evel – and much else).

The SNP will consider it the fourth victory in the first 68 days since its 56 MPs were elected. It counts the others as the postponement of the human rights act, the refusal of a joint elections/referendum date, and the postponement of the Evel rules. The government has lost two major measures in one week.

There’s no shortage of chutzpah in the SNP move. Saying that you are acting merely to reflect English opinion opens up a massive can of worms. What if there was a write-in campaign to save English grammar schools or to shut them down? Nicola Sturgeon said that wasn’t relevant.

Tories are furious that a sometimes rather “worthy” SNP approach to English laws, as one Tory MP put it, which seemed to be still the line in recent government-SNP talks has been jettisoned at will to “shaft David Cameron and his posh friends”.

Pro-hunting Tories are not convinced that revisiting the relaxation of the ban, even after Evel changes happen, will be straightforward because these changes were being put through (somewhat underhandedly, to some minds) via a statutory instrument, not primary legislation, and more traps for the pro-hunting lobby could be round the corner because of that.

Government has just published new Evel changes here.

They show Scottish MPs would vote on statutory instruments, so that suggests no law change on foxhunting in this parliament.

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