Well, there’s a twist – SNP to torpedo Tory attempt to relax hunting ban

The Guardian reports:

David Cameron’s plan to relax the foxhunting ban is likely to fail after the Scottish National party decided to take the provocative step of voting against a change in the law that only relates to England and Wales.

After a meeting of its MPs in Westminster, the SNP decided it would vote down the motion even though it would only bring the law in England and Wales into line with Scotland by allowing hunts to flush out foxes with a pack of dogs before they are shot.

If the vote goes ahead on Wednesday as planned by the Conservatives, it will set a new precedent for the SNP voting on English and Welsh matters in a move that could put the union under renewed pressure.

It comes at a particularly sensitive time as the SNP is fiercely opposing the Tory plans to allow English MPs to veto laws that only relate to England, saying it would create two classes of members in parliament.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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42 Comments

  • Now this is an SNP stance I can get behind! English votes is ridiculous and racist against Scots. I couldn’t care less whether a London MP or a Scottish MP votes on matters affecting my area. Much rather have local devolution. Then of course fox hunting is cruel and must not be allowed.

  • ” English votes is ridiculous and racist against Scots. ”

    Um, lol? Presumably Scottish votes for Scottish laws is racist against the English then?

    Anyway, Cameron will be delighted with this outcome. The hunting law will stay as it is, which he knows most people support; he will have satisfied his manifesto pledge to have a hunting vote; and finally, and most importantly, it flushes the SNP out right at that start of this parliament as meddling in English laws they previously said they wouldn’t… thereby providing the case he needs for evel.

    The SNP need to realise they’re not up against the muppets on Scottish Labour any more, the Westminster Tories are sharper.

  • The risk of the SNP declaring now is that it allows the Tories to pull the vote if they know they’ll lose. Far smarter to declare their hand on the day when it’s too late for the debate to be postponed. They might have miscalculated tonight.

    On the issue I’m with ThomasS – the SNP are clearly anti-hunting, and the issue is to be decided by UK MPs as it’s reserved to Westminster. If the Tories don’t like it, let them put in the hard yards and come up with a federal solution such as an English Parliament or regional devolution.

  • Well done the SNP. I just hope the LibDem MP’s vote against the amendment, if I remember correctly there were a fair few who voted against introducing the ban. It will be interesting to see which way Tim Farron votes.

  • Tim stated that he will vote against the changes on Saturday as far as I remember. It is in a video on the Lib Dem Future website if anyone wants to check the exact wording.

  • “The risk of the SNP declaring now is that it allows the Tories to pull the vote if they know they’ll lose. ”

    But is there any evidence that the government actually wants to ‘win’ this vote, given that they are sticking to the line it’s a free vote?

    As MBoy says, David Cameron probably doesn’t care which way the vote actually goes (hence a free vote), but he will care which way the various fractions vote and use that knowledge to his government’s advantage.

  • The Tories, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats all made sure that Scotland stayed in the Union. If that meant anything, it meant that they do want MPs from Scottish constituencies voting on British laws, regardless of whether they are in force in Scotland or not. That is the whole point of having a legislature for the entire country.

  • Jayne Mansfield 14th Jul '15 - 6:54am

    MBoy, Roland,
    Anyone who has read David Cameron’s repeated comments in support of hunting will know that he will not be pleased if the law stays as it is.

    Anyone who thinks that the amendments would be anything other than a back door way of re-introducing hunting as a legal pastime , is in my opinion, wrong.

  • Sir Norfolk Passmore 14th Jul '15 - 8:15am

    Jayne – Cameron wants the support of pro-hunting folk and people who are fearful of SNP influence. This allows him to win both ways. The substance of the policy is, I’d suggest, not a big deal for him personally… he’ll vote to change the law, but it’s hardly a major plank of policy or big legacy issue.

  • And shock horror – the vote is postponed, as I thought it would be.

    Stupid, stupid, SNP.

    Roland – I think there is evidence. a vote on repealing fox-hunting ban was in Coalition agreement, but the numbers never stacked up for repeal so no-one pushed for the vote. Had the Tories been anything other than wanting a change, then they’d have pushed for the vote, but it was in everyone’s interest to forget about the pledge. The support for hunting runs deeply (if not so publically) across the rural wing of the Tory party.

  • tpfkar 14th Jul ’15 – 10:42am……………….And shock horror – the vote is postponed, as I thought it would be………….Stupid, stupid, SNP.

    Why ‘stupid’? Sturgeon is a far smarter cookie than Cameron. Sturgeon said the SNP had decided to vote against the move partly because of the strength of feeling in England against relaxing the ban, partly because Scotland is thinking about strengthening its own ban, and partly as an act of defiance against the way Cameron has treated the SNP and Scotland.
    She has shown herself to be more in touch with ‘English’ feelings on this matter than Cameron and she has proposed removing the ‘back door’ excuse for removing the ban. The idea that, had the SNP agreed not to vote, the ‘English votes for English matters’ would have been affected one way or the other is naïve.

  • SNP have now ensured that a much stronger version of EVEL will now be implemented.

    The Tories set a trap and the SNP walked into it with both feet.

    Pure genius.

  • ThomasS: this is NOT an SNP stance you can get behind. Scotland and England are two distinct entities legally in this respect and the SNP have promised to stay away from votes that do not directly affect Scotland. The law on hunting in Scotland is determined now in Scotland, not Westminster. Sturgeon has already said they are thinking of strengthening the law to bring it in line with England and Wales – although this of courses is muddied by this week’s attempt to slacken the E&W law to bring it in line with Scotland. Like a stupid game of chasing one’s own tail, hey?

    This is the worst sort of petty, pathetic political gaming from the SNP. They’ve shown their true colours by going back on their word to stay away from English votes. Their statement that this “shows the Tories the reality of their slim majority” tells us all we need to know about where the SNP’s principles lie.

    If you’re a man of principle yourself you should accept that Scottish MPs should not be voting on this regardless of how detestable fox hunting may be. I hope Alastair Carmichael, Ian Murry and David Mundell all abstain from this vote if and when it takes placeto show some sort of principled stand for devolution and the West Lothian Question.

    It certainly isn’t in the SNP’s place to “help the English out because there is such strong feeling against this”. Sturgeon might as well make that argument for any old issue she cares to – clearly the policy of staying away from English votes is either applied consistently or not at all.

    What may happen now is that the vote will return if and when some EVEL arrangement is implemented in the Commons. That will serve the SNP right for making the point for EVEL for us. Yet it will only do harm to both the Tories (if the vote is passed) and to the Union as a whole, by exposing what a mess we’re in and also driving an even bigger wedge between Scotland and the rest of us.

    Lose-lose, all round.

    it will do

  • ThomasS

    “English votes is ridiculous and racist against Scots”

    EVEL may be ridiculous but it is not racist and to throw around those terms in that context actually devalues the term.

    You may not be aware of what the proposals actually say but it does not stop Scots voting on English Laws if they are elected in English constituencies they would be entitled to vote on English matters. It is not the persons characteristic (in this case place of birth) that would be a deciding factor but their role (who provided the mandate) similarly an English person representing a Scottish constituency would not be entitled to vote on English laws. I hope this is the information that you wer lacking when you made the statement.

  • kevin 14th Jul ’15 – 11:11am…………….SNP have now ensured that a much stronger version of EVEL will now be implemented…………….The Tories set a trap and the SNP walked into it with both feet……….Pure genius.

    Quite the opposite!
    By ‘pulling the vote’ Cameron allowed the SNP a ‘bye’ (they didn’t ACTUALLY vote on English matters)…
    Secondly, if Cameron tries to link EVEL to foxhunting he’s on to a loser….
    If it was a trap Cameron is the one who walked into it…

  • The big problem with the English Votes For English MPs idea is that it treats a British general election to elect British MPs as if it was an English election to elect an a ad-hock English Assembly. The Scottish MPs voting on Fox hunting were elected to the British parliament and sit in Westminster, not Holyrood. They were elected by Britons to represent British citizens. If you want an English assembly, then it can’t be made up of MPs elected in a British election or sit in the centre of the British government because that is not what people were voting for. To me it looks deeply unconstitutional. You might as well just proclaim every region was only electing MPs for that region and insist on Northern Votes for Northern MPs or Cornish votes for Cornish MPs. Anyway, there’s a clear majority that don’t like Fox hunting and as other people have said Cameron seems more interested in being seen to support to a certain demographic of his core vote than actually winning. There is a Conservative anti-hunting group, hence the free vote.

  • expats – I agree with everything you’ve written. “Stupid” not for agreeing to vote against relaxing the ban, but for telling everyone! Giving those wanting change 2 days notice that they were going to lose, gave them time to organise and stop the vote. Had they been cannier, they’d have kept their cards close to their chest until the debate itself.

    When is a free vote not a free vote? When you pull it for fear of losing.

  • Stephen Howse 14th Jul '15 - 1:24pm

    “SNP have now ensured that a much stronger version of EVEL will now be implemented.

    The Tories set a trap and the SNP walked into it with both feet.

    Pure genius.”

    This benefits both of them. More fuel for the SNP’s “second class MPs” fire. A further whipping up of sentiment against Westminster, and a bigger majority at Holyrood, and the SNP will be set for their second independence referendum.

  • David Faggiani 14th Jul '15 - 1:31pm

    Yeah, I also can’t help but see this as a Tactical victory for Cameron/Osborne.

  • Well, my previous comment is now redundant. The bottom line is the SNP is doing a better job of being in opposition . The Lib Dems and Labour, for that matter, need to stop being afraid of the press and the Tories wafer thin majority, Actually co-operate and votes stuff down. This will do far more good than agonising over who becomes the next leader.

  • Phil Rimmer 14th Jul '15 - 1:33pm

    Anyone who believes that the SNP acted stupidly over this issue clearly do not know anything like enough about party politics in Scotland. This was a no-brainer win-win for the SNP.

  • SNP oppose the Tories. Today they are seen as the main opposition to pro-hunting Tories. Labour are arguing over welfare (or how much to support the Tories) and we are unfortunately seen as an irrelevance in major debates.

    Cameron is reminded again that a slim majority is no majority (Human Rights, first EVEL draft, EU referendum date and now this) so I think some commentators overstate his position. What he would give for some yellow cover now!

  • (Matt Bristol) 14th Jul '15 - 2:52pm

    My take on this is that it is a draw between the Tories and the SNP with Labour and the LibDems being the losers as Sturgeon continues to position herself as the leader of the Left nationally whilst Labour bicker and we dwindle. In this vein, it is interesting to note how little attention was paid in some papers to Carmichael’s role in the EVEL debate.

    But on the issue itself, I feel it is reasonable to argue that if the government’s rationale for changing a law in E&W is to ensure parity with Scotland, the votes of Scottish MPs are relevant.

    It would be also interesting to know if the Conservative Scottish MP was intending to vote?

  • Glenn: “The bottom line is the SNP is doing a better job of being in opposition .”

    Not true. It was Alistair Carmichael who secured the Commons debate on the procedural question of implementing EVEL through Standing Orders. Not the SNP.

  • Joe.
    The SNP refrained from voting on English laws when their main powerbase was the Scottish parliament. They now have 56 British MPs. Labour. the Lib Dems and The Conservatives campaigned to keep the union. The Scots elected SNP MPs top represent them in that union. They are broadly a centre left party and have voted accordingly. The main problem Cameron had with this and the EVEL is that he can’t carry his own party either. This is consequence of a slim majority and frankly cranky policies. If we have any sense we’ll help make sure the next five years are even more like this. Coz really, we need to get over Scotland and learn to live in a changed political environment.

  • Joe,
    5 years of making things awkward for a government with a very slim 12 seat majority is how I see it, Were is all this division. Are the English on the streets with pitchforks fighting so a bunch moneyed hill billies can rip more critters to bits. I think the mistake of what is loosely called progressive politics is to constantly to attack each other like Popular People.s front of Judea and to buy into a bunch of yak from in the media. This is a weak government with a weak grip on power and we should not be afraid of exploiting that. weakness.
    And, with all due respect we tried the attack the SNP route and the Labour is bad route. We got 8 seats and I Euro MP. It doesn’t work. I don’t buy the idea that The Conservatives are unassailable or that the Daily Mail has it’s finger on the pulse of the nation. Also. I think the Scottish seats are gone permanently and politics has to adapt The point to me is that the Lib Dems are in opposition, so owe Cameron no favours. and joining in with the chorus of rebellious Scots to Crush is a hiding to nothing.
    .

  • There’s a lot of daft double-think going on about the SNP’s motives.

    Their motives are pretty clear.

    Previously with only a handful of MPs they took a principled position of staying away from English-only voting matters. Now that they have lots of MPs they have decided that they can make it their business to interfere with English-only affairs in order to embarrass a Tory govt. This shows what the SNP are: they are now the “Scottish establishment” who use their power for their own ends and disregard logic, democracy and fairness.

    The BBC news online commentary says this: “What happens next? SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon says the hunting delay shows Prime Minister David Cameron has only a thin majority, and she has warned that her party will be prepared to vote on other issues that do not directly affect Scotland, in the months ahead. Having moved from a handful of MPs in the past to 56 now, the SNP could have a crucial say on issues where a few Tory MPs decide to rebel. ”

    Well, it’s clear that principle only matters when you’re a small party which can afford to sit on its high-horse and not face any severe consequences over its actions. Now that the SNP have some muscle they will need to face the consequences of what they are doing. They claim to be acting on behalf of English people who have clamoured for their support in keeping the hunting ban. Where is the evidence of this “clamour”, exactly?

    The SNP’s game will, I think, backfire on them eventually. We all know that we have a very assymetric constitution and it’s clear that Scottish MPs *should* be “second-class MPs” when it comes to English matters unless some better solution – a federal UK with devolved regional powers on a proper basis – replaces this current impasse. The SNPs previous voluntary abstention was correct and principled and effectively was a self-imposed second-class status. Now they have power they want to use it where it *shouldn’t* be used. That’s just wholly wrong.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Jul '15 - 6:28pm

    We do not have a constitution, we have bits of constitutional legislation, some international commitments and some constitutional conventions, such as Black Rod asking for permission to enter the Commons to tell them something they already know. If the Commons moves out of London some of these historical practices should be scrapped.

  • Michael Kilpatrick.
    There is a lot of double think going on here most of it coming from the anti-SNP camp. British election, British prime minister using the British parliament to salve his back benches. . The SNP were elected to the British parliament. If the English parties don’t like it they shouldn’t have campaigned to keep the union together. What we are seeing here is sour grapes about losing seats in Scotland and wasted breath over an unpopular blood thirsty hobby on par with bear baiting and other cruel pastimes that belong in the pat. Even the Conservatives are divided over it, As a Lib Dem I’m glad it went nowhere and think the party is making a catastrophic mistake by joining with the Anti-Scot rhetoric of the Conservatives and their pay masters

  • I am delighted about the SNP blocking action on fox hunting in England and Wales for three reasons:
    1. I am against fox hunting and think that the control of foxes can be effectively done without encouraging packs of dogs to chase foxes to exhaustion before tearing them to pieces. We talk about the barbaric behaviour of ISIS and then the CONS want to allow fox hunting again.
    2. The CONS do not have a mandate to reintroduce fox hunting and they were being as politically opportunistic as the SNP in the manner by which they were proposing to allow it to happen again, without actually repealing the current law.
    3. EVEL has a basic justification in principle. That said the CONS current EVEL proposals are constitutionally awful for many reasons including the many complex and multiple tiers regarding which MPs would be blocked from involvement on what. Given that nearly all other UK political parties and the Labour Leader Candidates all currently seem to want a Constitutional Convention to address the current EVEL fiasco, I think that the Lib Dems (including the new Leader from Thursday) should do everything in their power to block EVEL as currently proposed.

  • Steve Deller 14th Jul '15 - 7:51pm

    Time for the referndum on English independence that was denied us in the last parliament. Then i t was deemed acceptable for 5% of the population to abolish a country when 90% were not even asked.

  • Alisdair McGregor 14th Jul '15 - 8:02pm

    I don’t understand why everyone thinks the SNP have made an error here. IMO they’ve played the system for a blinder. They’ve frustrated the Tories (generally a winner in Scotland, at least amongst the more vociferous sections of the cybernat base), played positively to the Lab/Lib/Green middle class vote that means the difference between holding and losing a seat in 2020, and they’ve promoted the cause of EVEL, which will accentuate the split between England and Scotland, and ultimately serves the SNPs core purpose of getting independence.

  • Well Joe,
    There was a very small swing in a low turn out. In 2010 The Cons got around 36% of the vote and this time about 37% or so. The Lib Dem collapse was much bigger than expected in crucial seats. This handed a default win to the highest second placed party in those seats. If you actually look at the voting figures’ Labour, the green, UKIP and SNP votes all improved on 2010 but not by enough to overtake the Conservatives who were still a very strong second after the Lib Dems gained seats from them in previous elections, So to me it looks less like a late surge than vote splitting. Mathew Huntbach, Alex Sabine both predicted this on LDV.

  • Matt (Bristol) 14th Jul '15 - 8:12pm

    ‘it was deemed acceptable for 5% of the population to abolish a country when 90% were not even asked’

    Steve Deller, I am not in favour of a Scottish split and I want devolution for either England or the English regions (ideally the English regions), but that’s appalling logic, even if it gets you a round in hostelry bar of your choice when you hold forth.

    Should George III’s Britain have had a referendum on whether the 13 colonies should leave? Should post-WWI England have had a referendum before Irish secession? Should Serbians have had a vote on whether the other former Yugoslav republics could leave Yugoslavia? Should the USSR have held a referendum on Ukraine or Moldova or Lithuania leaving?

    There are a (debateable how many) proportion of Scots who regard the UK as an illegitimate expression of their national identity and wish to leave. I hope that they can be persuaded otherwise, in time, but it is better and wiser to allow them a vote on the options then to suppress that tendency.

    … And yes, I suppose if there is a significant proportion of English people who want to leave the UK and if you demonstrate that they exist in sufficient numbers to warrant a serious debate, we English should have a vote on secession too and if successful the Queen and Parliament can move the capital of the United Kingdom of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to the Isle of Man or something. But I don’t think you seriously proposed that, did you?

  • Glenn, maybe the SNP were elected to the British Parliament but that parliament now has assymetric devolution and all Scottish voters know that some affairs that Westminsters controls for England and Wales are, in Scotland, devolved to Holyrood. People who campaigned for the Union are not averse to there being a British Parliament with Scottish MPs in to – but it needs to have a mechanism to cater for the assymetric devolution. That’s really quite a simple thing to understand.

    There is no anti-Scot rhetoric here, just anti-SNP and anti-Tory, by the way, when it comes to this particular topic.

  • No .
    I’m saying noe of that. I’m saying what happened. Without the lose of Scotlad, not to the tories by the way, Labour would have got around 280 seats well within the initial predictions of a hung parliament and without the collapse of the Lib Dems the Cons would not have taken enough seats. It was much more about a collapse than surges. This has been covered extensively on LDV.
    And Dude, I’m taking about what happened not twisting your argument to point score. Coz you’ve got to prove to me that 37.% in 2015 as opposed to 36% in 2010 is a big enough increase in votes to explain the Conservative Victory. especially considering it was an even lower turnout. To me it is plainly more to do with Lib Dem collapse than a surge in support for the Conservatives because our vote went all over the shop, in some cases more to UKIP than the Conservatives or Labour. All I’m saying is that opposition parties should concentrate on being an effective opposition to the government rather than squabbling with each other.
    I’m going to be completely honest. If I was a Scot I would have voted Yes because I think progressive politics is more likely in an independent Scotland and because I think independence is a natural move from power structures that bypass local politics. I support an English regional assembly, but not EVEL. I am a vegetarian, I went to school with members of the Qourn hunt in rural Leicestershire. I think they are full of it: Most country people have never liked foxhunters at all at any point ever. So yeah the SNP have my respect for helping to kill this one off. .

  • Richard Underhill 15th Jul '15 - 10:30am

    “Come back Ed Miliband, all is forgiven?” That is a matter for the Labour Party.
    Jo Grimond was Liberal leader at the time of David Steel’s by-election win and again during David Steel’s leadership election campaign.

  • Michael Kilpatrick

    “it’s clear that Scottish MPs *should* be “second-class MPs” when it comes to English matters”

    I completely disagree. EVEL is fundamentally wrong for the same reason that giving weighted voting power to MPs (sometimes suggested as a way of sneaking proportional representation through the back door) is wrong. Both undermine a fundamental principle on which any legislature is based, that it is an assembly of equals. You tamper with this principle at your peril, as it will lead to unintended consequences, regardless of how reasonable it seems when implemented.

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