With just days to go until the polls open, a number of Scotland’s political parties are vowing to do more to help protect the country’s wildlife, domestic pets and livestock.
According to some estimates, almost half of species in Scotland have become less abundant over the last decade, and currently one in nine species faces extinction.
In addition, several high profile environmental bodies have had their funding cut in recent years, including the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), Rural and Environmental Science and Analytical Services, Scottish Natural Heritage, and NatureScot, which has seen its budget cut by £33 million in real terms since 2010.
Now some of the major parties are revealing what they would do to uphold animal welfare if they are elected to Holyrood on May 6.
SNP promises EU-style legislation
The SNP says it will modernise the Animal Welfare Act and create a new labelling system based on the system used in the EU.
Fergus Mutch, who is standing for the SNP in Aberdeenshire West, said: “The SNP takes animal welfare issues very seriously which is why we have pledged radical policies on the issue if re-elected on 6 May.
“The SNP proposes to adopt the highest possible standards – which would include changing to free range, woodland or barn chicken and egg products.
“We will also modernise and update the Animal Welfare Act from 2006 and implement the new livestock worrying legislation.”
He added: “We won’t stop there, though.
“The SNP has also pledged to implement a new EU-style animal welfare labelling system which would promote food produced to higher than EU welfare standards.”
Labour plans review of ‘outdated’ legislation
Scottish Labour says its climate recovery plan will include a commitment to carry out a full review of what they call “outdated” legislation in a bid to strengthen wildlife protection laws and animal welfare.
This would involve a ban on fox hunting, snares and the use of electric shock collars, and better monitoring of birds of prey, conservation and introducing stronger penalties.
Party leader Anas Sarwar says Labour will also create a Scottish Conservation Corps which would employ 10,000 people dedicated to restoring Scotland’s natural environment.
Mr Sarwar said: “Scotland’s natural environment is one of the best in the world, and we have the responsibility to protect and promote the wildlife that lives there.
“Years of cuts from the SNP has left our environment agencies weakened.
“Too many of our species are facing the threat of extinction.
“The Greens would rather take us back to the old arguments than protect Scotland’s wildlife.
“This election is a clear choice between a party that will unite behind Scotland’s recovery to protect our natural environment, or continued division over the constitution.
“Only Scottish Labour has a recovery plan that will protect our natural environment and create much-needed jobs.
“By using both votes for Labour, especially the second, peach ballot paper, we can unite behind a recovery that protects our wildlife.”
Greens say other parties have not gone far enough on animal welfare
The Scottish Green Party says other parties at Holyrood have not gone far enough when it comes to animal welfare.
It says it will end fox hunting and drive grouse shooting, and bring in more rights for farm animals and pets if they are elected to parliament on Thursday.
“Only the Scottish Greens have a whole chapter on this, and more besides.
“We already have a track record of winning protections for beavers and mountain hares, and getting P&O to end the transport of live calves from Scotland to Europe, but we will do much more in the next parliament.
“Greens will end fox hunting and driven grouse shooting and see that those committing wildlife crime are brought to justice.
“We will bring in greater rights for farm animals and pets, including fighting for a ban on live exports and we will ban cruel traps like snares and glue traps.
“We will ban the breeding and import of dogs for racing and deliver a fully resourced wildlife crime investigation unit and a stricter licensing scheme.
“One in nine of Scotland’s species are at risk.
“We are in a nature emergency, and restoring Scotland’s nature is one of the pillars of our manifesto.
“Only the Scottish Greens have this level of ambition because we know all of our future depends on it.”
Lib Dems would overhaul grouse shooting
The Scottish Liberal Democrats say they are committed to gaining the highest possible standards when it comes to animal welfare.
The party is vowing to implement the recommendations of the Werrity grouse moor review, which concluded a licensing scheme should be introduced for the shooting of grouse.
It also says it will take forward the findings of the Lord Bonomy’s report which reviewed the protection of wild animals in Scotland.
Rosemary Bruce, who is standing for the Lib Dems in the North East list, said: “The Scottish Liberal Democrat manifesto contains a wide-ranging package of measures to support the highest standards of animal welfare.
“These include clamping down on illegal pet imports and maintaining the protection of standards for all animals and guaranteeing sufficient resources for the police’s wildlife crime investigation unit.
“We will make sure access to wildlife corridors and woodland is available to every community and implement the recommendations of the Werrity grouse moor review to establish licensing for driven grouse shooting.
“We will also take forward reform of the wild mammals legislation following Lord Bonomy’s report.
“The changes will sufficiently protect animals, meet the needs of our rural communities, work effectively and give all those involved in its operation the clarity that makes it fit for purpose.”
Animal rights issues have been “sidelined”, say the Conservatives
Jamie Halcro Johnston, rural economy spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, say issues such as animal welfare have been sidelined by the SNP’s wish for a second independence referendum.
He said: “The Scottish Conservatives are strongly committed to animal welfare.
“In the last parliament, we joined charities in demanding that the SNP government increase the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty from one year to five.
“After years of campaigning this passed into law in 2020.
“We engaged with a wide range of groups during the preparation of our rural manifesto and proposed nature bill, and believe our relationship with the environment should be scrutinised in the next parliament.
“But I believe issues like this have been sidelined by the SNP’s continual push for a divisive second independence referendum, which has taken their eye off the ball from things that really matter.
“At this election, voters have the chance to say no to another divisive referendum by stopping an SNP majority.
“The Scottish Conservatives proved at the last Scottish Parliament election that we are the best way to do that, as the largest opposition party.”
“It’s time to re-assess our human relationships to other species”
The Animal Welfare Party, which is dedicated to animal protection and animal welfare rights, says the new Scottish Government should re-assess the human population’s relationship with other species.
The party is standing in the Lothian list in Thursday’s election.
Jane Smith from the Animal Welfare Party said: “We don’t believe the mainstream political parties are doing enough at all with regards to animal protection – there’s a lot of lip service and very little meaningful action.
“At election time, the bigger parties like to present themselves as ‘strong on animal rights’, but the truth is, the majority of politicians from the bigger parties still eat animals.
“Whereas at Animal Welfare Party we have a ‘shared Earth’ philosophy whereby humans are one species among the many but the needs of other species need to be taken into account in our human decision-making processes.
“Our message to the new Scottish government would be – in this era of climate emergency and pandemics, it’s time to re-assess our human relationships to other species and start to restore much-needed balance for people, animals and environment.
“Scotland could be, and should be, a world leader in progressive policy around animals’ rights, land rights and environmental justice – and so many of those policies are obvious ‘win-win-wins’ for people, animals and environment.
“We hope that Scotland’s leaders after 6 May will take this opportunity for real change and do the right thing by the people, animals and land of Scotland instead of ‘business as usual’ which just doesn’t work for anyone.”