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Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill

Overview

This Member’s Bill was introduced by Emma Harper MSP. It amends the existing law on what is called “livestock worrying”, which is where a dog chases, attacks or kills farmed animals.

The Bill:

  • increases the maximum penalty to a fine of £5,000 or imprisonment for six months
  • allows the courts to ban a convicted person from owning a dog or allowing their dog to go on agricultural land
  • gives the police greater powers to investigate and enforce livestock worrying offence. This includes by going onto land to identify a dog, seize it and collect evidence from it
  • allows other organisations to be given similar powers
  • extends the “livestock worrying” offence to cover additional types of farmed animal

You can find out more in the document prepared on behalf of Emma Harper, MSP that explains the Bill.

Why the Bill was created

Dog attacks cause suffering to animals, cost farmers money and cause them distress.  Emma Harper MSP believes the current law is out of date and isn’t working effectively.  


She hopes that making these changes to the law will encourage people to keep their dogs under control.  Where attacks do occur, she hopes the Bill will make it easier for them to be investigated and the people responsible to be punished.

You can find out more in the document prepared on behalf of Emma Harper, MSP that explains the Bill.

Becomes an Act

The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill passed by a vote of 120 for, 0 against and 0 abstentions. The Bill became law on 5 May 2021.

Introduced

The Member in charge of the Bill, Emma Harper MSP sends the Bill and related documents to the Parliament.

Bill as introduced Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill

Financial Resolution

The Presiding Officer has decided under Rule 9.12 of Standing Orders that a financial resolution is not required for this Bill.

Scottish Parliament research on the Bill 

Stage 1 - General principles

Committees examine the Bill. Then MSPs vote on whether it should continue to Stage 2.

Have your say

The deadline for sharing your views on this Bill has passed. Read the views that were given.

Who examined the Bill

Each Bill is examined by a 'lead committee'. This is the committee that has the subject of the Bill in its remit.


It looks at everything to do with the Bill.


Other committees may look at certain parts of the Bill if it covers subjects they deal with.

Who spoke to the lead committee about the Bill

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First meeting transcript

The Convener (Edward Mountain)

Good morning and welcome to the 22nd meeting in 2020 of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. The meeting will be conducted in hybrid format, with two committee members—Richard Lyle and John Finnie—and our witnesses participating remotely.

Emma Harper, who is the member in charge of the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, cannot participate as a committee member during scrutiny of her bill. However, she is joining us remotely today.

Agenda item 1 is stage 1 of the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, on which we will take evidence from two panels of witnesses. We have a lot of questions to get through and a considerable number of witnesses, so I ask everyone to keep their questions and answers as short and focused as possible.

Before we go any further, I invite committee members to declare any relevant interests, because this is the first evidence session on the bill.

Peter Chapman (North East Scotland) (Con)

I am a member of a farming partnership in Aberdeenshire.

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

I am part-owner of a registered agricultural holding on which sheep are regularly kept, and therefore have an interest in the matter of the bill.

Maureen Watt (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

My interest is completely different, as I am an honorary associate member of the British Veterinary Association.

The Convener

I, too, am an honorary member of the British Veterinary Association, and I have an interest in an agricultural partnership in Speyside. For clarity, I say that we, the partners in the farm, have suffered from sheep worrying in the past.

I welcome the first panel, which consists of individuals from organisations that are involved in investigating and enforcing the offence of livestock worrying. Fiona Lovatt is a director of Flock Health Ltd; Inspector Alan Dron is the chair of the Scottish partnership against rural crime and national rural crime co-ordinator at Police Scotland; and Kirsteen Mackenzie is an animal welfare officer with Perth and Kinross Council.

There was to be a fourth member of the panel. Graham Hatton, who is assistant team leader of operations for mid-Argyll, Kintyre and Islay at Argyll and Bute Council might be having problems with technology. I will let you know if he manages to join us.

Witnesses should keep an eye on me, when I have called you. If I feel that you are going off on a wee tangent, I might waggle my pen at you, which means that I am looking at you to stop on that particular track and allow another witness in. You are in a great position, in joining us remotely, because I cannot actually launch the pen at you, but you will know when I get to that stage.

The first questions are from John Finnie. Good morning, John.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

Good morning, convener. Richard Lyle and I are experiencing a slight issue with the sound, in that it is very quiet. I hope that I am coming through okay.

Good morning, panel. Thank you for your written submissions, which always help the committee greatly. I would like to ask each of you what, in your professional experience, your assessment of the scale and nature of the problem is.

The Convener

I invite Alan Dron to kick off on that.

Inspector Alan Dron (Police Scotland)

Good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to take part.

Through my current role in the Scottish partnership against rural crime, we in Police Scotland and all our partners see all aspects of livestock worrying. We have tried to encourage and educate, because that is key. Every year, in all parts of Scotland, including the isles, there are instances of livestock worrying. That ranges from a dog being in a field to the extreme of there being fatalities.

I can provide our figures, which are broken down into yearly figures and campaign figures. From 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019, 321 attacks on livestock were reported to Police Scotland, of which 123 were investigated as crimes. That provides a crime to incident ratio of about 1:3. At that time, no records were kept of the breed type, or of whether the owner was with the dog or the dog was by itself at the time of the incident.

As time has gone on, we have tried to scrutinise such incidents more closely. In the year 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020, 265 attacks on livestock were reported to Police Scotland, of which 118 were investigated as crimes. Therefore, there was a slight improvement; that equates to a crime to incident ratio of about 1:2. Of the attacks, 116 occurred when the owner or person in charge was nearby or present, 115 occurred when there was no person present and 34 were recorded as unknowns—in other words, it was not confirmed whether there was someone in the vicinity. In about 50 per cent of incidents in that year, an owner was present, and in about 50 per cent the dog was loose by itself. The most prevalent breeds involved were huskies and Alsatians—German shepherds.

This year, from 1 April up to 31 August, 99 attacks on livestock have been reported to Police Scotland, 40 of which have been investigated as crimes, so again we are talking about a crime to incident ratio of about 1:2. Of those 99 attacks, 56 occurred when the owner or person in charge was present, 31 occurred when there was no one present and, in 12 cases, we are unsure whether someone was present. SPARC’s “Your dog—your responsibility” campaign, which focuses on dogs that are allowed to roam free without their owners, has resulted in a heartening increase in the proportion of attacks being those when someone is with the dog. In other words, we are lowering the number of attacks that are committed by dogs that are loose by themselves. This year again, huskies and Alsatians again seem to have been the most prevalent breeds involved in attacks.

As for the specific campaigns—

John Finnie

I will stop you there, because we have a wide range of questions to get through. I was just looking for you to provide initial scoping. Following on from that comprehensive answer, there are several questions that I could ask, but I should probably not do so at this stage.

Could we hear from Ms Lovatt or Ms Mackenzie, please?

Fiona Lovatt (Flock Health Ltd)

I am a sheep vet. Last year, I worked as a consultant with Ipsos MORI, which was commissioned by the Scottish Government to undertake a survey, to which 1,900 sheep farmers responded. The survey was done in a proper stratified manner.

Over half the farmers—51 per cent—reported that they had had a dog attack on their livestock at some stage, and 14 per cent reported that they had had a dog attack in the previous 12 months of the survey. Although it was a statistically well-stratified survey, it had large margins of error, so confidence levels were a factor. Multiplying the figures gives a total of 7,000 dog attacks a year in Scotland, with confidence in a figure of between 4,000 and 10,000 attacks. However, we know that, for various reasons, only one third of farmers report dog attacks to the police.

Kirsteen Mackenzie (Perth and Kinross Council)

Our local authority tends not to deal directly with sheep-worrying incidents, as that is done by the police. However, we have assisted the police, on occasion.

I work with farmers in my job as an animal welfare officer, and I agree with Fiona Lovatt that a lot of them do not report incidents of sheep worrying, particularly if there has not been a physical attack. When no one is present or the dog runs off, there is no evidence. I have general conversations with farmers in which I have heard unofficial reports of sheep worrying that happened months earlier but was not reported.

I work with dog owners. We try to educate dog owners, but it is quite alarming how many are under the impression that their dog would not chase sheep in a field.

The Convener

Before I go back to John Finnie for another question, I will bring in Stewart Stevenson.

Stewart Stevenson

I have a short question for Inspector Dron. Do you have information that tells us what proportion of the dog population the husky and Alsatian breeds represent? That question might for the next panel rather than you, but I am slightly surprised to hear about huskies, because that is not a breed that I see often, although my neighbours have one.

Inspector Dron

We do not have numbers for those breeds, but we have found that huskies have become more popular, particularly among certain elements of society, as a status dog. Bizarrely, that has been influenced by “Game of Thrones”.

The Convener

Ah. Okay. We will go back to John Finnie.

John Finnie

I have to offer a spirited defence of the German shepherd dog, often known as the Alsatian, because it is a fine breed.

We have heard a bit about this from the panel. Much of the literature on livestock attacks and many of the responses that we have received state that there is a lack of evidence about the scale of the problem—Ms McKenzie talked about underreporting—and in some instances there is a lack of data collection. Do you believe that you have enough evidence to make an accurate assessment of how the problem should be addressed, including whether there is a need for new legislation? If there are evidence gaps, what would help to fill them? Can Inspector Dron, in particular, comment on how we get a figure for the number of attacks and on what constitutes their being considered a crime? I know that those are wide-ranging questions, but we are trying to understand whether there is an evidence base that would support the bill.

Inspector Dron

Mr Finnie raised several points. We have evidence, but as Fiona Lovatt highlighted and as we know, approximately one third of incidents are reported and the majority two thirds are not. However, we have many contacts throughout Scotland and people are becoming more aware of the situation. The problem will always exist; we need first and foremost to try to prevent incidents, which the figures show occur almost daily across Scotland. Do we have sufficient evidence? Over the past couple of years, there has certainly been increased scrutiny, and it is a priority of the Scottish partnership against rural crime to look at livestock attacks and worrying.

In terms of the bill, we have tried and will continue to try education at all levels, first and foremost. Our primary drive is to prevent incidents.

09:15  



There have been changes in farming in Scotland. Other breeds, such as camelids, are farmed here, and they deserve the same protection as sheep. The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 currently does not afford them that protection, so having that change is certainly positive.

The bill could also have a positive impact on people’s perception. Including the word “attack” as part of the legislation is key, because that drives home the gravity of the situation better than the word “worrying” does.

There is definitely better communication and involvement with our partners now. As I think everyone would agree, the education aspect is tremendous: it is the way forward, and we could never do enough of it. However, for the very small incidence of serious attacks that cause detriment to livestock and landowners, there is no deterrent. We find when we talk to folk whose dogs might have been involved in incidents that a lot of them know that there is no deterrent. It is to be hoped that that significant aspect, and the more serious incidents can be addressed through the legislation. Changing people’s perception might alter many owners’ views on what their dogs might or might not do.

John Finnie

I would like clarification, convener. If I have noted correctly what Inspector Dron said, he quoted the numbers of attacks in successive years, and went on to say that some were crimes. What determines that an attack is not a crime?

Inspector Dron

In contrast to the approach of the police in England and Wales, Police Scotland records every incident of livestock worrying that is reported to it. Once it has been recorded, police officers will attend. As Kirsteen Mackenzie and Fiona Lovatt have indicated, if the police arrive and find that, for example, a dog has been seen in a field, but there is not sufficient evidence to prove that an offence has occurred, that is still recorded as an incident. However, where evidence exists, a crime report will be recorded and the police will take as much evidence as possible, with a view to charging someone. They will consider whether to seek a dog control notice or, ultimately, to send the case to the procurator fiscal.

The Convener

Before we go any further I will bring in Fiona Lovatt.

Fiona Lovatt

The point about asking for evidence is really pertinent. In the responses to the committee’s consultation, I was a bit alarmed to read a number of people quoting the background to the huge study that we undertook last year with the Scottish Government, in which we stated that the existing evidence did not provide an adequate basis for assessing the true scale of the problem. That was the whole reason for undertaking the study.

More than 9,000 sheep farmers were contacted for the study. I can truly say that it was carried out because, previously, we did not have evidence that there had been an increase in the number of attacks; that was simply the perception. It could have been generated by social media, or farmers might have been making the problem sound worse than it was.

The whole study was carried out by an independent body, with the purpose of collating evidence. Statistically, it was extremely robust. To avoid the potential for what is known as recall bias—where people remember the most dramatic incident rather than the most recent—the interviewers were careful to pin people down and ask them only about the most recent incident in detail. We gave respondents the opportunity to give more information, but the statistics that went into the published study covered only the most recent incidents. We can therefore be fairly sure that we have robust evidence that 14 per cent of farmers have experienced such incidents in the past year, and that 50 per cent have experienced them at some time.

The question of what the penalties should be is not within my area of expertise, but I can say that we have evidence that incidents are a problem.

The Convener

Thank you, Fiona. John—I am afraid that we will have to move on to the next question.

I remind witnesses that those were just the first couple of questions for one panel member, and we have 11 panel members to get through. I am sure that we all want to ask lots of questions, but if they all take 20 minutes each we could be here until Christmas.

Our next question will come from Richard Lyle.

Richard Lyle (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)

Thank you, convener. I will try not to take 20 minutes.

Are the powers under existing dog control legislation sufficient? If not, why not?

Inspector Dron

I will be quick and to the point. The 1953 act is many years old—we are now in 2020—and it is a bit behind the times. Farming has changed, so extending the definition of livestock to include various animals such as camelids and ostriches is welcome, as are the words “attack” and “attacks” in the bill, because that increases the perception of severity, which is what the bill tries to achieve. Currently, deterrents—whether in the form of a fine, seizure of the dog or other measures—are not sufficient and the bill introduces deterrents that are a bit more sufficient to cover the small gap.

Richard Lyle

I put the same question to Kirsteen Mackenzie.

The Convener

I am afraid of us putting the same question to everyone, because of the ability to get through them all.

Richard Lyle

With the greatest respect, I know that you have a timeframe, but I would like to hear Kirsteen Mackenzie’s opinion.

The Convener

Before Kirsteen Mackenzie answers that, Richard, I note that my difficulty is that I cannot see which witnesses want to come in, because this is not like being in a committee meeting in which I can see everyone. However, I am delighted to bring people in when I can.

Kirsteen Mackenzie

I agree with Alan Dron. There is not a severe enough penalty at the moment.

Richard Lyle

I will move on to the next question.

As drafted, will the bill help to reduce the incidence of livestock worrying? Could the bill be improved to make it more effective?

Fiona Lovatt

As a sheep veterinary surgeon, my expertise is not in penalties, but I can tell you what the farmers thought. The top thing that they wanted was better public awareness and campaigns; the second was greater penalties; and the third was a requirement to have dogs on leads on agricultural land. Those were, by far, the most popular requests of the farmers who were interviewed.

Inspector Dron

I back up what Fiona Lovatt says. The new penalties aspect will hopefully reduce the number of attacks; it will go hand in hand with prevention work, which will always continue. Better education is important, but the introduction of better penalties is a good deterrent in itself.

Richard Lyle

Alan, you said that the previous time that the law was changed was 1953. That was in the 20th century and it is now the 21st century; it is nearly 70 years since the law was changed.

Inspector Dron

Absolutely. There have been additions to the legislation, such as the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010, but the 1953 act is the main one for livestock worrying.

Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

I am sure that Richard Lyle well remembers the 1953 legislation.

In the interest of time, I will try to combine my questions, to which there are three parts.

A number of the written submissions that we have received highlight the need for a better use of our existing powers. Do the order-making powers in the bill complement or overlap the ability to use dog control notices? Would the increased use of dog control notices in cases of livestock worrying be beneficial? Are there any non-legislative methods that could be deployed to tackle the problem?

Kirsteen Mackenzie

We can and I have issued a couple of dog control notices to dog owners who have been involved in sheep worrying. The problem with dog control notices, especially in very rural areas, is that it is difficult to monitor compliance with them. We can put on the dog control notice that a dog must be kept on a lead, even in specific areas, but it is difficult to monitor compliance. They can and have been used in sheep-worrying incidents.

The Convener

Alan, do you want to—

Kirsteen Mackenzie

But I think—

The Convener

Sorry, Kirsteen. I cut you off; I thought you had finished.

Kirsteen Mackenzie

That is fine.

Inspector Dron

I support what Kirsteen said. In more instances, particularly those that are reported to the police, there should be more hand-in-hand working with local authority officers in relation to dog control notices. That is yet another stage where things could be joined up. Overall, what is being proposed adds another layer but it would be a benefit rather than making things more bureaucratic or causing any other issues.

Colin Smyth

Are there any other non-legislative methods that we should deploy alongside the legislation to help tackle the problem?

Inspector Dron

We run livestock campaigns every year through the Scottish partnership against rural crime. Last year, we had one large launch, then took it all around Scotland for local launches, trying to make it more personal. It is vital to make it more personal in every part of Scotland so that we can raise awareness, and that is something that should never stop. Prevention and education first and foremost will in time, hopefully, reduce incidents. We should also educate people through vet practices about every stage of owning a dog, from when it is a puppy to the end of its life.

The Convener

Fiona, was there anything that farmers brought up in relation to non-legislative actions that could be taken to prevent this?

Fiona Lovatt

The most popular measure, which 93 per cent of them wanted, was an increase in public awareness, partly because it is often a dog owner who is unaware or it is a one-off incident. For those cases, public awareness is important, because any dog could be an issue—it is education again.

Peter Chapman

I will look into the proposed penalties. The bill proposes that in the most serious cases the courts should be able to impose a custodial sentence. I wonder whether, instead of a custodial sentence, the courts could choose to impose a community payback order, for example ordering the offender to pay compensation, attend a course or carry out unpaid work. Would the use of community payback orders along those lines be appropriate for this type of crime?

Inspector Dron

Having the option would be an excellent step forward. What has to be borne in mind is that in a couple of the most serious incidents in Scotland, the person who was convicted was unfortunately, due to their circumstances, able neither to pay compensation nor to do community payback. That element of the bill would affect only a small minority of cases, so that is where the deterrent element, apart from anything else, is possibly more significant. Whether that is a community payback order or something else, that has to be another positive step to reduce such incidents.

Peter Chapman

I have a follow-up to that. I am sure that many farmers would like to receive compensation in severe cases as livestock worrying can cost them many thousands of pounds. The feeling is that the compensation element is lacking in the bill. What are your thoughts on that? You have already said that, in some cases, folk cannot pay, but I am sure that there are many cases in which people could pay.

09:30  



Inspector Dron

Absolutely. In a recent case that went to court, the person was convicted, the sheriff put in a compensation order, and the farmer who was at loss received full compensation, which was excellent. The system does work. Again, the thing to remember is that if the legislation is applied, there is no problem at all. The bill adds weight and strength to the deterrent elements and, hopefully, in the more serious incidents. It will not be carte blanche; the bill will definitely add weight in the more serious incidents, which hopefully will continue to be the least common incidents that we come across.

Fiona Lovatt

The average cost of an incident to a farmer is £700 per dog attack, and only 9 per cent of farmers receive compensation. Most farmers do not insure because they are worried about their premiums going up, so most of them are not currently compensated for the loss.

The Convener

Kirsteen, do you think that people realise the value of some of the sheep that are injured? Tups can be worth tens of thousands of pounds, from £20,000 to £200,000 or more. We have got a bid at the back—I have just sold my tup to Stewart Stevenson for £300,000. [Laughter.] The value of livestock is incredible.

Kirsteen Mackenzie

I do not think that the general public are aware of the financial implications for farmers if there is an attack on a sheep or even a sheep-worrying incident. Education and awareness are very important to help to reduce the number of incidents. As I have highlighted, we need to make people aware that any dog has the ability to cause a problem. The larger breeds are perhaps more likely to cause injury, but any dog can be responsible for causing an incident.

Peter Chapman

I think that there is general agreement among most commentators that the current penalties are too low. Some folk cite higher penalties for other animal welfare offences. The Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act 2020 introduced the power to impose an unlimited fine and up to five years in prison. Would something along those lines be suitable in the most severe cases of attack?

Kirsteen Mackenzie

A severe penalty for the worst cases, even going as far as a ban on keeping dogs, would be very welcome.

Inspector Dron

I would echo what Kirsteen said. There are likely to be a small number of such circumstances, and each case would be taken on its merits. It would also depend on proportionality. As you say, tups can go for £250,000, whereas a blackface yow is maybe £70. Ultimately, though, anything that assists and is there as a deterrent cannot be a bad thing.

The Convener

Yows must be cheap where you are.

Peter Chapman

I will move on to my last question. The 2020 act enables the use of fixed-penalty notices for less serious worrying offences. I wonder whether that is also something that we should be thinking about for the bill.

Inspector Dron

It is another option. Police officers already have the option to give out fixed-penalty notices for a variety of offences. Again, it would depend on scale and proportionality.

Kirsteen Mackenzie

I agree with Inspector Dron. We already have fixed-penalty notices and they could be a deterrent for smaller offences.

The Convener

Thank you. Stewart Stevenson, you have the next question.

Stewart Stevenson

I will ask the second of my questions first, if I may. In light of her previous responses, I want to explore first with Kirsteen Mackenzie whether powers to exclude offending owners from walking their dogs on agricultural land would work. I ask that because of the previous comments about difficulties of enforcement in rural areas, which I understand. It might be useful to the committee to talk through the practicalities of such an approach and whether it would add anything to what else is there. Perhaps Kirsteen Mackenzie can start, and then I suspect Inspector Dron will want to come in.

Kirsteen Mackenzie

It is difficult to ban someone from walking in a particular area, especially a remote area, and to police or monitor that ban. Corroborating evidence that that person has been walking in that area can be difficult to find, which makes it difficult to prove that that person was there and doing what they should not have been be doing. The types of area that we are dealing with makes that quite difficult.

Stewart Stevenson

Before I move on, perhaps I could just take it a tiny step forward. Corroboration is of course needed if it is a criminal offence, but the alternative could be to provide a civil prohibition that would not require corroboration. Has that been discussed as an alternative approach?

Kirsteen Mackenzie

I am not sure about that. I just know that for any non-compliance offence, you tend to need corroboration.

Stewart Stevenson

That is fine.

The Convener

Kirsteen, how many animal welfare officers are there in Perth and Kinross Council?

Kirsteen Mackenzie

There are two full-time animal welfare officers and one dog control officer, who deals primarily with the dog-related incidents. I do dog control when the dog control officer is off. They cover the whole of Perth and Kinross Council area.

The Convener

So there are three people spread fairly thinly to make sure that the notices are complied with.

Kirsteen Mackenzie

Yes.

The Convener

Inspector Dron, Stewart Stevenson wanted to hear from you.

Inspector Dron

I totally support what Kirsteen has said. The practicalities of that are very difficult to enforce. If somebody is disqualified from owning or keeping a dog and you go to their home and there is a dog there, it is much easier to prove that they are not complying. However, if they are walking the dog in public, how do you catch them at that point? How do you follow them? The practicalities of that can be very difficult, particularly as Scotland is, as you know, a rural country.

Stewart Stevenson

I will move on to my next question, which is essentially a technical point about legal drafting, and the witnesses might well not want to comment. In the bill as drafted, are the order-making powers appropriate and proportionate? I suspect that no one will wish to comment on that, but this is the opportunity to do so if you wish.

The Convener

If you were all present in the room, you could all look away at the same time and I would know that none of you wanted to answer. However, Inspector Dron is on the screen. Alan, do you want to answer?

Inspector Dron

I would just say that it is not really for me to comment.

The Convener

I am trying to see whether any of the other witnesses wants to say anything but no one is indicating, so we will move on to the next set of questions from Angus MacDonald.

Angus MacDonald (Falkirk East) (SNP)

We know that there are issues with enforcement of the current livestock-worrying legislation. The bill aims to tackle some of those issues by introducing increased powers for investigation. What would you say are the biggest challenges that you currently face in enforcing the existing legislation on livestock worrying, and do you think that the bill will help to address those challenges?

The Convener

I call Kirsteen, to be followed by Angus, just for a slightly different order. Kirsteen, do you want to head off on that?

Kirsteen Mackenzie

It would probably be better if Alan Dron answered that question, as his is currently the enforcement body.

The Convener

Alan, sorry—I just called you Angus. I am getting myself confused already, and it is only 20 minutes to 10.

Inspector Dron

The bill will certainly help with enforcement. It might instil a bit more of a perception of the seriousness of incidents. We will have the bill to refer to, so we can use the terminology for better, more targeted campaigning. Everything plays its part. We have got to educate from schools upwards—for example, at vets’—and go around Scotland trying to do as much as we can to raise awareness, but we will have the bill at the back of us if all of that has failed. At least there is something that has weight, and people will sit up and take notice of it. They will not think that they will get away with it or get a small fine.

Internally, our police officers are constantly trying to raise awareness and promote better education about the offence, and slowly but surely that is starting to work. That might be why the ratio of incidents that are investigated and result in a crime report to the number that are reported to the police is quite small.

The Convener

I welcome Christine Grahame, who is attending the meeting as Emma Harper’s committee substitute.

Christine Grahame (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)

I apologise for being late. I had put the meeting in my diary for 10 o’clock, not 9 o’clock.

The Convener

Apology very much accepted. You have missed some interesting evidence, but I am sure that you will catch up.

Oliver Mundell (Dumfriesshire) (Con)

My three questions are directed to Fiona Lovatt, as they relate to veterinary matters. In the interests of time, I am going to ask all three of them together, if that is okay.

What additional resources would vets require in order to play a statutory role—for example, in relation to training and remuneration—and does any legal or operational clarity need to be provided to support vets in playing such a role? Can Ms Lovatt briefly describe the procedures that would be involved in collecting evidence when a dog is brought to a practice? Can she foresee any circumstances in which those procedures could jeopardise the health or welfare of the dog?

The Convener

There are a lot of questions there, Fiona. Head off, as it were.

Fiona Lovatt

If a dog is presented to a vet, one of the key things is that the vet generally needs to have permission from the owner to treat the dog. For example, we sometimes have cases in which a police officer has called us to a road traffic accident and we need permission from that police officer to put an animal to sleep. We need permission from somebody. I foresee a similar sort of issue if a dog was brought into a practice by anyone other than its owner. That would put the vet in a particularly awkward position, and they would be unable to make a decision for fear of getting in trouble themselves. I think that it would have to be the police who were able to give that permission.

Forensic evidence is not actually my area of expertise; I am a sheep specialist, not a dog specialist. There would be a need for training. However, it would not necessarily be appropriate for every small, rural practitioner who is dealing with a mixed bag of issues to do that training, because it could be quite a rare, sporadic event. Vets in the labs at rural colleges like Scotland's Rural College would be more appropriate. As veterinary surgeons, we often send animals to that lab for a post mortem. There could be a specialist in the regional laboratory who would be able to advise and take responsibility.

09:45  



Oliver Mundell

That is helpful. You said that you feel that the police would have to enforce the offence—I know that other members are going to ask questions in that area—but, as it is currently drafted, the bill gives powers for agents to be appointed to exercise certain provisions. Do you think that it would present a problem for vets if someone other than the police brought in a dog?

Fiona Lovatt

The vet would always get permission. After a road traffic accident, for example, the vet would want a police officer to say that they gave permission and that someone would pay for the service. A vet is a private enterprise; therefore, they are watching their own back and their own pocket. They need somebody both to give permission legally and to stand the cost. A person from the SRUC laboratories would already have some sort of Government permission, I suppose.

The Convener

I will put a question to Alan Dron. If a dog is seized and taken to a vet for examination, to identify whether an offence has happened, and some evidence is collected—such as wool between its teeth—will a police officer be in a position, under the bill, to sign for a vet doing that? Will they take responsibility, or do we need to clarify that in the bill?

Inspector Dron

Again, it might come down to the circumstances, the extent of the injury and the case.

Going back to Fiona Lovatt’s point, in wildlife crime cases, the SRUC currently conducts a lot of inquires at the request of the police and the funding for those inquiries is provided by the Scottish Government. Therefore, a precedent is set for wildlife crime that could be extended to livestock incidents.

Police take dogs to the vet in very few instances. The only time that I am aware of that happening is when the farmer or landowner has shot the dog. The police will take possession of it and take it to a vet to ensure that, if it is still alive, it is not suffering and to have it treated or to ensure that, if it has died, it was shot properly and there was no undue suffering. Those are the only circumstances that I am aware of in which the police would seize the dog and take it to a vet.

The Convener

I suspect that, in most instances of wildlife crime, the police are dealing with evidence, such as in poisoning or shooting incidents in which the animal or bird has died. However, there might be an instance when a dog has been caught, there is no owner present and the police want to take it to the vet to gather evidence of an attack on sheep—which, as has been discussed, involves the collection of forensic evidence. Do you feel comfortable that the police have the ability to take the dog to the vet, sign for that work to be carried out and take responsibility not only for that decision but also for the cost? Wool between a dog’s teeth will disappear fairly quickly, so I would like to know that there is sufficient provision in the bill to cover that.

Inspector Dron

In the few instances in which that happened, the police would contact the relevant fiscal, because the issue would largely come down to cost—the cost of seizure and of homing. We might need to keep the dog for, say, 24 hours so that samples could be taken, and that would involve contacting a vet to come out. In such a case, we would have a duty of care towards the dog—we would have to feed and water it and so on.

We highlighted in our submission that there is a need for clarity, particularly when it comes to any financial implications regarding policing, homing and dealing with the veterinary aspects that Fiona Lovatt highlighted.

The Convener

Oliver, are you happy with that?

Oliver Mundell

I am.

The Convener

The next questions come from Mike Rumbles.

Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD)

Good morning. I am concerned about section 4 of the bill, which is headed, “Powers to authorise entry, search, seizure etc.” In my view, it gives authority in law for a police officer—or, indeed, an appointed inspector—to enter premises without a search warrant. Does that not represent a major and rather disproportionate move away from the current position in Scots law, whereby a police officer must show just cause to a sheriff or a justice of the peace in order to get a warrant to search premises?

I am not talking about the power that a police constable has to enter premises if he believes that a crime is under way or about to take place; I am talking about the power in the bill to search for evidence. Is that not a major departure from Scots law?

The Convener

I guess that Alan Dron is in the spotlight again.

Inspector Dron

We would liaise very closely with the fiscal on that. You are right that what is proposed represents an unusual step. We would need to make sure that there were reasonable grounds for suspecting that evidence that was connected to the alleged commission of the offence of livestock worrying was to be found in the specified premises and that there were no other means of obtaining that evidence.

At the moment, we will try to explore every opportunity to gain as much evidence as possible before moving to that stage. If the bill is passed, that provision might end up being used on a case-by-case basis, in conjunction with contacting the local fiscal for the area. I would suggest that that would be done only after as much normal, commonsense policing and investigation as possible had been carried out, which had led us to the point at which, in other circumstances, we would need to apply for a warrant to get the evidence in question.

Mike Rumbles

Yes—under the law as it stands, the police would need to apply for a warrant. I absolutely understand everything that you have said. However, the bill would give the police—and, indeed, inspectors that other organisations had appointed—the legal authority not to apply for a warrant if they did not need to. Section 4 says that. I am very surprised that such a provision has appeared in the bill in relation to livestock crime, awful as that is. It marks a major departure from what everybody accepts is one of the safeguards in Scots law to prevent undue searches. Do you agree that the bill changes that position?

Inspector Dron

I think that it would be an interesting step. I could foresee the police going to a house, having tried to gain as much evidence as possible. If we were refused entry by the householder after explaining why we were there, we would need to give due regard to the right of any potential suspect not to self-incriminate. Any suspect would need to be cautioned prior to any questioning.

I think it would be extremely unusual if we got to that stage. A lot of clarification would need to be provided. I could also see it being contested in court if the police gained access to premises without obtaining a warrant—unless, of course, they were welcomed in by the house owner, who said, for example, “It was my dog. I was actually going to contact you.” I could see the power being exercised on a case-by-case basis.

Mike Rumbles

Yes, I understand that the police would operate the provision sensibly, but such cases will arise if the bill is passed, because it will change the law.

The bill actually says, in proposed new section 2A(2) of the 1953 act, that, in relation to the need for a warrant,

“This subsection is complied with in relation to premises if ... either ... admission to the premises has been refused, or ... such a refusal may reasonably be expected”.

So, even if you expect a refusal, according to the change in the law outlined here, you could enter any premises to search for evidence. That is what the bill says, is it not?

Inspector Dron

It would appear so but, in practical terms, when we got into the premises, as police officers, we would need to tread carefully because we might be there for one reason but observe something else, at which point we would need to stop and possibly get a warrant.

Mike Rumbles

I understand what you are saying, and it sounds very reasonable, but our job as MSPs is to look at the legislation that is presented to us, and it certainly seems quite clear, as we go further into this, that the bill would change the law to give the police, if they were so inclined, the power to enter premises to search without a warrant. It is interesting that you agree with my interpretation that it would change the law.

The Convener

Stewart Stevenson wants to come in, but I have a quick question to ask first. Do you feel that you need that bit to be included to make the bill worth while, or is there enough in the bill to make it worth while without that bit?

Inspector Dron

Personally, after 28 years of policing, I would suggest, from a policing perspective, that it might not be required, for a variety of reasons. It might overcomplicate things. We might end up having to get a warrant anyway. We would always be on stronger grounds if we had a warrant. I also think that there would be very few cases in which the police would be acting in relation to that situation anyway.

Stewart Stevenson

Is Inspector Dron familiar with the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Protection) (Scotland) Act 1951, which, under section 11(4), granted powers of search to water bailiffs appointed by a salmon fisheries board without the necessity of a warrant? Lest you wonder why I ask that question, I point out that, having been a water bailiff in 1968, I am aware that I had that power, even as a student doing a summer job, when I was fulfilling that role. I wonder whether you are familiar with that power, as it may not be quite as novel as my colleague was suggesting.

The Convener

I am sure that you did not exercise that power in 1951, Stewart.

Stewart Stevenson

Actually, I did.

The Convener

Oh, well, there you go—that ages you. I ask Alan Dron to answer that question.

Inspector Dron

My colleague, who is a wildlife crime co-ordinator, will be familiar with that aspect. As to how often that power would be used and in what circumstances, I would not know and could not comment on that.

Stewart Stevenson

Just to be clear, it was not in 1951 that I exercised that power.

The Convener

Oh—sorry. Also, just for the avoidance of doubt, I should point out that, in the past, I have declared an interest in wild salmon fisheries. As I made a comment, I ought to make that clear—not that it is really that relevant.

Maureen Watt has the next question.

Maureen Watt

This question is probably for Inspector Dron. You will be aware that the bill suggests that additional capacity should be provided by an “inspecting body”, whatever that might be. Would you find that beneficial?

Inspector Dron

Anything that can help policing, police resourcing and education certainly cannot be detrimental. I am trying to think of practical examples. There would need to be clarity about who would have primacy. Under the current law, it is the police who can investigate but, in lots of rural locations, someone else will attend—whether it is someone from the local authority, the dog warden or whoever—to assist a police officer with corroboration.

The circumstances are similar for fly-tipping. Who has primacy? Is it SEPA? Is it local authorities? Is it the police? Sometimes, the lines are blurred and victims or those who phone in do not know who they should contact or expect to do something about the incident or offence.

10:00  



Maureen Watt

The Scottish SPCA said in its written evidence that it would not want to be that body. I am picking up from what we have discussed today that you would rather a statutory body, such as the local authority, be responsible.

Inspector Dron

There needs to be clarity. In practical terms, as Kirsteen Mackenzie has already highlighted, Perth and Kinross Council has only three officers to cover what is a large geographical area.

To ensure a better quality of service—one that is provided as and when required, and policing is 24/7—if there were to be any additional bodies, who they were would need to be clear, as would what they could offer and when they would go out. In addition, the people they were attending would have to know who had primacy—indeed, they would need to know who to contact in the first instance.

Maureen Watt

The police would have to progress any prosecutions, so Police Scotland would have to be involved.

Inspector Dron

Yes. By and large, cases are submitted to the Procurator Fiscal Service through the police. As Kirsteen Mackenzie highlighted, local authority dog wardens can issue dog control notices. There are other responses—other avenues can be taken to try to resolve an incident, such as action to educate people .

Maureen Watt

How often is video footage of livestock worrying or a dog attack on animals used as evidence?

Inspector Dron

Its use is increasing. The police now have individual personal data assistants, which are being rolled out to officers so that they can capture normal, static photographs. There have been occasions when a farmer, a landowner or someone out walking has captured an incident. Anything that can be submitted as best evidence in a case to the Procurator Fiscal Service would obviously be submitted.

The Convener

Does Kirsteen Mackenzie want to come in on that question about additional powers, given that such powers might involve the council?

Kirsteen Mackenzie

Obviously, we already have powers to issue dog control notices, which we use. We would welcome Police Scotland still being the primary agency. We would quite happily work jointly and have protocols with Police Scotland. We are always happy to be an assisting agency and to work with Police Scotland.

The Convener

I know that Fiona Lovatt is still present. She will probably be the one to answer the questions that Christine Grahame is, I think, about to ask.

Christine Grahame

My question is about money, so I do not think so, although I could be wrong.

Financial, human and technical resources will be required as a result of the legislation. Nearly every piece of legislation comes with a cost attached to it. [Interruption.] I am so sorry—the phone is going off. What a morning!

Of course, the cost is to some extent predicated on who or what the inspecting body is. My question is for all the witnesses. What funding would they require to ensure that the legislation works?

The Convener

We will go to Alan Dron first, not Fiona Lovatt. I will give all the witnesses a chance to answer that question.

Inspector Dron

To be honest, I have no idea. Again, a lot of this would be done and therefore subsumed under normal policing, as it is at the moment. Any financial considerations usually come in if a dog is seized, in which case, as was mentioned earlier, it is about deciding whether contacting the Procurator Fiscal Service is proportionate and who is to pay the bill for the keep of the animal—its homing and welfare.

The Convener

Okay. Does Kirsteen Mackenzie want to come in on that?

Kirsteen Mackenzie

The local authority is stretched financially at the moment. Our resources are limited at any time. We deal with lots of other things and, if we were going to be involved in a large education programme, we would need more finances. At the moment, the council does not have the resources to provide that out of current budgets.

Fiona Lovatt

I am not sure about the on-going costs, but the survey that we undertook showed that the current cost of dog attacks to sheep farms in Scotland is £5.5 million a year. Farmers are bearing those costs; only 9 per cent of them receive money for those attacks.

Christine Grahame

It is extremely difficult. You can correct me, but I think that the Scottish SPCA can charge for keeping an animal, pending the owner’s trial for the dog being out of control or savaging sheep or other beasts. Am I correct about that? It used to have huge bills for that. I know that Mike Flynn is giving evidence later, but perhaps Inspector Dron could remind me of who pays for that.

Inspector Dron

I think that the Scottish SPCA currently pays. There is also a difficulty if a dog that has been worrying livestock is taken but no owner is found. Who pays for that dog’s keep? That needs to be clarified from the outset. In some circumstances, an owner just signs their dog over. Does that mean that the Scottish SPCA has to rehome it? Someone from the Dogs Trust will be giving evidence later on, and they might be able to take that question further.

Christine Grahame

Thank you—that is fine.

The Convener

Finally, Emma Harper, whose bill we are discussing, would like to ask some questions. Good morning, Emma.

Emma Harper (South Scotland) (SNP)

Good morning. It has been interesting to hear everybody’s contributions. I thank the witnesses for their diligence in answering the questions and members for their questioning.

I have a couple of questions. Are there more incidents in one part of the country versus other areas—for example, the Highlands versus the south of Scotland? Are we able to take apart the data to look at where more incidents occur?

Inspector Dron

Fortunately, one of our colleagues trawls for information by policing division on a daily basis, so we know exactly where in the 13 policing divisions there are instances of livestock attacks and worrying. Unfortunately, incidents happen throughout Scotland. We have recorded incidents in Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles; this year, some of the worst were in Oban. One of the worst incidents that we are aware of happened at Inveraray. A lot of the higher numbers are near the central belt, as you can imagine, just because of volume. However, incidents also occur in areas where there are core paths, such as the west Highland way. Conic hill is a particular focus for incidents in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park. Incidents happen in places where you expect people to be out walking dogs, but they are spread throughout the country. There are no specific areas where the incidence is higher than it is in others.

Emma Harper

Has coronavirus affected the ability to monitor, capture or look at the data? Did you see a reduction when people were in lockdown and an increase when folk started escaping from their homes and going out with their dogs for their daily exercise?

Inspector Dron

Because we were very aware of the issue, we were starting to gather stats on it. There was going to be a campaign this year, so we wanted to compare figures from 1 January to 31 May this year and last year. We found a significant decrease in the number of incidents. From 1 January to 31 May this year, 120 incidents of livestock attack were reported, of which 52 were recorded as crimes. Sixty-eight dogs were accompanied; 46 were not. The numbers became significantly lower as the Covid restrictions went on.

From speaking to a lot of landowners, walkers and so on, I think that those figures inform and complement what we had thought: during lockdown, more folks were at home, and went out with their dog to walk. That is why there was a spike that resulted in that figure of 68 cases in which somebody—the owner or a person responsible for the dog—was present, as opposed to only 46, this time round, in which they were not.

As the lockdown restrictions have eased, there has been a slight increase, particularly in the central belt area, as folk try, for good reason, to get back out and about. However, it has not been a dramatic increase, which is encouraging.

Fiona Lovatt

I do not have any data relating to lockdown. You also asked about incidents in the different regions of Scotland. According to the stratified survey that we undertook, there is a higher risk of dog attacks in Lothian and east central Scotland, with a 28 per cent prevalence in each of those areas, and fewer attacks in the north-east of Scotland, for which the prevalence is 8 per cent.

Emma Harper

I have a final question, convener—and thank you for allowing me to ask my questions.

When we explored drafting the provisions on seizing a dog and taking it to a vet, we included the possibility that a vet might already be on site, examining sheep or attending to injuries. Therefore, arranging for a dog to be

“examined by a veterinary surgeon”

does not necessarily mean taking it to a veterinary practice. It might mean that a vet who is already in attendance at the site of an offence could collect evidence. At that time, we were thinking that an emetic could be used to make the dog sick in order to collect wool, or of using swabs for analysis, to compare blood from the dog’s mouth with the sheep’s blood.

Does that language need to be clarified? Taking a dog to a vet, or having a vet assess a dog, does not necessarily mean that it has to be taken to a veterinary practice.

Fiona Lovatt

Vets would need training and clear guidelines on what was expected of them and who was asking them to undertake that work. If a vet is already on site, the farmer has presumably called them there to attend to the sheep, so the cost is to the farmer.

Perhaps a fine is an appropriate detriment for the dog owner.

The Convener

Inspector Dron, do you want to answer?

Inspector Dron

Yes. In many instances, the first port of call—particularly if a farmer or livestock owner sees their animal suffering—is to contact a vet to come out. A lot of evidence gathering can be done at the scene. However, again, that ultimately comes down to finance. Would the vet bill the farmer? The farmer, landowner or livestock owner would have the initial outlay, to cover the vet’s costs, and might be looking to get some sort of compensation further down the line.

The Convener

Emma, does that answer your questions?

Emma Harper

Yes, that is great. Thank you, convener. The session has already given me a lot to think about.

The Convener

Thank you very much. Before we end the session, I have a question for Fiona Lovatt.

I know farmers who avoid using pastures in areas where they know people walk dogs and where there are likely to be dog attacks. I also know farmers who bring sheep in in the evening because they are worried about the sheep being left at night. Do you have any evidence on that issue? It may suggest that farmers are undertaking extra work to try to mitigate the risk of attacks.

Fiona Lovatt

Yes, absolutely. We asked people what measures they employed to cope with dog attacks, and which measures they thought were effective and which they thought were ineffective. Fifty-two per cent said that they talked to the dog owners; 60 per cent thought that that was effective, and 30 per cent thought that it was not effective. They also mentioned putting up signs.

However, people said that moving sheep to a different area was the most effective measure. Having identified a pasture as dangerous because of dog attacks, they used another area. Twenty-two per cent of farmers said that they move sheep to a different area; of those, 72 per cent thought that that was effective and 19 per cent did not. That was the most effective thing that farmers thought they could do.

We asked a lot of questions about the emotional impact. Farmers really dislike the idea of conflict—of speaking to a dog owner and getting an aggressive response. Often, the dog owner is very upset or angry, and the farmer is worried about how they will react, when they themselves, or their family, are emotionally very distressed. It is a fraught time.

The Convener

Thank you very much.

There are no other questions. I thank the witnesses for their evidence and for the time that they have given the committee.

10:16 Meeting suspended.  



10:25 On resuming—  



The Convener

Welcome back. I remind members to ensure that their mobile phones are on silent.

I welcome our second panel of witnesses, who are from organisations that represent dog owners and countryside access interests: Mike Flynn, chief superintendent of the Scottish SPCA; Steve Jenkinson, access and countryside adviser to the Kennel Club; Paula Boyden, director of Dogs Trust; and Bridget Jones, strategic paths and projects manager at NatureScot.

I advise our witnesses that, if they want to come in on a question, they should indicate that in the chat function. I will then ensure that I bring them in, but I will not have the chance to do so for all four of them on every question. As I said to our earlier witnesses, they should also keep an eye on me. If anyone goes off on too much of a tangent, I might wiggle my pen at them to bring them back on track.

Our first question is from John Finnie, who is attending the meeting remotely.

John Finnie

Good morning, panel. Convener, I am conscious that the nature of the questions that I posed to our earlier panel brought lengthy answers so, if I may, for this panel I will combine the two questions that I asked earlier. I am sure that our current witnesses will have been listening in to the earlier panel, so they will know that my questions have a number of parts.

In your professional experience, what is your assessment of the scale and nature of the problem of protecting livestock? Do we have enough evidence to make an accurate assessment of that and of how it should be addressed? Is there a need for new legislation? If there is such evidence, how might we overcome such problems?

Mike Flynn (Scottish SPCA)

Good morning, Mr Finnie. Good morning, convener. I thank the committee for inviting the Scottish SPCA to the meeting.

The survey that Fiona Lovatt mentioned in her earlier evidence was very good. It clearly showed that, as the Scottish SPCA has always known, such incidents are widely underreported. Many farmers just do not see the point in reporting them, because they think that the dog owners will never be traced. A lot of them also will not claim on their insurance, for fear of their premiums going up.

The Convener

Steve Jenkinson wants to come in on that.

Steve Jenkinson (Kennel Club)

Good morning. The Kennel Club does not keep data on such incidents but, as we pointed out in our submission, we are mindful of the huge disparity between elements in the available data. At the end of the day, though, one incident is one too many.

I will make full disclosure by saying that, on my livestock holding here in Orkney, I have been a victim of livestock worrying, and some of my animals have been killed. Whether it happens more or less frequently is not the issue, though; instead, we need to focus on the victims, especially the farmers.

At the time of such an incident, it is easy for the victim to feel vengeful and to want penalties to be imposed. However, when the police came and asked me what I wanted to happen, I just wanted the worrying to stop and not to happen again. In advising the Kennel Club, and in general, my focus has therefore been to say that figures on how often livestock worrying happens might be interesting, but knowing why it happens will provide us with the best interventions that might change things.

We have already heard about two threads of the problem. The first is free-ranging dogs, such as those that escape from home, which account for about half of incidents; and the other is dogs who are out with walkers. The key point is that interventions to deal with those two aspects are very different. There is a lot of talk to the effect that having greater penalties would be a better deterrent and would make it clear to owners that their dogs killing sheep or other livestock is not acceptable. I am not aware of any dog owner who has ever thought that that was acceptable. They might be misguided and not understand that their dog running round in a field of ewes can cause them to abort.

10:30  



Legislation to deal with repeat, reckless, wilful offenders is useful but, for us, the issue is more about asking why sheep worrying is happening and getting the right interventions than it is about arguing over the huge disparity between the figures. We still need to do something, but we need to be sure that we are doing the right thing. We are not sure that lower numbers will help us get the right interventions to help the farmers who suffer.

John Finnie

In the light of what you have said, do you feel that there is a need for new legislation? I would like the other witness to answer that as well.

Steve Jenkinson

It follows on from that. Because of my holding, I am an NFU Scotland member as well. The NFUS reports that, when dog control notices have been used, they have been useful. The great thing about them is that they can deal with why a problem has happened. If it has happened because a dog has escaped, a dog control notice can require someone to keep their boundaries correctly secure. If children were not walking their dog responsibly, it can deal with that. Specific measures can be targeted to deal with the problem.

It is hard to say what effect the legislation will have on the people who wilfully cause sheep worrying, whoever they may be—they are a very small minority. If I am honest, there is no reason to oppose greater penalties per se, but the bill seems to be a missed opportunity to deal with the causes. For example, if a pedestrian was killed by a driver who came off a bend in the road, we would clearly think that that would not have happened if that person had not been driving that car, but we do not just penalise that driver, because the reason for the accident could have been bad road design or a fault in the car, or the person could have been drink driving. There could have been all sorts of reasons, and we deal with the reasons why things happen.

My interest is in seeing the problem not happen so much, if at all, to me and many other farmers. On whether we should focus on penalties and whether they are a big deterrent, what could be a bigger deterrent than your much-loved family animal being shot? If we are going to have legislation, it would be nice if it focused on making a difference. It is great that the member has introduced the bill, but it seems a missed opportunity to make a difference by dealing with the underlying causes. That is the disappointment.

Bridget Jones (NatureScot)

Good morning, everyone. On the first part of the question, on the evidence of the scale of the issue, we do not hold data specifically on these kinds of incidents. However, we get feedback through the local access forum meetings with our national access forum and it would be fair to say that behavioural issues to do with dog ownership and responsible access get raised fairly regularly. Any evidence that is out there is very useful for us, particularly because a large part of our work is to encourage responsible behaviour and encourage compliance with the Scottish outdoor access code. That aspect is important.

As other folk have said, the legislation could do with being updated. It would be useful to update the definitions of terms such as livestock and to bring the legislation into this century. We see the role of enforcement as being one element of how to help manage people’s enjoyment of the outdoors, but management and education are as important, if not more so, in ensuring prevention.

Paula Boyden (Dogs Trust)

We accept that livestock crime is underreported. If we are to be able to move forward, first and foremost, we need good, robust recording and reporting. What I mean by that is standardised recording of incidents. We were very encouraged to hear that the Scottish partnership against rural crime is recording all incidents, and it is great that Scotland has a single police force, which makes life a lot easier. What we are seeing from reports from the National Police Chiefs Council, for example, is that there is a huge variation. We need to make sure that recording is standardised, not only so that we know what we are dealing with but so that, should the bill be passed, we can assess whether it is being beneficial. Reporting at the moment focuses on the numbers, but we might need to look at the impact or the level of suffering that has been encountered by the farm.

Do we need new legislation? I would say that we do. The current legislation is outdated in terms of the penalties and the species covered. Again, I agree with the other witnesses that this is only one part of it. The challenge for this legislation is that its primary impact comes after the event has happened. We need to look at prevention, whether it be education or management, but we need to look a little bit more broadly to see whether we can stop these incidents from happening in the first place.

The Convener

John, I think that Stewart Stevenson wants to come in. I would be very happy to come back to you after that, if you have further questions to ask.

John Finnie

I think that my questions have been covered, convener.

Stewart Stevenson

I suspect that my question is for Paula Boyden. What proportion of the dog population in Scotland or in the UK is represented by huskies and Alsatians—German shepherds?

Paula Boyden

Sadly, we do not have that data. How many dogs are in Scotland is a matter of question. The most current figures that we have are from the Pet Food Manufacturing Association, which does an annual survey. Its estimate is that there are more than 700,000 dogs in Scotland.

I should sound a note of caution. The most prevalent breeds for attacking livestock appear to be huskies and German shepherds, but I would ask whether huskies and German shepherds are more prone to that activity, or whether that is a reflection of the sorts of owners that those dogs have. We have to be cautious about focusing on those particular breeds.

The Convener

Mike Flynn, you wanted to come back in on a point that was raised in that answer.

Mike Flynn

I just wanted to go back to what the gentleman said. We are here to represent not just dogs but all animals in Scotland. Having witnessed some sheep attacks, I know that they can be horrendous. People must remember that we have been doing education on this for at least 30 years, and I know that Alan Dron’s group has been doing it, certainly for the past couple of years, along with the National Sheep Association.

We must remember that practically 90 per cent of all these attacks are preventable. There is a basic premise in law that you are not allowed to let your dog stray and, if you have a dog, it must be kept under control. If everybody had their dog under control, this would not happen.

Sometimes when an attack happens, it is inadvertent, but there are repeat offenders. I am therefore fully supportive of Emma Harper’s bill. We must have some kind of sustainable penalty. The only time I see the number of attacks going down in a region is when a farmer takes the law into his own hands and kills the dog, which he is perfectly entitled to do if it is attacking his livestock. That seems to bring the prevalence in that area down for a while. However, if somebody gets a £50 fine and their dog back, that means nothing to anyone.

The Convener

John Finnie, does that raise further points for you, or are you happy with the issues that you have raised?

John Finnie

This is a bit off script, but I have a question for Mr Flynn. Accepting that legislation is about how we control how humans behave, is there ever a situation in which perhaps an aberration, such as a brain tumour, could mean that a dog’s behaviour is no longer predictable? I appreciate that you would say that the dog should be under control in any case, but I wonder whether you wish to comment on that.

Mike Flynn

Yes, there could be a veterinary reason, and that is one example where a veterinary surgeon’s examination would be good. However, if the dog is under control, it would not matter if it had a mini stroke—it would not make any difference.

I can think of a couple of occasions in my 34 years with the society when an owner has lost a dog that strayed and has done literally everything to try to get it back—they have informed the police, the society and dog wardens. I can remember a case in West Lothian when it took us three weeks to put out a live trap to catch the dog. It had been worrying sheep, but everybody was trying everything. With other people, if their dog goes out, they just do not care. It is down to responsible ownership.

Richard Lyle

Will the bill as drafted help to reduce the number of incidents of livestock worrying, and can it be improved to make it more effective?

Paula Boyden

I certainly anticipate that the bill will reduce incidents through increased penalties as well as the realisation that it is not a victimless crime and that the impacts on the farming community are huge. One would hope that, with some high-profile cases that show the impact and the losses that are incurred—I do not mean just financial losses—the bill will ultimately send a salutary message to irresponsible dog owners who allow their dogs to stray.

Steve Jenkinson

I will first go back to the question about dog breeds. The Kennel Club’s view is that, as Paula Boyden said, any dog can be a problem, so looking at specific breeds can be a red herring. However, just out of interest, according to the register of pedigree dogs, German shepherds were the eighth most frequently registered dog in the past year. Huskies were not in the top 20, but 397 husky puppies were registered last year.

On the question of how the bill can help, thinking of the two reasons why such incidents can happen, we know from studies that have been done on sites that are heavily used by dog walkers and which have eliminated sheep worrying that good information to help dog owners avoid conflict is key. People who go out walking their dogs want to have a happy, healthy and hassle-free walk. Nobody goes out thinking, “I hate sheep,” or whatever. On sites—particularly local authority sites—where people turn up and see credible signage that says that, if you go one way, there are sheep, and if you go a different way, there are no sheep, people will choose the least-hassle option. The information needs to be credible and timely, but we have seen with sites where graziers were going to take their animals away because of the frequency of livestock worrying that, when people turned up in the car park and good information was provided, that dealt with the problem.

We know that there is sometimes a problem with signage. I am mindful that the insurer NFU Mutual says that only 27 per cent of farmers use signage anyway but, if a sign saying that there are sheep or lambs in a field is left up all year and people have gone past it three or four times and there have been no livestock there, people will ignore it, just as much as people ignore signs if they are going down the M9 and are told that there are roadworks ahead but they do not see any.

For 85 per cent of dog walkers, exercising their dog off the lead is the single most important thing for them. That in no way justifies livestock worrying, but we need to remember that walking your dog is one of the top two lifestyle factors for keeping people active and healthy in Scotland. We therefore need to help people to make good choices. If their dog is happy when they walk, they will walk more. We should not suppress that, but we should help people to make good choices.

One could take a principled approach and say that dogs should always be under control in the countryside because they are a danger to themselves, never mind other people. However, we should consider the approach to other types of rural crime such as theft. I have been to events run by SPARC and by Alan Dron and others that involve telling people about what they can do to prevent rural theft on their land. We feel that, equally, there needs to be a partnership approach on the issue of dogs that involves bodies helping farmers and providing the right information. As I said, no dog walker goes out intending to have such problems.

On the point that 50 per cent of dogs that are involved in incidents are free roaming, there is a need to raise awareness of that. I often speak to dog owners who say that their dog is a country dog, a rural dog or a crofter’s dog or whatever. They say, “He goes away, he comes back and he doesn’t cause any harm,” but, actually, they do not know that. It is good to report free-ranging dogs to the local authority and get a dog control notice.

10:45  



Richard Lyle

Before I ask my next question, I would like to ask Steve Jenkinson about something else. I used to be a dog owner—I had two Yorkshire terriers. The Kennel Club is a respected organisation. Does it have anything on its website about sheep worrying? I cannot find anything. What is the position of the Kennel Club? Does it try to inform people who have dogs about the situation?

Steve Jenkinson

I act on behalf of the Kennel Club, and the Scottish Kennel Club comes on board with that. The key thing for us is that this is an issue for all dogs, not just pedigree dogs. In Scotland, we focus our attention on working with the national access forum. One of the key things that we have done is ensure that the information is clear. When we talk about worrying or whatever, our message has always been that it is not acceptable for dogs to approach livestock or wildlife. The Scottish Parliament information centre briefing highlights the work that NatureScot has done to produce clear, bullet-point messages to help people understand the problem. We feel that there must be a joint approach. To be honest, the issue does not just involve the people who visit our website. We need to take the message to people who are going out for a walk or something, not just those people who have a pedigree dog.

I hope that helps. The SPICe briefing contains the wording that was agreed by us, NFU Scotland and SPARC. There is a recognition that the wording was previously too woolly and unclear, so we need to push out that new wording.

Richard Lyle

Perhaps you can ask the Kennel Club to update its website.

What is the understanding of our witnesses of the most common circumstances around livestock worrying?

Steve Jenkinson

Would you like me to answer that, convener? I am aware that I have been speaking quite a lot.

The Convener

I would like someone else to come in, if possible. Bridget Jones could answer next, followed by Paula Boyden, and then we will come back to you, Steve.

I remind witnesses that they should keep an eye on me, because I tend to waggle my pen when I want to bring somebody else in. I want to give everyone a fair crack of the whip, and the other option is to cut the microphones, which I object to doing.

Bridget Jones

On the information that is provided to the public about responsible behaviour and dog ownership, the Scottish countryside access code website and associated websites have all that information on them. As Stephen Jenkinson alluded, most—if not all—of that advice is produced in collaboration by NFU Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates, SPARC, the Kennel Club and so on, which ensures that we get good messages out there that work. The information that is produced to encourage responsible dog ownership and behaviour in the outdoors takes all sorts of forms—signage, posters, training videos and so on. You should look at that resource. We run various campaigns as part of that, some of which have been incorporated in the Covid-19 campaign work that we have been doing to encourage responsible behaviour in people’s daily exercise—dog messages are in there, too.

Over the years, we have run various campaigns, particularly focusing on lambing. That brings me to the question that was asked about the most common issues. Lambing time is probably the biggest situation that we are asked to help to raise awareness about, and it involves the months in the early part of the year—from January through to even as far as June or July—as well as the period prior to lambing taking place, when pregnant ewes are in the fields and on the hillsides.

That is probably enough from me.

Paula Boyden

As we heard from SPARC, one of the key things to bear in mind is that, in 50 per cent of the incidents that are recorded, no owner is present; the dog is on its own. The National Police Chiefs Council’s four-year survey suggests that that figure is as high as two thirds, and it is even higher in some police forces. We need to look at why those dogs are unaccompanied. As one of the previous witnesses said, we can have good signage, but how do we manage the situation if the owner is not there? What is happening to allow the dogs to roam free? Are they escaping from gardens, or are owners letting them out through the front door? That is a huge area in which we can aim to prevent some of the incidents from happening.

The Convener

I am happy to bring in Steve Jenkinson, briefly.

Steve Jenkinson

I think that everyone else has covered what I was going to say. The key thing is being aware of why such incidents happen and then having the right interventions. Issuing fines is a small but significant part of the story. We want to prevent the incidents happening rather than deal with people after the event.

Colin Smyth

Good morning. Some of the evidence that the committee has received has highlighted the need to better enforce existing measures. In relation to livestock worrying, would increased use of dog control notices be beneficial? Allied to that, are there other methods that need to be better employed to ensure that any legislation that is passed by the Parliament will be effective?

Paula Boyden

I absolutely agree with the question. Dog control notices could be used in such instances, but a couple of things need to happen to enable them to be used. We need to ensure that there is good communication between local authorities and the police, but we also need a means of tracing dogs. If a dog control notice is issued in one local authority area, what happens if the owner or the dog strays out of that area? How do we know that a dog control notice has been imposed on that dog? With some administrative support, dog control notices could be used to much better effect.

Bridget Jones

I will pick up on non-legislative approaches. I want to talk about education and awareness raising, but there are also management measures. We should encourage the use of good, current, relevant and attractive signage to ensure that the public are aware of whatever is ahead of them, whether it is lambs or new livestock in a field or whatever.

It has been mentioned already, but I cannot overemphasise the importance of providing good information. Dog walkers tend to be quite habitual; they use regular routes. The dog-walking circuit can be a daily or twice-daily feature of their activity, so they are quite a good audience to pinpoint and target in order to get messages across.

Dog walkers like to stay away from livestock. They are looking for easy and enjoyable walks, so management measures include ensuring that paths are there or, if lambing is happening in the field, that alternative routes are available. Good information should be provided about that. There should also be good fencing and gate arrangements. Work should be done with the access officers of local authorities and national park authorities, and potentially with the local community. There might be a community path group in the area that might be able to help with funding for new path arrangements and so on.

There are other aspects that can help land managers to manage the issue through support and, potentially, even funding.

Mike Flynn

I go back to what Kirsteen Mackenzie from Perth and Kinross Council said in the previous session. Dog control notices can be very effective but, with no disrespect to anybody who is involved in dealing with them, the services are grossly understaffed and underfunded. Certain local authorities do not have an appointed person but will just put somebody who works in a different department on to issuing dog control notices.

In either Aberdeen or Aberdeenshire, if the police charge somebody with a livestock worrying offence, they will issue a control notice, but that is not a joined-up thing. There is not enough co-ordination, and there are so many crossovers in legislation. If a dog is unattended, it is technically a stray dog, and a stray dog is out of the system in seven days. That is legally binding. There is lots of legislation that could be used, but it is not currently adopted.

Steve Jenkinson

I reaffirm the value of dog control notices. They are really good, particularly given the balance between criminal and civil law. It can be sufficient to take preventative action instead of going down the criminal route, particularly when the incident happened unintentionally.

If we are saying that people do not have the resources to issue dog control notices, which can be done much more quickly and easily because of how they are constructed, we have to ask how criminal sanctions are going to be applied, too. Somebody will need to use resources to investigate and take action, and that time will be spent after incidents have happened, rather than preventatively.

Peter Chapman

Good morning, folks. We have strayed a wee bit into this area already, but we all know that, as far as this crime is concerned, prevention is better than cure. Some of the panel have spoken a wee bit about the need for better signage and information, but what about improved training for dogs and dog owners? What do you think that should look like?

How might a higher level of training be ensured, given that we heard—I think that it was from Steve Jenkinson, but it may not have been; it does not matter—that we have been trying to train owners and dogs better for the past 30 years yet the problem still exists. What can we do better, as far as training dogs and their owners is concerned, to ensure that there are fewer such crimes?

Mike Flynn

It is down to education. As I said, we have been trying that for over 30 years. Before Covid came in, our education officers spoke to over 240,000 children throughout Scotland, and in our livestock section we talk about the dangers of dogs not being under control. Education is always the key thing here.

Some people just do not believe that their dog would do it. Paula Boyden and Steve Jenkinson are right; we should not just focus on German shepherd dogs and huskies, because any dog of a decent size is capable of the behaviour. I remember a lady, many years ago, who had walked her dog around the same fields for eight years and one day it just took off. She actually went to the farmer to report it herself—she was very responsible. She was devastated, but she had had no indication that her dog would do it. One day it just decided to take off. As we heard earlier, the reason might have been that there was something physically wrong with the dog.

Education is key, and we would like to think that, if the bill is passed, it will be implemented along with a nationwide campaign to highlight the potential dangers and the fact that the penalties are now severe and people could lose their dogs. As I said, under the right circumstances, a farmer can currently destroy a dog if the owner cannot control it and it is harrying his sheep.

Steve Jenkinson

People have usefully made the point that the crime is invariably unintentional and education is key. One of the cantons in Switzerland requires people to take a dog ownership test, which is like a driving test, before they can get a dog. When I was studying the psychology of people and their pets at the University of Southampton, one of my colleagues looked at that approach but they found that there was no net benefit. Some people were going to be good dog owners anyway and others were not. The fact that someone had passed the test did not necessarily mean that they would be a good dog owner.

Education is certainly key. I do not want to undermine the value of sheep, but education is particularly important because these things are often symptoms of poor dog welfare and poor dog keeping—they are symptomatic of a wider issue. Through our good citizen training scheme, which operates all across the UK and extensively throughout Scotland, we are developing new outdoor modules. Dog training often happens inside, where there are no sheep and deer, and training outside can be really valuable.

The key thing is that, once we see the signs—for instance, a dog having strayed or there having been an incident—we must deal with it straight away. Dog control notices can do that quite swiftly.

11:00  



Peter Chapman

Does Steve Jenkinson feel that the increased penalties that come with the bill are part of the solution as well? He made the point very strongly that nobody wants these incidents to happen. However, will the fact that penalties have increased get back to general dog owners and make them realise that it is a real crime? It is about education, but also about the penalty that goes with allowing attacks to happen. Do you accept that the penalty needs to be increased as well?

Steve Jenkinson

Penalties certainly need to be there, because people who let these attacks happen often do not look after their dogs in a lot of other ways. However, relying on a penalty is a tad naive. It needs to be part of a suite of measures.

Sentencing guidelines for people who let attacks happen wilfully or recklessly will be really important. We do need penalties, and it would be good to extend the bill’s coverage to all the other animals that have been mentioned, because no animal should suffer a dog attack. However, it would be better if the penalties were more integrated with preventative measures and used as a last resort in the case of people who wilfully repeat the offence.

Paula Boyden

Obviously, education is key. We need to encourage folks to recognise that training their dog is the norm. We come across a lot of dog owners who, because they have had a dog before, feel that they do not need to go to any sort of training classes.

I am here on behalf of Dogs Trust, but I am also a veterinary surgeon and I know that, if I could give people a tablet to make their dog behave, they would willingly give it. However, training takes time and effort, and some people do not have the time or inclination to put the effort in as soon as they can when they get a dog. Therefore, we need to focus on that. We have set up a dog training school to encourage folks to recognise that training is not only for puppy owners but for anybody who has recently got a dog.

You will not be surprised to hear that a number of the dogs that come into our care have underlying behavioural issues. That is because it takes time and effort for people to train the dogs, to address and resolve those issues. I cannot overemphasise the importance of training. However, sitting alongside that—and I appreciate that it is left of field for this forum—we need to look at regulation of the whole world of dog training and behaviour management, to ensure that dogs are appropriately treated and that we are not negatively impacting on their welfare with what we are trying to do in the training process.

Bridget Jones

Others have covered the topic quite well but, yes, training is a component part of improving people’s understanding of what they need to do.

Perhaps more integrated content is the trick to ensuring an understanding of what access rights and responsibilities are, as is a better understanding of land use in Scotland. There is possibly an opportunity for the public to learn a bit more about what goes on in the countryside in relation to land management and use. A wider understanding would be to everybody’s benefit, but, in this case, it would particularly benefit people who have dogs.

Oliver Mundell

Penalties have probably been quite comprehensively covered. What are the panel’s views on requiring compensation for livestock owners?

Paula Boyden

I agree that there should be an element of compensation, as a person’s livelihood is affected. The cost is clearly financial, but it also goes much wider because of the emotional impact on the farmer. It is not just about the financial loss of the sheep; a farmer might have spent years building a pedigree, closed flock and they will not be able to resolve damage to that overnight. There are also all the subsequent losses. There is the immediate loss of the animals that have been killed, and animals that have been seriously injured might need either treatment or euthanasia. There are also subsequent losses, such as abortion in ewes and suchlike, which we need to look at.

I agree that there should be compensation, and it would make sense to look at that when the case comes to court. It goes back to my previous comment about the need to understand the level of suffering that is incurred by those animals, so that we can have a full view of the impact of an incident. The compensation should be proportionate to the situation.

Steve Jenkinson

At the end of the day, this is a people problem, not a dog problem. It is quite reasonable for farmers to be compensated for the problem. However, along with compensation there should be good action to ensure that the incident does not happen again. That is it.

The Convener

Bridget, do you have any views on that?

Bridget Jones

I agree that compensation seems sensible.

Mike Flynn

Compensation is very important, because of all the financial costs, but you can only get compensation from someone who can afford to pay it. We have personal experience of that issue through the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006. I would like to see all reasonable costs of the enforcement agency being recouped from the accused person if they are found guilty.

You have heard from the police and the local authorities that they do not have the financial resource. If a person is wilfully allowing it and the dog is left with them, it is likely to happen again. If you seize the dog, the kennelling costs will be about £15 per dog per day, and it can take up to a year for the case to get to court. Local authorities and the police simply cannot afford that.

The Convener

Should there be limits to compensation? Stewart Stevenson suggested that tups could be—and I can say that they are—worth in excess of £300,000. A breeding ewe could be worth £7,000 or £8,000. It is unlikely that farmers will have them individually insured, because insurance runs probably at 20 per cent of the value of the animal, which makes it prohibitive. Should there be a limit on how much compensation farmers should get, or should it be mandatory for dog owners to have insurance to cover the costs of potential damage by their animals? I am interested in your views on that, Mike.

Mike Flynn

It goes back to my previous answer. You can set any limit you want, but if the person does not have the means to pay it, it is not going to be paid. To be fair, neither the owner nor the dog knows whether it is attacking a £30,000 tup or something that Alan Dron could buy for £70. As far as I am concerned, if a person’s neglect has caused the incident and they can afford to pay the farmer the full value, that should happen.

The Convener

Thank you. I have a further question. If an inspecting body is to be appointed to assist in the investigation of livestock worrying cases, which body would be the most appropriate and what additional training would they need? We will start off with Bridget Jones.

Bridget Jones

I am going to duck that question. I will leave it to others.

The Convener

Okay—that is a shoulder shrug. Mike, I will go back to you first and then widen it out, if necessary.

Mike Flynn

As I hope the panel will know, all our inspectors are authorised to enforce the welfare provisions of the 2006 act. We have the exact same authority as the police, except that we cannot make an arrest or stop a vehicle. We made it plain in our submission that we do not want to be the primary enforcer of the offence, but I can assure the committee that we have never refused a request from the police to assist them. They are the primary reporters of these matters to the Crown Office, and we will continue to assist the police in any way we can, as well as the local authorities, should they become involved.

The Convener

I do not see anyone else wanting to come in. I have got myself confused, for which I apologise to Mr Stevenson. I should have taken him before I asked my question. I come to him now.

Stewart Stevenson

Thank you, convener. Your apology is fully accepted—but not necessary, I hasten to add.

We have been talking about dog control notices, but I now want to talk about human control notices. Steve Jenkinson said that this is a people problem, not a dog problem, and that is easy to agree with. Are the order-making powers to disqualify owners from owning dogs appropriate and proportionate? If not, how could they be improved? That is the first of my questions.

I draw the witnesses’ attention to the observation, made by the previous panel of witnesses, that enforcement in rural areas is extremely difficult. I did not find myself fundamentally disagreeing with that. There are only three local authority officers in the whole of Perthshire, for example. That is an awful lot of ground to cover and not many people.

Paula Boyden

There is scope for banning an owner from keeping a dog, but the action must be proportionate. It would be disproportionate to apply a ban to, for example, a first-time offender whose dog had literally escaped because of an error. However, if there are repeat offenders who clearly do not see the gravity of what has happened, that option should be available.

We face those challenges already. Mike Flynn will know more about this than I do, but members of the public are banned from keeping animals under the 2006 act, which has a similar process. It will always be a challenge to enforce a ban.

I understand from some of my RSPCA colleagues with whom I work that people quite often report individuals. Therefore, to a degree, we have to rely on that good will. I do not underestimate the challenges, but the important aspect is that the action must be proportionate.

I appreciate that this example again refers to south of the border. The National Police Chiefs Council survey, which covers a period of four years, shows that 11 per cent of the dogs involved were repeat offenders. Therefore, we are talking about a minority. However, we should at least have the ability to use that power against someone who is completely indiscriminate in allowing their dog to roam.

Steve Jenkinson

To follow on from Paula Boyden’s comments, we need the measures to be proportionate. However, we also must ensure that we are dealing with the issue. In the earlier session, it was said, “If you go to the house and the dog is in the house, you know who the owner is.” You do not—you do not know who the keeper is.

We see this in other dangerous dogs legislation—the issue of who owns a dog and who you take the action against is quite a difficult one. If you ban one person, the dog could be transferred to someone else in the same household, and the issues that relate to why the dog escaped in the first place would be left unresolved. Alternatively, they may just dispose of the dog to an even less suitable home.

If there is an issue in which sheep worrying is symptomatic of poor welfare of a dog, it is in the dog’s interests for it to be removed. However, if we are talking about a gate being left open, a child having done something, or whatever it may be, and the owner has behaved reasonably in all respects—life catches up with us in some cases—that would be inappropriate.

A key issue is making sure that the sentencing guidelines ensure that the powers are used proportionately. To return to the point that I made at the start of the session, when I was asked by the police what I wanted to happen after the incident, I said that we need to focus on what the best thing is to do to prevent it from happening again. That will not necessarily be dealt with if a dog goes to live somewhere else—that could make it worse.

The Convener

Mike Flynn has spoken strongly on the issue. Do you want to add anything, Mike?

Mike Flynn

Yes. Luckily, under the current system, it does not matter what the legislation says; it is ultimately up to the sheriff who is dealing with the case to decide on its individual merits.

If we are talking about a first-time offender who is totally innocent—if it was a pure accident—that is one thing; but if we are talking about a repeat offender or someone who is reckless and pays no regard to what has happened, a ban should come in. That ban should not just be a ban on ownership; it should also be a ban on keeping or being in control of a dog. If a person says that the dog belongs to their wife but they are caught in control of it in the open air, they are breaking that ban. The ban must encompass everything.

The Convener

Do you want to come back on that, Stewart?

Stewart Stevenson

I want to move on to the next of my questions, but I see that someone else wants to come in.

The Convener

Peter Chapman has a related question, so I will bring him in and come back to you.

11:15  



Peter Chapman

What does the panel think about the question of when—if ever—a dog should be destroyed? We know that a dog that has attacked livestock is likely to do it again, if it gets the opportunity, as it has got the taste for blood.

We have heard that, in the case of repeat offenders, the dog could or should be seized. However, what happens to that dog at that stage? If that dog has been seized because it has repeatedly attacked livestock, what should happen to that dog at that point? Should it be destroyed?

The Convener

Mike, I will ask you to reply first, and then come to the others.

Mike Flynn

Again, it would be decided on an individual basis. We get dogs—dangerous dogs or whatever—in various circumstances. Each dog is assessed by our staff of veterinary surgeons and animal behaviourists. As I said earlier, most of the attacks are entirely preventable, so if it is decided that simply keeping the dog under proper control would prevent the attacks, that could happen. Destroying the dog would not be automatic.

Steve Jenkinson

I totally agree. It comes back to the point that Paula Boyden made about the fact that any dog can be involved in sheep worrying. The fact that a dog has not done it before does not mean that it will not do it. A dog just playing in a field of in-lamb ewes and not causing any damage to them can cause those animals to abort. The owner might say that it was only playing, and that might be true, but the consequences can be severe.

Giving a death sentence to a dog that has attacked livestock once is inappropriate and excessive. As Mike Flynn said, we are talking about a preventable crime and we need to look at the wider issues. Certainly, if the sheep worrying is caused because the dog is in an untreatable home and its welfare is compromised in other ways, I would prefer that dog to be taken away from that home. As was said earlier, this is a people problem, not a dog problem. A dog that has attacked livestock could have a full and happy life in another home, where it could help people to take part in the healthy exercise of dog walking in a different context.

Paula Boyden

I agree with Steve Jenkinson. A dog that has attacked livestock could easily thrive in a different environment. However, if a dog is moved to another home, it should also receive appropriate rehabilitation and training. I am not saying that it should live in a rural environment where it might do it again; I am talking about an element of rehabilitation and training so that the new owner can at least spot the signs of the dog being alerted to other animals.

I think that euthanising a dog on the basis of an incident, without going through a process first, would be incredibly heavy handed.

Stewart Stevenson

I suspect that the answer to my question has been developed in some of the previous answers, but I am specifically interested in the powers to exclude offending owners from walking dogs on agricultural land. What are your thoughts on that? In particular, how do people know what is agricultural land? For example, our three acres of rough hill grazing is occupied by animals for only a third of the year. For two thirds of the year, it just looks like an empty grass field. Indeed, only a few hundred metres away, there is land that is a site of special scientific interest and is not agricultural land, but that difference may not be obvious to the casual observer.

How useful do you think the power is? Are there circumstances in which it could be helpful or where it might be challenging? I accept that I might have attempted to answer that latter question myself.

The Convener

I suspect that you might have done, Stewart, but let us see if Bridget Jones has an answer.

Bridget Jones

I think that you have answered the question—indeed, I think that the previous panel answered it, too.

The issue of enforceability is an important aspect, as is the issue of the public’s understanding of agricultural land. My previous point about land use in Scotland fits with that. It is a tricky issue for the public to understand.

Mike Flynn

As Steve Jenkinson said, a lot of responsible farmers put up signs saying “Livestock”. However, if you have walked past that sign for eight months and never seen any livestock, it kind of loses its impact.

Signage should be targeted at times when there is livestock present. Everyone has to access somewhere at some time, so, if there was a reasonable place to put that sign, you could reasonably expect people to know that there were livestock present.

Steve Jenkinson

This is a key point. The 1953 act that the bill refers to defines agricultural land as, amongst other things,

“any land used for grazing”.

That makes me think of the Highlands and Islands, where North Ronaldsay sheep graze on the beach. Basically, that definition means that agricultural land could be anywhere because, even in arable areas, crop rotation in fields means that there is some grazing on them. I just do not think that that approach would be helpful. I agree with the view that it would be far better for there to be targeted signs so that we can help people do the right thing. If a dog is not properly exercised, there will be other problems with it. That section of the bill should be scrutinised and, in my view, removed.

The Convener

I think that we have got a flavour of people’s feelings on the issue.

Maureen Watt

I would like to explore the issue of definitions a bit more closely. It is probably important to say that the bill involves consolidation and updating of existing legislation rather than being new legislation. Among respondents, there was near universal support for the expansion of the definition of livestock and types of land. However, there is confusion about some of the definitions. For example, in its submission, the Law Society of Scotland said that there is no definition of field—I am surprised at that. It says:

“Under section 1(2) (c) of the 1953 Act, the offence refers to worrying livestock as meaning: ‘being at large (that is to say not on a lead or otherwise under close control) in a field or enclosure in which there are sheep.’ We wonder if it would be better to define what a field is as common grazing may be a significant area which may or may not be enclosed. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code ... Refers to being ‘under close control’. Would this be better than reference to a lead? The Code should be consistent with the legislation for purposes of clarity and transparency.”

I should note, as an aside, that I understand that “common grazing” has another meaning under crofting legislation. What are your views of the extension of the definitions in the 1953 act, and are there areas where you feel that they should be clarified?

The Convener

I guess that, if all the witnesses were in the room, they would all look away so that somebody else would answer first. However, they do not have the ability to do that. As the question concerns outdoor access, Bridget Jones is in the firing line first.

Bridget Jones

That is okay. On the Scottish outdoor access code, I will go back to basics, briefly. The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 contains a right of responsible access to most land in Scotland. It explicitly says that anybody with a dog that is not under control falls outwith access rights. If your dog is not under control, access rights do not apply. The Scottish outdoor access code gives further advice and guidance on what responsible control would be. The issue is a little bit complicated but, to try to simplify it, if there is a field with young animals in it—lambs, calves, bulls—you do not take your dog into that field; that is responsible behaviour.

If there is a field with animals in it, but not young, you can take your dog into it, but it must be on a lead or under close control. To clarify, under close control generally means close at heel. That is a little bit easier for the public to understand. The dog should be at your heel. That is why we have the split between when your dog is on a lead and when your dog can be off the lead but under close control. When you get to the wider countryside, your dog needs to be under close control and you need to stay away from animals if you can.

I hope that that clarifies the position in the context of the Scottish outdoor access code.

Steve Jenkinson

As has been said, this is a nightmare. The key issue is the impact on the farmer or the suffering of the animal. It does not matter whether it is an enclosed field or inbye land or common grazings. I encourage the committee to look at deed rather than location, because it is a nightmare.

The bill should say that dogs should not attack animals or livestock anywhere. That gives far greater focus. There are situations such as cattle in Pollok park, and the Kennel Club has its own 7,500 acres of land where we have Galloway cattle and sheep. Are you saying that, in a big area like that, just because there might be sheep miles and miles away, you would not know? The onus should be on the owner to inform themselves with good information and not just allow their dogs to attack or worry livestock. Introducing definitions of location, apart from when livestock have strayed into somebody's garden, which is already dealt with under the legislation, and getting tied up in land is difficult for the reasons that the various bodies have said. It is just not acceptable for dogs to injure or attack livestock anywhere. This is a side issue and we should be careful not to fall into a trap here.

The Convener

Paula Boyden, do you want to come in here?

Paula Boyden

I have no comment to make on that; it is not my area of expertise. I agree with Kirsteen Mackenzie.

The Convener

In fairness, as everyone else has had a chance, Mike Flynn, do you want to say anything on that?

Mike Flynn

My only comment on that is that your idea of “close control” of your dog and my idea would be totally different. If it is on a lead, it is under control.

The Convener

I think that many owners might feel that they have their dog under control without using a lead.

Maureen Watt, is that all right for you?

Maureen Watt

That is fine, although I think that we will have our work cut out on this bit.

Christine Grahame

I was listening carefully to what Bridget Jones said about the access code. If the bill becomes law, will it be sufficient to put information into the access code to the effect that people are still allowed access but it is subject to them making sure that their animal does not worry sheep or other livestock? Is that sufficient, or does the access code need to be changed?

Bridget Jones

That would be sufficient. The code and the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 are clear. As somebody said earlier, the important thing is that, if the legislation goes through, we have a public awareness-raising campaign and get the message out nice and clear for the public to understand.

Christine Grahame

That brings me neatly to my supplementary. I am the member who introduced the bill that became the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010 and, at that time, there was no duty on the Scottish Government to publicise members’ bills. That might be changing. Do you take the view that I take, which is that there is no point in the bill proceeding unless the public is aware of it, and unless it is tied up with the access code? A member does not have the money to publicise their bill, but the Government has, and to me, all legislation is equal.

I would like to hear the witnesses’ comments on publicity and the need not for one hit of publicity when the bill becomes law but for continuing public awareness raising.

Bridget Jones

Generally a rolling programme of education and awareness raising goes on, and it fluctuates each year depending on what the priority topics are at the time. There can be seasonal stuff at lambing time, for example.

In short, the answer is yes. We are fully aware that there are various issues that come along with access to the outdoors and dog walking. Recent research shows that not far shy of 50 per cent of people who access the outdoors to enjoy the countryside for health and wellbeing benefits are accompanied by a dog. Dogs are a primary motivator for getting people outdoors. We want to ensure that people are out there and are enjoying themselves responsibly.

11:30  



We work in conjunction with the national access forum, SPARC and land management and recreational non-governmental organisations to ensure that we have a good joined-up campaign so that the public know what they are and are not allowed to do and how to behave responsibly. If the bill goes through, with increases in fines and so on, we can incorporate that message in there, if it is appropriate to the audience we are targeting.

Christine Grahame

I want to give the witnesses the opportunity to put at the door of the Scottish Government a continuing duty to publicise the bill if it is passed. That has not happened with my member’s bill on the control of dogs or with other members’ bills, so I would like a little push for that. If the Government publicised such legislation, as it does its legislation, that would make it worth while for members to introduce bills.

Mike Flynn

I totally agree with Christine Grahame. Millions of people in Scotland, or at least hundreds of thousands, do not even know that her legislation on the control of dogs exists, and local authorities are not enforcing it correctly. People have to be made aware. As we said right at the beginning, such legislation has to be accompanied by a public campaign. That does not mean just having one advert in a newspaper on 1 April; it has to be continual.

Steve Jenkinson

I absolutely agree. There is no point in legislation if people do not know about it. The 2003 act, which underpins the access code, already says that access rights do not apply if a dog is not kept under proper control. That is very context specific and clear, and I do not think that anybody would argue that a dog that was worrying or attacking livestock was under proper control.

It is a key issue for us because, at the end of the day, deficiencies in this regard are often an animal welfare issue for the dog as well as for the livestock. I know that the people at Scottish Natural Heritage, which is now NatureScot, are working hard but, historically, there was a series of events to share good practice, which helped land managers and other access managers. The events were on all sorts of things, but we did a number of events on dogs. We are mindful that it seems that the resources are not there at the moment, yet given that the responsibilities on people taking access, land managers and the statutory agencies are a fundamental part of the access code, it seems unfair on dog owners and land managers if those agencies are not playing their part in educating. As we said at the start, this is an unintentional crime, and you deal with something unintentional by making sure that people are better informed. It is a brilliant question.

Paula Boyden

I agree with the previous comments. If the bill proceeds, there will be significant sanctions and penalties for the owners of dogs. That in itself could start to be the beginnings of a preventive tool. If folks realise that they will not just get away scot free or with a metaphorical slap on the wrist, that could be powerful. We will absolutely need to highlight and promote the fact that the legislation is there and that it can and will be used.

The Convener

I ask Emma Harper, whose bill it is, to ask any questions that she has.

Emma Harper

To pick up on what Paula Boyden just said, the purpose of updating 67-year-old legislation is to convey the importance of the offence. I remind everybody that the bill is not new legislation; it will update old legislation.

Do we need to focus on compensation law that already exists? Rather than create a whole new set of compensation language, should the bill refer to existing compensation law?

I am also interested in whether panel members think that the number of recorded incidents would go up. The bill might bring a bit more gravitas, which might give farmers confidence that, when they reported offences, something would be done about them.

The Convener

I will give every panel member a chance to answer those questions.

Mike Flynn

I agree with Emma Harper. I reckon that, if the legislation were to be passed, more farmers would be encouraged to report incidents, thinking that that would be worth while if it would help to solve the problem.

As for compensation, I can only speak about the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006, which contains measures for the Scottish SPCA to be compensated for its costs. However, if those are not paid willingly, we have to take civil action to recover them, which can take months to go through the courts and can be costly. At the end of the process, we often find that the person does not have the money to pay the costs anyway.

Steve Jenkinson

Although compensation provisions exist, they are not working. In my other role as a member of NFU Scotland, I am aware of a report of an incident on a farm in Kirknewton, in which the loss was £20,000. The dogs involved had come not with walkers but from an adjacent holding. Their owners received a £400 fine, but no compensation was awarded to the farmer. NFU Scotland has since asked the procurator fiscal and the Crown Office to increase the penalty.

That example illustrates that, although the power to award compensation is there in theory, it is not being used. We should take the opportunity to deal with that if we can. Although I will always come back to the issue of prevention, it is absolutely right that people should be properly compensated for what happens, but there are concerns about that.

Paula Boyden

As I mentioned earlier, the important point is that we need a good baseline for reporting. We suggest that that aspect is considered immediately, to ensure that there are good, robust reporting and recording mechanisms at the police level, so that we get consistent information. It is also important that we actively encourage farmers to report now rather than wait to see whether the bill is passed. That will give us a baseline so that we will know in future how effective the bill has been.

If there is already legislation on compensation, it would make sense to refer to that. However, it would be sensible to deal with the compensation aspect at the time of the case going to court, so that it is dealt with in one sitting rather than later on. The court would have the benefit of hearing the extent of the loss, including the level of suffering that was experienced by the sheep or other livestock involved. It would then have a full picture of the impact of the incident.

Bridget Jones

I echo Paula Boyden’s point about improving the quality of the information that we get when incidents are reported. That would help to target matters in our awareness-raising campaigns and other activity. Having a better idea of what was happening and where, and in what circumstances, would make that aspect of our job a bit easier.

The Convener

Emma, does that answer your questions?

Emma Harper

Yes. Thanks, convener. I have found the evidence session very helpful. It feels weird to sit on this side of the table, as the proposer of a bill. I thank the committee’s members and the witnesses for their input, which has been most helpful.

The Convener

Just before we close, I would like to ask a question that has sprung to my mind. Some people have mentioned the question of what might be considered appropriate signage. For example, if someone goes into the hills in Scotland, they might see no sheep for miles, but equally they might round a knoll and suddenly come across sheep that they did not know were there. However, it might not be appropriate to have signage in such a place. Do we not think that farmers should not have to rely on signage? They should rely on people knowing what is appropriate to do with their dog.

Mike Flynn

I agree with what you are saying. They should not have to rely on signage, but it is an extra safeguard for farmers. If you have moved livestock in an area and there is a suitable access point where you can warn people, that would be an added benefit. However, you are quite right. As the law stands, dogs should be under control.

Steve Jenkinson

You are absolutely right. There is an issue of context and the difference between, for example, a 3 or 4-acre field on the edge of Livingston and a big open grazing in the Highlands. A good comparison is that, when you are driving a car, you have the responsibility for how you drive—you are responsible for adjusting your speed, for example—but we still put up signs when there is a bend or a ford coming up to give drivers that little bit more information to make an informed decision. That is the point of signage.

If signage is everywhere, it loses value, but if it is put up somewhere where an incident has happened, perhaps unintentionally, that can help to keep it clear. If someone is entering an open grazing, signage can say, at the point of entry, “You may not see a sheep here now, but sheep are grazed here, so keep a lookout.”

Paula Boyden

It is clear that there is no one magic wand that will solve the issue. Signage is just one of the tools in the box that we can utilise. As has been mentioned, using signage at the appropriate time of year—so that people do not become conditioned to it, particularly if they walk the same route—to say that animals are present is just an extra warning. It is not a panacea, but it can be useful in the right context.

Bridget Jones

Signs are one of the tools in the box. If used well, signs can be quite effective, particularly in situations where there has been a change in circumstances. If the lambs are in a field, put a sign up, but do not leave it up all year, as people will just ignore it.

Signs should be viewed as part of a communications plan-type approach. There are all sorts of ways of getting messages across. Obviously, there are digital platforms and social media options available, but we should not forget the traditional method of talking to people face to face. Things such as that little article in the local newsletter or a visit to the community council to spread the word about issues in the area are all good ways of getting messages across. A combined approach is the trick.

The Convener

Thanks very much. That brings us to the end of our questions this morning. I thank panel members for the evidence that they have given, which has been extremely helpful.

11:43 Meeting continued in private until 11:43.  



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Second meeting transcript

The Convener (Edward Mountain)

Good morning and welcome to the 23rd meeting in 2020 of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.

The meeting will be conducted in a hybrid format, with three members—John Finnie, Richard Lyle and Stewart Stevenson—and our witnesses participating remotely.

Emma Harper, who is the member in charge of the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, cannot participate as a committee member during our scrutiny of her bill. However, she will be joining us remotely, in her capacity as member in charge. I welcome Christine Grahame as Emma Harper’s substitute.

Agenda item 1 is the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill. In taking evidence on the bill, we will hear from two panels. There are a lot of questions to get through, so short questions and short answers will help.

Before we go any further, I invite members to declare any relevant interests. I guess that Peter Chapman will want to do so.

Peter Chapman (North East Scotland) (Con)

Yes. I declare an interest as a partner in a farming business.

The Convener

Thank you. Stewart Stevenson may also want to declare an interest.

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

I am the joint owner of a small agricultural holding, which is generally used for sheep grazing and is therefore relevant to the subject before us today.

The Convener

Thank you very much. I also declare an interest, as a member of a farming partnership.

I welcome the first panel of witnesses: Stephen Young, head of policy for Scottish Land & Estates; Charlie Adam, vice-president of NFU Scotland; and Jennifer Craig, chair of the National Sheep Association Scotland.

We will move straight to questions.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

Good morning to the witnesses, and thank you for your written evidence. To kick us off, what is your assessment of the scale and nature of the problem of livestock worrying and what are the most common circumstances in which it occurs?

Charlie Adam (NFU Scotland)

The problem is probably more widespread even than the evidence suggests, because quite a lot of incidents are unreported. It is also increasing. We had a survey done a couple of years ago that showed that 72 per cent of our members had been affected in one way or another. There is an increasing cost to NFU Mutual in payouts. In 2017 it paid out £1.6 million in compensation, which was 67 per cent higher than previously.

The problem is probably fairly widespread. It varies in degree and extent, but it is probably increasing—especially at present, because of increased access to the countryside.

The Convener

I am sorry, Mr Finnie—who do you want to hear from next?

John Finnie

I wish to hear from Ms White.

The Convener

I am not sure that I introduced Yvonne White at the outset of the meeting. I do not think that I did, on the basis that we could not see her, because her camera was malfunctioning or there was a technical issue.

Excuse me for not having introduced you. You are the chair of the Scottish Crofting Federation. The floor is yours, briefly.

Yvonne White (Scottish Crofting Federation)

I echo the view that dog worrying is certainly on the increase. It does not just affect areas near high-population areas; it is also on the increase in rural areas in the Highlands and Islands, particularly as more people are being attracted to and take advantage of the benefits of the countryside. Increasingly, there seems to be a lack of responsibility among dog owners, which is of concern. The amendment to the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 is therefore most welcome.

It is a fact that a lot more cases are happening, and it is not just sheep; I have had reports of calves and heifers being run over ravines by dogs that were off the lead.

Dog worrying is very much on the increase, and it is good that something will—I hope—be done about it.

Jennifer Craig (National Sheep Association Scotland)

I agree with what has been said in both previous answers. The problem is increasing—it is becoming more common. I think that it has been severely underreported in previous years, up until the past 18 months. We have seen an increase in the number of cases that are being reported. They are certainly being covered more widely in the media, so the problem is coming more to the public’s attention.

As Yvonne White pointed out, there are no specific areas in which the incidents occur. We currently have a nationwide issue.

Stephen Young (Scottish Land & Estates)

I completely agree with what has been said so far. There seems to be a growing issue. We have seen shocking images of injured animals, but there are also unseen costs sometimes. Abortions are caused, and there is damage to fences from cattle being spooked. There are all sorts of issues, not just the deaths of, and injuries to, animals. There are also mental health and wellbeing issues for farmers.

All those things and all the figures are symptoms; the cause is irresponsible and reckless handling of animals. Getting to the crux of that and getting people to fully understand the severity of their actions in not controlling dogs are the big issues.

I agree with the other panellists that the issue is widespread, that it is not just about sheep and that it is not just in certain areas or near urban areas.

John Finnie

As the convener said, we have a lot of questions, so I will roll some together, if I may.

Do the panellists believe—given what we have heard, I suspect that they do—that we can make an accurate assessment of how the problem should be addressed? Is there specifically a need for new legislation? Where are the gaps in the existing legislation? I think that Mr Adam touched on the issue of underreporting. Are there other measures, including non-legislative measures, that could be used to encourage reporting?

Charlie Adam

There are a number of things in the bill, which we very much welcome as a step in the right direction, that could help with that. Obviously, one of those is simply widening the number of people who have powers to deal with issues when they arise. That will lead people to believe that, if they do not control their dog properly, somebody is likely to do something about it.

On the issue of underreporting, because the introduction of the bill has raised this issue, people will be much more inclined to report. That in itself is a valuable function.

Changing the penalty regime to one that is not just about fines would probably help, because in a situation in which someone cannot pay a fine and the penalty does not extend further than that, they may not have the same incentive to control their dog properly or be concerned about the consequences of not doing so.

The Convener

We will come to that specific issue later.

Jennifer Craig

I echo what Charlie Adam said. There is a lack of repercussions for someone who allows their dog to commit offences; there is no deterrent. In some cases, the penalties are non-existent or extremely lenient. It is not just about the financial cost, but a lot of people who experience more severe impacts from dog worrying lose money, because there is no compensation due to there being no penalty. There is no incentive for people to ensure that their dogs are under control and behaving themselves. There is a general consensus that they will not receive any punishment, and that is where we need the extra reinforcement from bodies that are able to enforce fines or other measures against people who are repeat offenders. In certain cases, we find the same people and dogs offending in the same situation. In general, there is nothing available to a farmer to tackle the people who cause issues in their area.

Yvonne White

John Finnie asked whether there was a need for new legislation and, for various reasons, I think that there is. Any new legislation should not only be about fines and imprisonment, although I agree with such measures being increased and used more widely—I hope that I do not sound like a “hang ’em and flog ’em” type; it should go hand in hand with an increase in education, which should start in schools, although I am not sure how it would be done.

It is not ideal to address an issue after the event. The cruelty to the animals involved, the stress to humans and the economic cost should not be increasing in agricultural areas, so we need preventative measures. For when it happens, we need firm controls to prevent people from doing it again. Jennifer Craig made the point that, a lot of the time, the same owners are repeat offenders. I have personal evidence of that, and that has also been reported to me by members of the Scottish Crofting Federation.

Stephen Young

There is a need for a change in the legislation. The current legislation is relatively old, dating back to 1953, and the world has moved on quite a lot since then. The nature of farming has changed, as have the types of animals—camelids, deer and game birds—that have to be taken into consideration. It is just about updating and modernising what is there already.

On non-legislative things that we can do, education is key, as Yvonne White mentioned. Clear messaging is important, so that people understand the severity of what is happening. We often hear people saying, “My dog wouldn’t do that,” and not understanding the nature of how dogs are around livestock.

We welcome the change in language in the bill, including the change from dog “worrying” to dog “attacks”. “Worrying” can be brushed aside—it does not sound serious—yet we are talking about attacks. It is important to get the message across to people, so that they understand the severity of the issue, and to have that backed up by penalties, if required, for people who do not move on after being educated. We definitely need penalties for repeat offenders. There are also people who do not fully understand what the issue is, so we need a mix of education and penalties.

09:15  



Stewart Stevenson

As the answer to my question is unlikely to influence how we respond to the bill, I will not spend a lot of time on it. In earlier evidence sessions, we heard that the two main dog breeds that attack are German shepherds and huskies. I understand that there are a lot of German shepherds, but not many huskies. In the interest of saving time, I direct my question to Jennifer Craig solely. What is the National Sheep Association Scotland’s experience of the dog breeds that are involved in attacks?

Jennifer Craig

It is unfair to penalise certain breeds of dogs. I do not think that there is any evidence to suggest that certain breeds are more inclined to worry livestock than others. It is not a dog problem; it is a people problem. If you have a dog, you are responsible for it. A dog of any breed has the ability to attack or worry sheep. Some of the problem lies in people tending to think that smaller, fluffier dogs are less of an issue, but they can do just as much damage as bigger dogs, if not more. Penalising certain breeds of dogs is no use.

The Convener

I am glad that we are not victimising any particular dog breed, because it could open us up to criticism from breeders of those dogs.

Christine Grahame (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)

I was the member who brought forward the member’s bill that became the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010, which brought about a big move towards a “deed not breed” approach, so I very much welcome Jennifer Craig’s response. A Jack Russell can do as much damage as a big dog, if not more. It is good to keep that in mind.

The Convener

I see most panel members nodding in agreement.

Richard Lyle (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)

The member who is promoting the bill commented that this is not new legislation but an update of old legislation that is 67 years old. Is this update of the law necessary? If so, why?

Jennifer Craig

Richard Lyle makes the point that the legislation is already there, but it certainly needs to be updated. As we have already mentioned, there has been an increase in the number of attacks and worrying incidents. It can certainly be argued that legislation that has been around for that long is not fit for purpose. It does not cover the issue that we have now and it needs to be updated for everyone’s sake—not just the farmers and the people whose livestock suffers attacks but dog owners, because most dog owners are responsible, yet they end up tarred with the same brush as those who are irresponsible and who need to be targeted by the bill.

Stephen Young

I totally agree with that. One of the main changes since 1953 is the change in the law on access rights. People now walk dogs in areas where they probably would not have walked dogs in 1953, which is a crucial change. This legislation needs to keep up with and match the access legislation.

Charlie Adam

I agree with what has been said. In addition, there has probably been a vast increase in dog ownership since 1953, particularly among the urban population. There has also been quite a large decrease among the general population in understanding what happens in the countryside. For those reasons alone, the 1953 legislation is not appropriate for the current time.

Richard Lyle

Thank you. My next question—

The Convener

Richard, would you mind if I briefly brought in Yvonne White, because everyone else has had a shot at the question?

Richard Lyle

I was going to ask her to answer my next question. Yvonne—

The Convener

Richard, you are in charge. I realise that that is a dangerous comment to make. You ask your next question and Yvonne can go for it.

Richard Lyle

Do you think that the bill will reduce the incidence of livestock worrying and increase prosecutions? Could it be improved to make it more effective in achieving both aims?

Yvonne White

The bill will reduce the number of incidents if it is implemented and resourced correctly. It is very easy to pass bills and for bills not to be implemented. To be implemented correctly, the resource needs to be there. The bill will be able to reduce the number of incidents but not as a stand-alone measure.

The bill will help to prevent an increase in the number of incidents if education is part of its implementation. If there is communication about the serious legal consequences for you if your dog attacks livestock, that will certainly put off some people. However, we really need to increase people’s awareness and their sense of the responsibilities of owning a dog. Jennifer Craig said earlier that it is nothing to do with the dogs; it is the owners who are at fault. Very few dogs are mad mental—they become like that for certain reasons.

Richard Lyle

Charlie Adam, in your experience is it people with dogs who live in the countryside who cause problems, or is it people who do not live in the countryside and who might walk their dog in your area on a sunny day?

Charlie Adam

I would not like to make that distinction. It would probably be both. I suspect that people who live in the countryside and are used to what goes on there might be a bit more aware of the dangers of what their dog could do, but it would be unfair to make too much of a distinction. It is just about the attitude of owners to dogs. Quite a lot of people move from an urban area to a rural area, and some take an interest in and integrate themselves into country life more than others. There is a degree of ignorance across the board.

Richard Lyle

That is me, convener.

The Convener

Thanks, Richard. I will take back control.

Angus MacDonald (Falkirk East) (SNP)

Further to Richard Lyle’s theme, I note that we heard Yvonne White mention education in schools, and she was supported by Stephen Young. What education and public awareness efforts would your organisations like to accompany the bill? Perhaps we can start with Yvonne White, as she has mentioned education a few times.

Yvonne White

There should be advertising and articles in newspapers and dog clubs, and dog trainers should be involved in special sessions in primary and secondary schools. I am not sure whether schools have general awareness classes, but the subject could fit into citizenship classes, environmental classes or something like that.

There is radio, television and social media, and the Scottish Government must have quite a good communication machine. It would be good to have a lot of focus on communicating the message across all media to as many different parts of society as possible in order to see what effect that has in reducing the number of reported incidents. It could even be used as a model for implementing other acts. It needs to be tied up with good, solid communication.

Charlie Adam

I endorse everything that Yvonne White said. In general, education on food, farming and the countryside needs to be part of normal education—that is a hobby horse of mine. Social media also has a great role to play.

Most dog owners are very responsible and proud of the fact that they handle their dogs correctly. There could be efforts among dog organisations to make anyone who does not do that a black sheep. It should be seen among the dog-owning community as a crime that brings everyone down. We could perhaps do it in conjunction with the dog organisations.

Christine Grahame

I agree about the importance of publicity and promoting the bill. However, it is a member’s bill, and I know from my experience that the Scottish Government does not do the publicity—the member would have to pay for all that herself.

The minister will come to the committee later, but my question for the panel is: should the Scottish Government pick up the costs of publicising the amendment to the legislation if it is agreed to? There is no point in us doing it if the public does not know about it.

The Convener

I am sure that Christine Grahame will take that up with the minister, who will be on the next panel. It is an interesting point.

Stephen Young

I agree with everything that has been said. I do not want to go off on too much of a tangent, but there is a disconnect between urban and rural on many matters, and this is just one of them. The Scottish outdoor access code could be strengthened and the messaging could be clearer.

One thing that has been really heartening in the process is the full agreement among the organisations that have given evidence, such as the Scottish SPCA, Dogs Trust, the Kennel Club, the National Sheep Association and NFU Scotland. Everyone agrees that it is an issue and that something needs to be done. The reach of all those organisations is potentially huge and we could get real support from across the sector to publicise the changes. It should not be a huge issue to do that, and it could include people such as vets, too.

Everyone sees it as an important issue and is keen to do something about it. It is quite possible to do a lot of education work in that way.

Jennifer Craig

I agree with Stephen Young. Given the number of stakeholders who are involved in the issue, there is no reason why we cannot work collectively to come up with some sort of education and a publication. The solution to dog worrying is very simple: it is a five-second decision as to whether you put a lead on your dog and keep it under control, or not. It does not need to be more complicated than that.

09:30  



Angus MacDonald

My next question is directed to Yvonne White, with her SCF cap on. I should declare that I own properties in a crofting township in the Outer Hebrides. Are there any particular issues to consider with regard to livestock worrying on crofts and common grazing land? What would the bill achieve from a crofting perspective?

Yvonne White

I think that it would give people increased confidence to report incidents. It was mentioned earlier that many incidents are thought not to be reported at present. I do not have any figures, but I know that most of the cases of dog worrying where I am are not reported. People see it as stressful and they are not sure about the process—is it the police or animal health staff that they should tell?

When the police are involved, they seem to have very little power, and it involves taking statements and so on, because that is what happens when there is a crime. However, it is often to do with someone in the locality, and Angus MacDonald will know that the community has traditionally been a close one. People do not like to be too negative about their neighbours in the Highlands and Islands, and that still carries weight.

The proposed changes would increase people’s confidence in reporting incidents, which are on the increase. However, the reporting process needs to be clear and to be seen to be working. I know of cases in the past year or two in which witness statements were taken and so on, but nothing happened to the dogs. They went on to cause further damage and in the end they bit humans, but they are still wandering around. Years ago, if people came to someone’s door and said that their dog was on the hill worrying, they would just shoot the dog—whether it was theirs or not, sometimes—because of the community aspect.

I think that the bill would help. People in the Highlands and Islands need to be encouraged to come forward more with regard to livestock worrying.

The Convener

That is useful, Yvonne. I will bring in Charlie Adam to say whether he has any relevant experience from any crofting members of NFU Scotland.

Charlie Adam

I do not have any specific experience from crofting members, but I am sure that those problems exist, given the number that there are, the areas that they are in and the tourism in those areas.

It struck me from what Yvonne White said that one of the most important aspects is for local authorities and the police to be made aware of and encouraged to use the powers that are available to them. The NFUS has done a great deal of lobbying for that, but I think that those authorities could do more. Obviously, they will need the resources to do it, especially in remote areas where they may be thin on the ground. That can be a problem, particularly in crofting communities, which will probably be a long way from the enforcement authorities that can receive reports and have something done about them. That is just a thought that came to my mind.

Peter Chapman

I want to investigate dog control notices. In previous evidence sessions, witnesses have noted their support for the use of dog control notices in cases of livestock worrying. The NFUS says that it welcomes the use of DCNs in that situation and that they are “a useful interim step” in the process. However, they can be issued only by an authorised person who is acting for a local authority—they cannot be issued by the police, for instance.

Based on your members’ experiences, do you think that increased use of dog control notices would be a welcome tool to reduce livestock worrying?

Jennifer Craig

Yes. I agree—and I am sure that the rest of our members would—that dog control notices would be a useful tool. They are a way of trying to educate people once incidents have occurred. I agree with what the NFUS says in its written submission: we need the police to be able to hand out DCNs, as well as local authorities. There needs to be joined-up thinking in order for them to be effective and do what they are intended to do. However, as long as it is done properly, we support them being implemented.

Charlie Adam

As Jennifer Craig says, the point is a key part of our submission. Whoever the inspectors are, whether they are dog control wardens or from the SSPCA or the police, the NFUS would say that the issuing of DCNs should be available to a wider ranger of people in order to increase the likelihood that they will be applied.

Stephen Young

The wording that Peter Chapman used is right: dog control notices are a tool in the box. We need a full range of resources with which to manage the problem, and DCNs are certainly one of those.

Similarly to what Charlie Adam said, we need a consistency of approach. We do not want to have different approaches in different areas from different bodies. A big aspect of the bill is about highlighting the severity of the issue, saying that it needs to be taken seriously and saying that everyone needs to take the same approach and use the same penalties for the same offences. We are looking for a consistent approach across the board.

Peter Chapman

My follow-up question is specifically for Stephen Young. SLE has suggested the establishment of a national database of dog control notices. Should the bill require a DCN national database to be put in place?

Stephen Young

That would be useful. It comes back to consistency, understanding and everyone being clear as to where we are, and I think that that would fit within the bill.

Peter Chapman

My second follow-up question is this. Do you feel that the bill should incorporate some of what we have just discussed as regards dog control notices? Should the bill address that as part of the process that it proposes?

The Convener

Who would like to answer that? Charlie Adam has his hand up. I am glad about that. Usually, the last person to look away gets nominated. However, as you have volunteered, you can answer, Charlie.

Charlie Adam

The answer is absolutely yes. Fundamentally, we are looking for things to be beefed up so that measures that have not been effective deterrents in the past become so. I agree with Stephen Young that it must be done consistently, but that should be in the bill, because it will act as a more effective deterrent compared with what we have now.

The Convener

I want to ask whether anyone has any experience of something that came up last week in the evidence from Perth and Kinross Council. It suggested that it has three people to issue notices, which seems very few people to cover such a massive area. Do we need more people to issue notices? Charlie, you are volunteering to provide some clarity.

Charlie Adam

That brings up the question of resources. We cannot get away from the fact that it is no use having legislation if we do not have the people on the ground or the resources to get the job done. This being a member’s bill, there are, as I understand it, limits to what it can do in that respect. That perhaps raises the issue of whether the Government needs to address the matter via a different vehicle to ensure that the necessary resources and capacities are available.

Yvonne White

Last year, we waited six or seven months for a dog warden to come from Inverness to look at a situation. There is a very real need for resources. It would be good if dog control notices could beef up the new legislation, but they should be an integral part of the measures and not used instead of other things. There should also be enough people to issue dog control notices and follow up on them, which is really important.

A lot of it comes back to resources. However, a lot can still be done regardless of whether there is the ideal amount of resource.

Stephen Young

I completely agree that it comes down to resources.

A small note of caution is that, if too many people get involved in management of an issue, it can create confusion. We need clarity for people, including victims, about what they should do. If there is an on-going issue or someone has seen something, who do they phone? How do they deal with it? I fully agree with what Alan Dron said last week about fly-tipping. That is a good example of a situation involving the police, local authorities and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency where people do not know what to do when there is an issue. They end up phoning the wrong person, getting handed round the houses and then just giving up.

We want real clarity, and that is why resources are key. We need to make it really clear how to report things and who does what.

Oliver Mundell (Dumfriesshire) (Con)

There has already been quite a lot of talk about penalties. Are the penalties in the bill appropriate, or should they be aligned with the penalties in recent legislation?

The Convener

I am looking to see who is volunteering. Stephen Young, you looked away before anyone had a chance to answer, so you can start off.

Stephen Young

I was trying to scribble down the question.

In extreme cases, we could ask for stronger penalties. It is all fairly subjective but, if there are several bills dealing with similar issues, it would make sense to have consistency. However, there is definitely a need to strengthen the penalties in the bill, and it is important to have a suite of penalties available. It makes a big difference when there is intent, or when the situation involves a repeat offender. We need to have really strong penalties to deal with repeat offenders and softer penalties for one-off incidents.

09:45  



Jennifer Craig

To be quite short and to the point, I agree with everything that Stephen Young has said, and I echo him specifically on the variances in fines or penalties. As he rightly points out, repeat offenders should be targeted at a higher rate.

Accidents happen. Dogs get out accidentally. We do not want somebody who has made a genuine mistake to be hammered with a huge penalty. Perspective and clarity are essential when it comes to the penalties.

Charlie Adam

I agree with what has been said and have nothing to add other than a point that I made earlier, that people who do not have the money to pay a fine will not necessarily be deterred by one. A range of other things is needed that will hit home with them.

Oliver Mundell

That last point leads on to my next question. Should compensation be brought in as part of the bill? Last week, we heard that compensation is sometimes an afterthought in the process. Given the value of livestock and the damage that is done, should compensation be dealt with in the bill?

The Convener

Last week, Stewart Stevenson bid me £300,000 for a tup that I did not have. That is the sort of value that could be put on a sheep, so the issue of compensation is important.

I ask Yvonne White to start off on that. Should compensation be part of the bill?

Yvonne White

I think that £300,000 for a tup is obscene.

The Convener

Stewart Stevenson is very rich. [Laughter.]

Yvonne White

For that money, I would want it to do housework and feed cows.

The issue of compensation is difficult. As Charlie Adam mentioned, sometimes people do not have the money. There needs to be something in the bill about compensation, but perhaps it should include community service, because there is no point in putting in levels of compensation that people cannot pay.

There are significant economic effects when livestock are attacked by dogs. There is stress to animals. Even if an animal is not fatally injured, it might abort—that happens a lot of the time—or be no good in future for breeding. There are vets’ bills, and time has to be spent on the issue. Compensation should be in the bill as a deterrent, but alternate means are needed, because not everybody will be able to pay compensation.

I imagine that setting the level of compensation will be difficult, because one tup could be worth £300,000 and another might be worth £300.

The Convener

I think that we would all wish for tups to be worth that sort of money, if we owned them.

Jennifer Craig

I echo what Yvonne White said. Compensation is part of the whole issue. In most circumstances, the upset causes people more distress than the financial situation does. If it is a large-scale incident, as has happened in several places across the country, there is an argument for compensation. However, as Yvonne White said, if that compensation cannot be met by the offender, it is irrelevant, in a sense.

The issue of compensation is difficult. Where do we pitch it? Do we take the farmer’s valuation or do we have to get independent valuations? It could open up a can of worms, but I agree that there should be some form of compensation, specifically for larger incidents, where there is a big financial impact on a flock. Often, the larger impacts are on younger farmers or new entrants, or people who are not making a lot of money at the time and do not have a lot of assets behind them. For people like that, an incident could devastate their business. Therefore, at some stage, we must look at compensation.

Charlie Adam

The NFUS position on that is rather stronger. Some form of compensation package for farmers is a key ask for us. We recognise that it might not be possible to deal with that issue in the scope of a member’s bill, but it needs to be addressed. We do not all have £300,000 tups, but even cast ewes are making £100 at the moment. In the normal level of profitability, even a relatively small amount of loss can be significant to the viability and profitability of some people’s sheep enterprises. Therefore, from a farmer’s point of view, it is important that there should be some form of compensation package. The fact that no compensation is available to people might be a contributory factor to underreporting, which means that people who ought to be brought to book are not being brought to book.

The Convener

Before we come to Stephen Young, I will ask Charlie Adam a question about stock. Do most farmers insure all their stock or do they insure only the very valuable animals? If something like that happens, can they claim on insurance?

Charlie Adam

Most farmers, including me, do not insure their commercial stock, because the premium rates are very high. For example, the premium rate for a bull is something like 18 to 20 per cent of its value, so it is not economic to insure every animal. That is not a viable option for normal commercial animals. Also, if people have a policy and make an insurance claim, that is likely to lead to an increase in their premiums so, because of the size of individual claims, there might be a disincentive to make a claim. However, that does not mean that a loss has not been taken.

Stephen Young

If we flip the scenario round to one in which livestock get out and trample through someone’s garden and destroy their rose bushes, the owner of the garden would expect to receive compensation for that. If we turn the situation back, compensation for damage to livestock—which is costly in some cases—makes sense, although, as was mentioned, there are limitations around the ability to pay.

That brings in the question of insurance for dogs, which is a tricky area. A lot of people pay insurance for the health of their dogs, in order to cover vet bills; would a bolt-on to cover a public liability element be feasible? That would need to be thought through carefully, but it is worth investigating further and it would be interesting to do that.

The Convener

Oliver Mundell has a supplementary question.

Oliver Mundell

To pick up on that last point, does any other panel member have a comment on making that a compulsory element of insurance for dogs who are walked in areas where there is likely to be livestock?

On compensation, I have had pushback from farmers in my area about the figures that have been talked about in the committee. Could a standard compensation package that looked at average values of livestock be put in place? A lot of the people who I have spoken to feel that the principle of compensation is important, and that people should be made to give something back to the farmer, even if it does not reflect the full financial value.

Charlie Adam

If that proved to be workable, it would make sense. A more practical solution would be to insist that people have insurance for their dogs against any damage that they might do, although I do not know whether that is possible. I think that Oliver Mundell’s suggestion would be a viable solution and that some form of compensation package is important from a farmer’s point of view. I do not see why we should be less protected against the actions of others than other sections of society are from other events.

Jennifer Craig

Oliver Mundell is right that it is about the principle of a compensation package as opposed to the exact amount of the damage that has been inflicted.

On the insurance point, it is not a bad idea to have a public liability attached to dog insurance. However, as with all insurance, there are caveats that put premiums up and we would have to be careful about how insurance companies implemented those public liabilities. For instance, would certain breeds be penalised because they are perceived—wrongly, in most cases—as more liable to take actions that could result in a claim on public liability? It could be a very grey area to disappear into, but it is certainly worth looking into for future purposes.

Yvonne White

The principle of compensation is a good idea. There could be a sort of menu setting out the cost of a tup, a hog and so on, but that might need to be updated annually in relation to market values. However, if it is just about the principle of compensation, that might not be needed.

On insurance for dogs, I think that most people in towns certainly have health insurance for their dogs. I know that my friends have it, and they seem to pay a lot of money. About three or four years ago, I asked NFU Mutual about insuring one of our working collie dogs because he cost a lot of money, and that would have cost £750 annually. We have five working collies—some people have more and some have fewer—so a blanket law on insurance could end up penalising people who have working dogs.

Like farms, most crofts are insured with NFU Mutual—that is a plug for its croft and farm insurance, which gives public liability cover. I am not sold on blanket legislation for dogs, because a lot of crofters and others who could not afford the insurance could end up in a not very good position. The issue would need further investigation.

The Convener

The deputy convener has reminded me that I should say that there are other insurance companies out there, so that is not an endorsement. I am not entirely sure that that is what she said, but it was along those lines.

Stewart Stevenson

The issue of disqualifying people from owning dogs has come up. Is that proportionate and appropriate in this context and what kind of offence should occur or track record should people have that would lead to that? Conversely, what mitigating circumstances should we properly be looking at?

10:00  



Jennifer Craig

Disqualifying people from owning dogs seems very savage and sounds severe. However, we are discovering from our members that it is the same people whose dogs habitually cause incidents of worrying and attacking sheep. In many cases, there are multiple dogs, and the same dogs might not be involved every time—that is, the same owner is involved, but they might have two or three dogs, none of which is under control. Alternatively, subsequently to an incident, the owner might have obtained other dogs, and the same problem happens again.

Part of being a responsible dog owner is keeping the dog under control and keeping it safe, as well as keeping everybody who is around it safe. If a person repeatedly causes a problem in their local area, or outwith it, if they take the dogs for a drive to walk them, that person is not fulfilling their responsibilities as a dog owner. Owning a dog is a privilege. It should not be a right, and it comes with caveats. An owner owes it to their dog to look after it to the best of their abilities. I would argue that, if a person allows their dog or dogs to continue, on a regular basis, to cause concern, they are not looking after them properly and are clearly not a responsible owner.

I agree that there has to come a point, in the most severe circumstances and when other things are not working, at which we consider that some people should not be in charge of dogs.

The Convener

Stephen Young wants to come in on that question. I cannot hear you yet, Stephen. There we are—you are on now.

Stephen Young

You have just missed the best point that I have made all morning.

When there is intent or when there are repeat offenders, as Jen Craig pointed out is often the case, disqualification is the best way to go. That is not about punishing the person; it is about looking after the dog or dogs. If someone is not looking after dogs properly by putting them in that situation or not treating them well, that is causing danger and distress to the dog. In those cases, disqualification for the owner is only fair on the dog. After all, the ultimate sanction is that the dog would be shot, if it is caught in the act. To be fair to the victim—the animals that are attacked and the dog—and to punish the owner, that measure should be there as a deterrent. However, it should be used only in fairly serious cases such as where there are repeat offences or intent.

The Convener

I will come back to Stewart Stevenson, because he has a subsequent question to that, which we can bring the other panel members in on.

Stewart Stevenson

Earlier, we heard reference to access rights under the land reform legislation. That opens up the question of whether there should be a power to exclude people from walking on agricultural land. Of course, that raises the more general issue of how people with dogs will know that land is agricultural land. Where I live in the country, our field is agricultural land, but you have to go only a couple of hundred metres before the land is not agricultural but a site of special scientific interest. It is not necessarily obvious to a townie, although it might be more obvious to Stephen Young and me and others on the panel.

What are your views on how that would work and what contribution it would make to reducing dog attacks?

The Convener

I will go straight to Yvonne White on that, because the demarcation on croft land might be slightly more blurred than it is on more formal agricultural land.

Yvonne White

It is a difficult one. It is difficult to stop people accessing land when we have very good access rights. However, there is probably a case for it under certain circumstances, such as lambing. I know of cases in which people have been lambing ewes, in very rural areas and before Covid, and other people have walked close by them with a dog off the lead. They have said, “Can you move your dog? They are upsetting the ewes,” and the response is, “We’ve got a right to be here.” However, if you put a padlock on an access gate because ewes were being disturbed at lambing, you would be in the wrong.

The increase in the number of people coming to the countryside is a good thing for health and so on, but a lot of people lack knowledge and experience. It goes back to education. Until everybody is a fully functioning, responsible and mature adult about all of the issues, there is a good case for restricting people from coming into areas during calving and lambing. That would help. Obviously, people would still do it; in fact, you could argue that the ones who would still do it are probably the ones with the dogs that cause the problem. However, that would still be worth exploring.

Stewart Stevenson

Given that access rights may only be exercised responsibly under the legislation—in other words, they do not mean blanket access—would it be automatically irresponsible for a dog to be off the lead near livestock?

Charlie Adam

Most farmers would totally agree that, generally, a dog should not be off the lead near livestock, but the access code maybe does not go that far, so we are stuck with that.

There is obviously a problem about education, clarity, definition and enforcement in the general banning of access to specific pieces of land. When people are ignorant about what is going on, it is difficult to deal with that. In cases involving repeat offenders, particularly where they are neighbours and where the person and specific piece of land can be defined, it should be possible to have a ban on access by a particular person to a particular piece of land. That should be set up and policed, frankly.

Christine Grahame

A panel member last week raised an interesting point about the difficulty of defining things such as “rural land”, “field”, “crofting land”, “agricultural land”, or indeed “a piece of land”, as Charlie Adam just said. We are getting in a tangle about access here. Would it not be better to focus on the deed? The bill is about attacks on livestock, so, rather than try to pin down the place and deal with difficult definitions, why do we not say that, wherever it happens, any attack on livestock is an offence? We are getting in a tangle trying to define “field”, for example.

The Convener

Christine, please be careful when you ask your questions that another member has not already indicated that they want to ask about the same specific subject.

Stephen Young

I agree with Christine Grahame: it is very difficult. I heard the conversation about defining a field or an enclosure. This is a human issue, so it has to be really clear to people what is expected of them. They should not need a degree in geography or agriculture to be able to understand it. Christine Grahame is quite right—the deed is the important part. Language is also really important. The access code is about the right of responsible access, not the right to roam. It does not mean that people can go where they want, when they want. They have certain responsibilities.

I think that the point was made last week that if someone is in a field with livestock, the only way that they really know that their dog is under close control is if it is on a lead. That is a way of really simplifying the issue. It is about clear messaging and making the issue as simple as we can. Yes, there are nuances and complications, which mix messages and create loopholes more than they solve problems. Christine Grahame is right—if there is livestock in a field, you have to be aware of that and be very clear about what your responsibilities are.

The Convener

Before we move on to questions from the deputy convener, I want to ask about the issue of putting dogs on a lead. In May, when young stock go out into a grass field, it can actually create more problems if a person walking across that field has their dog on a lead than if they had their dog off the lead, because the livestock are attracted to the person. Is that an education issue?

Charlie Adam

Absolutely. I have personal experience of someone with a dog on a lead insisting on crossing a field even when they had been warned that there were stock in the field. As you say, and as any farmer will tell you, if somebody keeps a dog on a lead in a field where there are cows and calves, for example, the cattle will probably attack the dog, and because the person is next to the dog, they will probably get hit.

It is not safe to encourage people to make for the nearest boundary, which I believe is the advice in the outdoor access code. People think that that will keep them safe, but the advice is an invitation for people to put themselves and their dogs in danger. I think that there are flaws in the advice in the access code that endanger people’s lives, and in my view it ought to be changed.

Maureen Watt (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

I want to tease out the question of definitions a bit more. Stephen Young’s submission highlighted inconsistencies between the definitions in the 1953 act and those in the Scottish outdoor access code. What are your views on the best definitions to have in the bill, as opposed to what has gone before?

Stephen Young

Can you give an example? I am missing the point of your question.

Maureen Watt

In your response to the call for views, you said that there were inconsistencies between the definitions in the existing legislation and those in the Scottish outdoor access code. Given those inconsistencies, what, in your view, would be the best definitions to have in bill?

Stephen Young

Sorry—my mind is completely blank.

The Convener

Okay. Instead of putting Stephen under pressure, does somebody else want to talk about definitions of “land” in the bill?

Charlie Adam

I have to admit that I am not clear on the specific definitions that are being referred to, so I do not know that I can comment on that.

The Convener

Maybe I can help. The relevant section in the 1953 act refers to “a field or enclosure”. There is a question about the definition of “field or enclosure”, because a larger area, such as common grazings, is not definable as a field—it could be a huge area of hill, in some cases. Maybe Yvonne White can say a bit about that, and then I will come back to Charlie Adam and Stephen Young.

Yvonne White

I can definitely say that the 1953 definition of “a field or enclosure” needs to be updated to cover the full range of agricultural land. Common grazings, which have just been mentioned, can cover 7,000 acres, and they are unfenced. A field is defined by set boundaries, usually physical, as is an enclosure. Common grazings boundaries tend to be geographic, as opposed to having a human-made boundary such as a fence.

10:15  



Charlie Adam

I am a little out of my depth on the subject, but it seems to me that there comes a point at which it is almost impossible to define a piece of land. One thinks of hill sheep, and of people walking around on mountains where there are blackie ewes. At a certain point, the whole thing has to be addressed through general rules on behaviour, rather than trying to specify pieces of land. Where do we draw the line between what is and is not an enclosure? It is very difficult.

Maureen Watt

Do I get the sense that, as Christine Grahame said, it should be about the deed rather than the place—that it is just too difficult to define places, so we should look at only the deed?

The Convener

I note for the record that I see very clearly four heads nodding. Is that sufficient for you, Maureen?

Maureen Watt

That is fine. Thank you.

The Convener

We will take that as a yes from all the witnesses.

Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD)

I will concentrate on section 5, which is about inspecting bodies and the appointment of inspectors. About authorisation, section 5 says:

“The Scottish Ministers may by regulations authorise one or more persons, organisations or bodies to appoint inspectors for the purposes of this Act.”

That is quite a different approach from that taken in the Animal Health and Welfare Act (Scotland) 2006, under which the Scottish ministers appoint inspectors as an addition to the police.

Do you think that the bill takes the best approach, with organisations that are appointed by the Scottish Government then appointing their own people without reference to the Scottish Government?

Stephen Young

We have covered the need for consistency and clarity for everyone as to who should be involved. Things could get muddy and confused very quickly if too many people are involved. I agree that if different bodies appoint different people, inconsistencies can arise in the way in which things are interpreted and enforced. It is important that we have that consistency.

We have also seen that different local authorities put different emphases on things and allocate different amounts of resource. I think that things have to be as consistent as they can be across the country.

It is important that the bill is very clear as to who is ultimately responsible, so I am keen to see it being kept as tight as possible. However, we also need the resource. It is about walking the fine line between having the resource to deal with the issue and making sure that that consistency is there.

Charlie Adam

As Stephen Young said, there is a conflict between achieving consistency and getting enough people on the ground to have effective enforcement.

The only suggestion that comes quickly to mind is that, although individual organisations might find their own people, there would need to be some central training that those people had to go through to ensure that they were all singing from the same hymn book when they went out to do the job on the ground. That might be a compromise. We need people on the ground in sufficient numbers to have some deterrent effect.

Jennifer Craig

The two panellists who answered before me have covered the subject. I do not have anything to add.

Mike Rumbles

The view of the panel is that it would be sufficient for organisations to appoint inspectors, as long as they were trained, and perhaps certificated, so that they met the standard that we expect. At the moment, there is nothing in the bill to say that that should happen. The bill says only that the Scottish Government can appoint an organisation to appoint people.

If the bill is not amended, which organisations should be authorised by the Scottish Government to appoint their own inspectors?

The Convener

We will go round the table and ask each witness to suggest a couple of organisations.

Jennifer Craig

I am not sure that I have an answer. You should pass the question to someone else.

The Convener

I cannot see everyone else; I cannot see who is looking away to avoid the question. Charlie Adam has volunteered to go first before. Off you go, Charlie.

Charlie Adam

The obvious answer would be the Scottish SPCA, but local authorities and some agricultural organisations might be able to do it. It is more important that whoever is picked is trained, knows what they are doing and can be consistent. Perhaps people could be nominated—if they pass muster, it is not that important who nominates them. I am waffling because I am not that clear, although there are obvious organisations.

The Convener

Are there any organisations that Mike Rumbles thinks should be on the list? You could give some examples, Mike, and the panel could say yes or no.

Mike Rumbles

I do not want to lead the witnesses or put my words into their mouths. It is interesting that there is confusion. I would like to hear from the other witnesses.

Stephen Young

We must be careful here. Lots of bodies might be able to do that work. A big part of the bill is about defining and making clear the severity of the issue, and we are in danger of being seen as watering it down again if responsibility is handed down to other people.

The police should ultimately be responsible for enforcement, and they have the resources to do it. I would have to check to see that I am right about this, but I think that the Scottish SPCA said in evidence that, on the basis of resources, it would struggle to do that work.

We must be careful that we do not hand the issue down the line to other people. We must be clear. A big part of this is about underlining how severe the problem is and how important it is that it is dealt with. That is paramount.

Yvonne White

There might be a budget issue. If too many organisations that do not have the budgetary wherewithal are appointed, the whole thing will fall over and we will not be any further forward.

It would be better to have the option at the start but to keep it tight and with the police, particularly because, as has been said, the police would have the budget.

It must be clear to the complainant—to the victim—who is responsible and who they can complain to. Unless there is clarity, people will become confused. Who do they go to? Is it the Scottish SPCA or the local authority? People are not that clear at the moment, and the bill would make it less clear.

The Convener

I am going to come back to Mike Rumbles in a minute, but first Oliver Mundell has a supplementary question.

Oliver Mundell

I want to pick up on the point that Stephen Young made. It might be a reality, but I am concerned that we might be saying that the offence is not serious enough for the police to deal with and investigate it. I wonder whether Charlie and Jennifer share the view that it is important for people in rural communities to know that the police are well resourced to deal with a very serious issue for a lot of farmers.

Jennifer Craig

My answer is short and to the point: I agree with that.

Charlie Adam

There is a feeling that the attitude of the police to sheep worrying offences is not consistent with their attitude to other wildlife offences, and that the police need to be more aware that wildlife crimes and sheep worrying incidents are severe and need to be taken extremely seriously. I am not sure whether that is the approach at the moment. One feels that the police are extremely strong on acting against wildlife crime and enforcing the penalties that go with it. However, that is not reflected in their response to crimes of livestock worrying on farms and crofts, in my view.

Mike Rumbles

Can I ask a question to ensure that I completely understand our four witnesses? I have taken from the responses that there is a feeling that sheep worrying is a serious crime, and that if there is a disparate number of people or organisations involved in tackling it, it might add complications to the whole process.

I am trying to interpret what the evidence is saying, so correct me if I am wrong, but the view seems to be that it might be better to have the police take total control and have the legislation beefed up to ensure that they have adequate resources to deal with the problem. I am thinking about what Charlie Adam said. It seems that it is a question of resources: if the police do not have the resources to do it, it will not be done properly. Some organisations, such as the Scottish SPCA, have said that they do not have the resources to do it. Am I right to say that the issue is about resources and clarity of responsibility?

The Convener

If anyone disagrees with what Mike said, I am happy to bring them in. You all seem to be nodding.

Before I bring in Emma Harper, whose bill this is, I have a question. Last night, I read evidence to the committee that suggested that in the strange situation in which a dog has escaped from a garden and comes back covered in blood, with wool between its teeth, and it has clearly been involved in livestock worrying, the dog’s owner should have the responsibility to report it to the police. That was from the SLE’s evidence. Should it be incumbent on the owner to inform the police when such an incident has happened and that their dog might be responsible?

Yvonne White

It is akin to a road accident when a driver runs over a sheep and it is still alive, because there is an element of animal welfare involved. The dog might not have been involved in livestock worrying—it could have come across a sheep that had been involved in an incident with another dog. People cannot jump to conclusions without evidence. However, those incidents should be reported to the police for animal welfare purposes, because there could be an animal in pain that needs to be treated and probably put down.

10:30  



Stephen Young

I agree. The issue is not just about when a dog comes back into sight. There are cases in which people have seen their dog chasing sheep and maybe not killing or injuring them but causing other issues. That is where reporting becomes important, so that people can inspect the animals and find out what issues have been caused, which might not be immediately apparent. It all comes back to the pattern of responsible ownership and access, which is about the things that people should do and their responsibilities within that. It would be useful to include that element.

The Convener

I will bring in Emma Harper to ask a couple of questions. Good morning, Emma.

Emma Harper (South Scotland) (SNP)

Thank you, convener. Good morning to the witnesses and my colleagues at the other end of the line.

It is important that I thank the witnesses and welcome their input, and that I thank committee members for their scrutiny of my member’s bill. I take on board the points about resourcing compensation, the need for continued education and the idea of deed not place.

I have a quick question. We have heard of one dog having a simple chase and folk thinking that that is a bit of fun; I have also heard of extreme cases, where 15 sheep were killed or mutilated and needed vets’ attention, such as being sutured on site. In one case, a repeat offender could not have cared less and it was as if he was happy to let his Labrador do it again. Do the witnesses think that the bill is flexible enough to allow the Crown Office to have an approach that would address individual livestock incidents?

Stephen Young

I think that there is flexibility. There is a suite of actions in the bill, so that area is well covered. As Emma Harper said, there are huge differences between scenarios, so that flexibility has to be there.

Jennifer Craig

I agree that there is flexibility in the bill and that that is essential, as we have pointed out.

Charlie Adam

I agree with Jennifer Craig and Stephen Young. The flexibility is there.

The Convener

Yvonne White, in the interests of fairness, you can agree or not.

Yvonne White

I agree.

Emma Harper

I have a final question. Charlie Adam brought up the issue of the police not being consistent in taking seriously the offence of attacking, chasing and worrying livestock. Recently, the Scottish partnership against rural crime has done a lot of awareness raising and there have been campaigns from NatureScot and the Farmers Guardian on taking the lead. Do you think that, because SPARC and others have raised awareness of the issue, we can use the bill, along with education, to make a difference and reduce incidents of livestock worrying?

Charlie Adam

[Inaudible.]—difference. NFUS has lobbied on the issue for years, and it is getting more attention now. As ever, with things that come from the agricultural side, the difficulty is getting that information away from the farming community and press and into the wider media. Reaching the people who need to be reached is always a difficulty. There is an issue with the press, and we need to pay close attention to the choice of medium to reach people. With social media, we now have vehicles that we did not have before, which have helped a great deal.

Jennifer Craig

The campaigns have been working well. There seems to be a good level of awareness and the messages seem to be shared very well, but we definitely have more to do. Other organisations need to look at joining up that thinking.

Yvonne White

All the communication in the area must raise, and has raised, awareness. On the consistency of the police, particularly in rural areas, the people who have talked to me about attacks on livestock do not have much faith in the police. When evidence and statements have been taken, even in repeated cases—-by that, I mean the same owner or the same pack of dogs—nothing has happened.

I do not want to be too negative. It is good that there is education for the police. In rural areas, the police understandably do not want to upset people, so they might be more inclined to give people more chances than they would in areas with higher populations, especially given that a lot of the police live in the area and might have gone to school with the people involved—that does not sound very good, does it? The police are more interlinked with the community, so they might not take such an objective view. That is obviously just from my anecdotal experience.

Something could be done in relation to the consistency of the police response to attacks on livestock. As Charlie Adam said, such attacks need to be taken as seriously as other wildlife crime. It is a matter of animal welfare, as well as a cause of stress for owners and victims.

Stephen Young

A lot of good work has been done so far to raise awareness. The fact that we are having this conversation is testament to how the issue has moved up the agenda. Good work has been done by SPARC, and the national access forum and NatureScot discuss the issue fairly regularly. However, there is still a huge amount of work to do, and the bill will give a bit of impetus and strength to that.

I do not have any specific evidence on consistency by the police, but there are one or two anecdotal bits of evidence. Yvonne White is right about education of the police as well as the public, and about the seriousness of the crime. Giving the police stronger powers will enhance that work, so I can see the bill leading only to improvement in all those areas.

The Convener

That brings us to the end of the evidence session. I thank Stephen Young, Charlie Adam, Yvonne White and Jennifer Craig for their evidence. I also thank the person who has now joined me in being one of the only people to have received a call at volume during a committee meeting this parliamentary term. Whoever it was will remain nameless, but I am the other guilty person. Again, I thank the witnesses.

10:39 Meeting suspended.  



10:47 On resuming—  



The Convener

I welcome the second panel: Mairi Gougeon, the Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, is accompanied by the Scottish Government officials Phil Burns, policy manager in the animal welfare branch, and Jim Wilson, head of the safer communities and justice directorate Covid hub.

I invite the minister to make a brief opening statement.

The Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment (Mairi Gougeon)

I thank the committee for inviting me to give evidence on Emma Harper’s bill, which I am pleased that she has introduced. We are happy to support the bill’s general principles. That support is given under our commitment to facilitate all methods that provide more effective ways of preventing such attacks on livestock and minimising their impact. The Scottish Government believes that the welfare of all animals is important and that steps should be taken to ensure the highest levels of protection.

The current penalty of £1,000 that is available under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 does not address the serious consequences of attacks on livestock and livestock worrying. The current penalty no longer reflects the value of the livestock that are harmed in such incidents. Almost 70 years on from its introduction, the act does not provide cover for all the species that are now being farmed. The proposed increases take into account the increased mobility and leisure time that we all now enjoy, an unintended consequence of which is that there is a higher risk of interaction between livestock and dogs.

I have been aware of the incidence of worrying and attacks on livestock. Chasing and harassment carry a high welfare risk for livestock, and there are occasional incidents of fatal injuries. We are also aware of the frustration and emotional distress that worrying and livestock attacks have on livestock farmers. Those feelings can have as much impact on the livestock keeper as the financial costs arising from time loss, veterinary costs, the replacement of lost animals and the disruption to breeding programmes.

The livestock industry is vital to our rural and remote rural communities, and we must take steps to ensure that it is appropriately protected. The Scottish Government considers that owning an animal brings responsibilities, not solely for the animal that an individual owns, but also for other animals with which that animal may come into contact. All dog owners should be reminded that their dogs must be kept under effective control in all places to avoid incidents of worrying and attacks. We recognise that the majority of dog owners walk their animals responsibly in all environments and understand that owning a dog brings many responsibilities but, sadly, some do not exercise an appropriate level of control.

The bill proposes additional controls on people who are convicted of livestock offences. We consider that those controls, which are designed to limit reoffending and harm to livestock, will be useful measures in reducing reoffending. However, we expect the detail of the provisions to be considered in greater detail throughout the bill process, and we might lodge amendments to address any issues that are identified in the bill as introduced. At this stage, I highlight that the proposed new powers for inspectors and constables and the new post-conviction powers will require particular consideration to ensure that they strike the right balance in the investigation and prevention of attacks on livestock.

The Convener

Thank you for that detailed introduction, minister. The first question comes from our deputy convener, Maureen Watt.

Maureen Watt

Good morning, minister. You might have covered this in your opening statement, but what are the key reasons for the Government supporting the bill?

Mairi Gougeon

One of our key reasons for supporting Emma Harper’s bill is that the current act is nearly 70 years old and the bill will modernise that legislation. The new penalties that it seeks to introduce better reflect the seriousness of the crime committed. The welfare of all animals is extremely important to us, and the bill fits in well with the other work that we have been doing. As committee members will know, in June we passed the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act 2020. Emma Harper’s bill fits in well with some of the work that we did in that context to strengthen and modernise our animal welfare legislation.

Richard Lyle

Good morning. Where does the bill fit with other legislation on dogs and animal welfare, including the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010?

Mairi Gougeon

As I mentioned in my previous answer, we have been undertaking work on animal welfare, including through the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act 2020, which we passed a few months ago. The key pieces of legislation that interact with Emma Harper’s bill are the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953—as I mentioned in my opening statement, it is nearly 70 years old—which criminalises dog owners when their dog worries livestock, and the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010. The 2010 act is distinct from the 1953 act because it involves a civil enforcement regime rather than a criminal one—it is only if a dog control notice is breached that it becomes a criminal matter. There are two tests that have to be met for a dog control notice to be issued. As the key aim of the 2010 act was to prevent the behaviour of dogs getting to a stage where they might attack an individual, it was seen as being more of a preventative measure, although it can also be applied after an attack has taken place.

Richard Lyle

The 2020-21 programme for government states that the Scottish Government plans to consult further on the law on dangerous dogs. Will that be a comprehensive review of all the legislation on dog control, or will it address specific pieces of legislation? If the bill is passed, will it fall within the scope of such a review?

Mairi Gougeon

I believe that that review is due to take place towards the end of the year. It will focus on the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 in particular, which was a key area of concern for the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee. That review’s focus on the 1991 act also reflects the fact that both Government departments face resourcing challenges.

There will be a consultation, which will focus on responsible dog ownership and the impacts on people’s safety. It will also look at the seizure powers in the 1991 act and how the law affects dog walking businesses.

Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

Good morning. A number of witnesses have suggested that more effective use could be made of dog control notices in cases of livestock worrying. What are your views on that? One issue that has been raised is a lack of resources for the use of dog control notices. It is local authorities that issue such notices, but they are currently underresourced. I would like to hear your views on the need for more resources. Also, should Police Scotland be able to use dog control notices in cases of livestock worrying?

Mairi Gougeon

I know that the issue of whether the police should be able to issue dog control notices has been raised in previous evidence to the committee. I would be hesitant to confirm that we would want the police to have that power. We would have to discuss with Police Scotland whether it thought that it would be appropriate for the police to have that power.

The Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee looked into the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010, and a host of work has been done as a result of that scrutiny. That included a consultation that ran from September last year to January this year, which considered whether there should be a national database of dog control notices. The Government is taking forward various pieces of work as a result of that.

You asked about resources. This is not just a question of resources; it is a case of looking at how well authorities are using the powers that they have already. It is not as easy as saying that there is a problem that could be fixed by better resourcing.

Some of the figures on the issuing of dog control notices showed that there was quite a discrepancy between different local authorities, which did not necessarily correlate with the resources that were in place. That point was borne out by the committee’s scrutiny. Between 2019 and this year, Glasgow City Council, which has two dog wardens, conducted 57 investigations and issued four dog control notices, whereas Angus Council, which has one dog warden, conducted 287 investigations and issued 22 dog control notices. Fife Council is another example of an authority that has used the legislation well and has been able to allocate resources to that area and to the training of dog wardens.

It is not as straightforward as saying that this is a resource issue; it is a case of looking at how the legislation is being used and whether it is being used to best effect.

Other pieces of work are being done to examine the relationships and joint protocols between local authorities and the police and to look at how they work and whether that can be improved. There is a working group on which the Scottish Government, local authorities, Police Scotland and other organisations are represented, which is considering how to bring about better working and other measures that could be taken to improve the effectiveness of the legislation.

I hope that that answers your question. Jim Wilson might want to add to what I have said.

The Convener

There might be a chance for him to come in after Colin Smyth has asked his next question.

Colin Smyth

Does the Government have a view on whether any changes to the legislation are needed? Is the bill an opportunity to change the legislation to improve the use of dog control notices, or is it primarily non-legislative measures that are required?

11:00  



Mairi Gougeon

The bill is probably not the appropriate place to address that, because, as I said, a working group has been set up to tackle and address all those issues. It would be more appropriate to allow the working group to work through those issues and to focus on the issues that were raised in the consultation that was carried out late last year through to the start of this year. A lot of work is on-going. The bill is not the appropriate place to change the legislation on dog control notices. It is a bit too soon to include any such measures in the bill. A wider part of the work will be consideration of whether legislation is needed, or whether there are other ways to address the problems.

The Convener

I cut off Jim Wilson as he was about to launch forth, so I want to give him the chance to make his point.

Jim Wilson (Scottish Government)

I will add to the minister’s comments on local authority spend. It is worth highlighting that the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee sought information on the amount of resources and money that was being spent on dog control by each of Scotland’s local authorities. We have engaged with the Society of Chief Officers of Environmental Health in Scotland to seek information from each local authority, in order to respond to the committee’s request.

More generally, it is worth adding to the minister’s comments about the working group that we are proactively looking to achieve some quick wins. The statutory guidance that accompanied the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010 is being reviewed, with a view to publishing updated guidance by the end of this year. The joint protocol document between Police Scotland and local authorities, which was last published in May 2016, is also under review. Again, we are aiming to publish the updated joint protocol document by the end of this year.

On the working group’s membership, it is key to point out that the Scottish Government recognises that issues relating to control of dogs and responsible dog ownership stray into a number of portfolio areas. It is important not to have only the key enforcement agencies such as Police Scotland and local authorities on the working group, which will engage regularly with the Scottish Government. There should also be a close connection with justice and safer communities policy and with animal welfare policy. I can confirm that we have an animal welfare presence on the Scottish Government-led working group.

The Convener

I think that Colin Smyth is happy with those answers.

Stewart Stevenson

I want to explore the use of disqualification orders. In what circumstances might it be appropriate to issue such orders? What mitigations might apply to ensure that they are not used inappropriately? Is it the intention of the Government or the Lord Advocate to provide guidance on how the courts should operate in that regard and on how disqualification might be applied?

Mairi Gougeon

There are a couple of points in those questions. It is up to the Scottish Sentencing Council to provide guidance on sentencing. During the passage of the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill, we contacted the Scottish Sentencing Council to ask it to provide similar guidance. It has quite a full work programme at the moment, but the point could be raised with it to see whether it is willing to consider providing guidance. The Scottish Sentencing Council is an independent body, so it is not for the Government to dictate to it.

On the appropriateness of disqualification orders, we consider that disqualification from ownership of a dog would be appropriate when a court considers that the offending owner is not able to, or has decided that they will not, control their dog around livestock, especially where that can present a danger to other animals and, potentially, to people, too.

Again, the appropriateness of any sentence is ultimately up to the courts to determine, based on the circumstances of individual cases.

Stewart Stevenson

I move on to the issue of how we control where dogs are and how dogs are controlled. I raised with the previous witnesses the issue that access to land under the land reform legislation is given only where it is responsible access. Would a dog that is not on a lead be automatically irresponsible adjacent to livestock?

It is fair to say that the previous witnesses, particularly Charlie Adam, were of the view that it can be irresponsible for a dog, even if it is on a lead, to be adjacent to livestock. Is the issue of the use to which land is being put a part of whether we should seek to penalise people who take or let their dog near to livestock?

Mairi Gougeon

Are you referring to the Scottish outdoor access code?

Stewart Stevenson

I am referring to the access code in relation to whether a person is irresponsible if their dog is off the lead and they are not therefore entitled to access on that basis, but I am also making a broader point about whether people should be banned from taking dogs on to agricultural land. If they were, how would they know that the land is agricultural land? Forgive me if I am conflating two issues that are perhaps slightly different.

Mairi Gougeon

Part of the issue is whether everyone knows their rights and responsibilities—what they are permitted to do and what they are not permitted to do—under the access code, so that is a valid point. I do not think that everyone would necessarily be aware of that. Some of the livestock-worrying incidents that we have heard of might have come about because of sheer ignorance, rather than out of malice. However, that does not excuse such behaviour, because people have a responsibility to ensure that they know what their rights are when they are out and about.

I know that NatureScot has done a lot of work on the access code, on promoting awareness of it and on education, particularly given some of the issues that we have seen during the pandemic. There have been an extra 250,000 hits on its website, which is quite something.

The issue is more about how we inform people about what they should be doing and how that is managed. Obviously, it is difficult to police people out in the country, but how do we achieve an effective balance? Educating people and making sure that they are aware of their responsibilities is a key aspect of that.

It is not necessarily the case that all people should be banned from accessing agricultural land full stop. I do not know whether that was the issue that you were highlighting in your question.

Stewart Stevenson

This is my final point, minister. I am simply reflecting some of the evidence that has come to the committee. You used the word “rights” when referring to the person with a dog. Do you agree that it would be appropriate for education to focus on the obligations of people with dogs in the countryside to those who are making use of the countryside, including by having livestock on it? In other words, rights come only if a person respects the obligations that come with exercising the right to access the country. I invite you to agree that that would be the case.

Mairi Gougeon

I absolutely agree with that.

The Convener

Oh, that was a very short answer—it nearly caught me off guard. Peter Chapman will ask the next question.

Peter Chapman

The bill speaks about using vets to gather evidence. Who will be expected to cover the costs when a vet is called to examine a dog in a case of livestock worrying? How will those costs be recovered, if the farmer or the vet pays in the first instance?

Mairi Gougeon

The costs of investigation would probably have to be borne initially by the investigatory body. We will have to give greater consideration to whether those costs could or should be recouped from an offender.

I know that that issue was raised in previous meetings by witnesses, including Inspector Dron, who talked of one incident in which somebody who had been convicted of livestock worrying had been granted a compensation order. However, in the same meeting, the committee heard that only 9 per cent of farmers who had been affected by a livestock attack or worrying incident had received compensation. Clearly, there are a lot of people who, for one reason or another, are unable to recoup their costs. There are means by which people could go about seeking compensation, and the main question that arises from all this for me is, why are only 9 per cent able to get the compensation, and are there issues around that?

Peter Chapman

It is a big issue. It is right to have this procedure, because we want to get convictions, but we must address the issue of cost. We must also address the fact that not all vets would be qualified or have the resources to do the work. Will there be standard operating procedures for vets carrying out forensic examinations, and how will training for examinations and evidence handling be provided to the veterinary community?

Mairi Gougeon

There could well be instances of evidence taking that would not be far removed from what vets currently do in relation to their care for animals at the moment, or would be part of it, so it might be that not much training is required. However, we must have conversations about these issues. I have not discussed them with any of the veterinary associations, and I will have to do so in order to find out whether any extra training would be required. Vets are already capable or carrying out such procedures as the taking of blood samples and so on. Again, that is something that could be considered further.

Peter Chapman

One final point is the question of consent for a vet to examine a dog. Will the police be able to give consent for that examination to take place or does the owner have to be the one who gives consent?

Mairi Gougeon

Under the bill at the moment, the legal authority to have a dog examined would rest with the constable or the inspector who seized the dog, and would involve there being reasonable grounds for believing that the dog had been involved in a livestock attack or worrying incident.

The Convener

I have a quick question on that issue. If there is an incident of livestock worrying and a vet is called out to treat the animals in question, it would presumably be the vet who the farmer usually uses to treat his or her livestock, which means that the vet will know the animals well. However, that vet might also be the vet who is asked to examine the dog, and that might cause all sorts of conflicts of interest when it comes to a prosecution. Are there ways around that, or it that not really an issue?

Mairi Gougeon

Again, that is something that I probably have to give greater consideration to. Under the bill at the moment, the legal authority would rest with the constable or inspector. I imagine that they would have to be present for that to be the case, but my officials might have more information or be able to offer clarification on that.

11:15  



Phil Burns (Scottish Government)

There is the issue of conflict of interest, but there is also the possibility that, in many remote areas, there would be relatively few vets. There would be costs involved in taking a dog to a vet who was further away.

The Convener

That might be something that you could ponder further another time, minister.

Mike Rumbles

First, I will focus on section 5, which concerns inspecting bodies and inspectors. As the minister knows, the bill says:

“The Scottish Ministers may by regulations authorise one or more persons, organisations or bodies to appoint inspectors for the purposes of this Act.”

That is quite different to the position in the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006. There seems to be some controversy about that, because the bill seems to give a lot of power to the appointed inspectors. What organisations or persons does the Scottish Government think would be the appropriate ones to appoint the inspectors?

Our previous witnesses said that, if we go down the route of appointing inspectors in addition to the police constables, there should be a training system and perhaps a certification system. At the moment, it seems like the minister would appoint a body that would appoint inspectors, and there would not necessarily be any training or certification.

Mairi Gougeon

Again, we would have to consider further whether we would support the model that is proposed in the bill or adopt the one that we already use to appoint animal welfare inspectors, which is set out in the 2006 act and involves Scottish ministers directly appointing inspectors and other bodies not having an official role in the appointment process. That process is effective, at the moment.

On what the other bodies might be, there are only a limited number of bodies that it could be. Again, we will have to give further consideration to that, and we will also have to have discussions with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. It would be beneficial for anyone who was appointed in those respective areas, or whoever those inspectors might be, to have established protocols with the police. Depending on who they might be, we would need to consider what training might be appropriate for them.

Mike Rumbles

The previous witnesses suggested that, if you appoint inspectors rather than using a properly resourced police service to deal with the issue, the perception of the severity of the crime might be diminished. I think that I am right in saying that the witnesses expressed the view that, instead of involving several organisations—local authorities, private organisations and the police—it might be better to focus on having a properly resourced police effort to tackle the crime. Everyone agreed that it was a serious crime but they all felt that involving too many people might be a problem.

Mairi Gougeon

I understand why that point was raised. We see similar issues when it comes to wildlife crime. Livestock attacks take place in rural areas, as does wildlife crime, and the resource that the police can apply will always be finite.

I understand what the member means about it being confusing about which body to contact. However, a lot of organisations do not work in isolation. When I talked about dog control notices earlier, I talked about the working protocols that we have with local authorities and Police Scotland and trying to see how we can improve them and ensure that there is more joined-up working.

Similar arrangements are in place in the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act 2020. We were looking at better intelligence sharing between the Scottish SPCA and Police Scotland, because they have to work together quite closely. The Scottish SPCA can be called out to wildlife incidents for which it is appropriate for the police to be involved.

Of course, all those bodies have distinct powers and it is important to take all that into consideration when determining the most appropriate authority. Regardless of whether that would be the police or other inspecting bodies, it is important to get right the protocols for how they work together and share information.

Mike Rumbles

As well as section 5 of the bill, section 4 is giving me concern. It is about powers to authorise entry, search and seizure.

As far as I understand it, the bill is a departure from the established legal norms of Scots law. As the minister will be aware, under normal everyday general principles, a police constable cannot enter a premises in the hope of searching for evidence. Any such issue must be taken to a sheriff or a justice of the peace to obtain a search warrant before the premises can be entered. In our liberal democratic society, that is the safeguard.

As it is drafted, section 4 allows that to be circumvented, if I can put it that way. It inserts new section 2A(2) into the 1953 act, which says:

“This subsection is complied with in relation to premises if—

(a) either—

(i) admission to the premises has been refused, or

(ii) such a refusal may reasonably be expected”.

Proposed new section 2A(3) says:

“This subsection is complied with if the premises are unoccupied or the occupier is temporarily absent.”

That is a huge difference from our normal, established way of policing, is it not?

Mairi Gougeon

There are similarities with other pieces of legislation. It is currently the case for constables and inspectors, under paragraph 4 of schedule 1 to the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006, in connection with the investigation of certain animal welfare offences, so it would not be such a massive departure as has been suggested. Other pieces of legislation contain similar powers, which are primarily in relation to concern about the welfare of an animal.

The proposed provisions in the bill do not extend to the search of domestic premises without a warrant. In addition, the Crown Office establishes whether other approaches have been considered, prior to seeking a warrant.

I understand the member’s concern about what is proposed, and the reasons for such concern, which must be fully considered, but similar powers exist.

Mike Rumbles

The minister misunderstands my point. I am fully aware that, if a police constable feels that a crime is under way—such as animal neglect, which is a criminal offence—he has the power to enter premises under the general principles of Scots law. The provision under discussion is not about that.

If a crime has been committed somewhere else, that person is not actually committing an offence at the time, nor can be said to be likely to commit an offence. There is a major difference between the law under the 2006 act that the minister mentioned, which I fully understand, and what is proposed in the bill. The bill proposals depart from the norm of a constable, or an inspector, not being given the power to search without a warrant.

Mairi Gougeon

As I said towards the end of my statement, we want to further consider the provisions in that part of the bill, as well as the appointment of inspectors via authorising a body to appoint them. Those issues need further consideration and we will have discussions on them with the Crown Office in due course.

Oliver Mundell

The questions that I was going to ask primarily have been covered. That is the second time that I have heard the minister talking about having further discussions with the Crown Office—does that mean that there have already been discussions, and has the Crown Office raised any concerns about how the bill is drafted?

Mairi Gougeon

Those discussions are on-going because—[Inaudible.] It is not a like-for-like example, but the member will probably be aware of discussions that we had in connection with the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill about the potential for increasing the powers that are available to the Scottish SPCA. We are still in the midst of establishing a task force to consider that specific issue. Increasing those powers has often been portrayed as quite simple, but it is not because it could have implications for the Scottish SPCA and for the investigation of crimes and the powers that are held by the Crown Office and the police. The task force is being set up to tease out those issues, and that work is still due to start.

Although this situation is not exactly the same, there are issues within that that we have not been able to fully resolve or investigate, and we are continuing to have discussions with the Crown Office to bottom out where the issues are.

Oliver Mundell

Given that experience, does it not put the Government off taking the same approach with this bill? I am concerned that that kind of process would slow down the legislation coming fully into force. The people who have been waiting many years to see the legislation updated would rather see the police given those powers straight away to get on with tackling the issue. We heard suggestions from the previous panel that sometimes the police do not see the issue as being as much of a priority as wildlife crime. I am concerned that that kind of process could delay the legislation or create confusion around it; will you take that into consideration?

Mairi Gougeon

Yes. We certainly do not want to do anything to impede the progress of the bill, because it is vital. We support the bill, because it gives livestock attacks the seriousness with which they should be recognised. That is very positive and we want to make sure that the bill progresses and is implemented. I only raised that example to highlight some of the issues that we face. Again, I am not comparing like with like in discussing that situation and what is proposed in the bill; I refer to it only to highlight how some of these issues can be quite complex, but I hope that, once we have those discussions with the Crown Office, we will be able to progress with that work again to get to the bottom of the issues so that the process is not held up. The two situations are different, and I used that as an example only to highlight how we had dealt with it in other areas.

Oliver Mundell

I will briefly return to vets for my final question. In a previous evidence session, we heard a suggestion that it might be possible to use the SRUC’s vets. They already do some work for the Scottish Government and Police Scotland in other areas; will you explore that option as a way of ironing out some of the resourcing issues for vets?

Mairi Gougeon

I am certainly happy to look into that and get back to the committee with more detail.

11:30  



Maureen Watt

Is it the Scottish Government’s intention that any new legislation will be accompanied by more awareness-raising educational campaigns for dog owners and land managers to prevent livestock worrying?

Mairi Gougeon

The need for education and awareness raising has been raised consistently throughout the committee’s evidence taking. When penalties are introduced through a new piece of legislation, it is important that people are aware of it and of its potential impact. We will have to give further consideration to that as we move forward.

A lot of work is being done by other organisations, and it would be good to have discussions with them about working together on education and awareness raising. For example, we have been working with the Scottish SPCA over the past two years and, this year, we hope to work with it again on raising awareness about how to buy a puppy safely, which is a massive issue. If we already have such campaigns, it would make sense to consider whether there is a way to develop that.

The issue cuts across portfolios, and I am sure that the Minister for Community Safety, who is dealing with dog control notices, would probably not be too happy with me committing her whole budget to a marketing campaign, so we will have to consider that when the bill is passed. However, it is definitely an important point.

I talked about buying a puppy safely, which feeds into the dog control element. There has been an increase in the demand for puppies, especially during the course of the pandemic—I am sure that everybody will have heard about the current cost of puppies. People have been at home more and some have bought puppies in order to have a pet. From discussions that I have had with animal welfare charities in the past few weeks, I know that we are already starting to see problems arise as a result of that, because not everybody realises the extent of the responsibilities that come with owning an animal. When you take a puppy or another animal as a pet, it should not be temporary; you should have that pet for life and you should look after it properly. As I said, we might see more animal behaviour issues arising, given the sheer number of people who are taking on pets, and given that there is now less access to the education and training that animal welfare organisations provided before the pandemic, although some of that is now happening again virtually.

The Convener

Minister, your official, Jim Wilson, wants to come in. If you are happy to let him in, I am happy to hear what he has to add. Woe betide you afterwards if you say no, I suspect.

Jim Wilson

I want to briefly outline some of our recent activity. We engaged with the Scottish Government justice communications team, which allowed us to use social media platforms to raise awareness of dog control. We used Twitter to promote the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010 and highlight the importance of keeping dogs under control. Our short video clip was viewed 51,000 times, which is a decent number of views. Our second clip, which encourages citizens to report issues with out-of-control dogs to local authorities, had been viewed 8,230 times when I last checked. We did a little bit on Facebook, too. For a modest cost, we were able to get some key messages out there.

I appreciate that marketing resources are heavily focused on dealing with Covid at the moment, but there might be the chance to consider other awareness-raising opportunities in the future.

The Scottish Government-led working group is considering what other key enforcement agencies can do to promote responsible dog ownership across the country.

Christine Grahame

I want to make a couple of points, and I accept what you said about marketing resources being required for very many Covid-related things at the moment. However, more people are going to be outdoors with their dogs, so perhaps there is a quid pro quo to be had from advertising this legislation, if it passes, and the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010.

I want to ask a question about the issue of a DCN database, which was raised by Peter Chapman. All dogs in Scotland should be microchipped. I raised the issue of creating a database for animals that had been issued a DCN under the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010, which resulted from my member’s bill, at the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee and I seem to remember—it would be unfair to say absolutely that this was the case—that the minister, Ash Denham, said that she would consider a national database. It seems to me to be a good idea that, if this legislation comes in, it will be possible to check whether owners already have a DCN and their dog has been involved in another offence, so that the two can be linked together. Will the minister discuss that with the justice minister?

Mairi Gougeon

I would be happy to further discuss that with the Minister for Community Safety. However, work on a DCN database is being done and that issue is being considered at the moment. I do not know whether Jim Wilson would like to add any further detail to that.

Jim Wilson

I will be very brief. That is being looked at by the working group, and the issue of the database was raised very recently—on 20 August—when the Minister for Community Safety and I appeared before the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee. Therefore, we have had some exploratory conversations with the Improvement Service, Police Scotland and local authorities about the opportunities to create such a system.

The minister highlighted an earlier consultation, which took place from September last year to January this year, that looked into the operational effect of the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010. A specific question was posed on a DCN database, and a high percentage of those who responded thought that it would be a good idea and that it would become a useful enforcement tool for local authorities in situations in which an individual had been served with a DCN and then moved to a different local authority area.

It is also worth highlighting that, under article 36(4) of the general data protection regulation, there is a requirement to engage with the regulator about any statutory work that is undertaken. I know that Christine Grahame will recall that with some fondness from the 2010 act. Ultimately, there is a need to ensure that information sharing between the key enforcement agencies is considered. We want to ensure that the Information Commissioner’s Office is also part of those conversations.

My final point relates to the database. What could be held on it is quite restricted: it would be information on dog control notices. However, we would be open to considering further legislative change in order for more information on dog control to be held on such a system. The key point to make, and I certainly made this point to the Improvement Service, is that if it agrees to take on that project—further conversations on that are planned for the end of this month—we have to ensure that any systems that are developed are future proofed to ensure that the digital tools can support any current plans or policy changes that might be on the horizon, whether through legislative means or otherwise. I stress that the database is limited to holding information on DCNs. There might be opportunities for such a system to do more in future, but we would need to consider legislative change to achieve that.

Christine Grahame

I do not want to focus on my bill, because this is about other legislation, but do you agree that a database would assist in getting prosecutions under this legislation? It might provide corroboration that there was a reckless owner. It will be hard to get corroboration as the offences will take place when there is nobody about. If somebody makes a report and a dog control notice already applies to the animal that is identified, the database will be an additional tool to establish that the owner is not looking after their dog properly, the animal is out of control and the owner may have committed an additional offence under the legislation. I am interested in corroboration.

Jim Wilson

That is a good point. It is useful to highlight the links between the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010 and the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. The review of the 1991 act will look at the concern that was raised by a number of witnesses who gave evidence to the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee on the issue of reasonable apprehension. An owner might not know that their dog might be likely to attack. Each case depends on the circumstances, but that reasonable apprehension argument could cause difficulties in achieving successful prosecutions. The consultation must look carefully at that.

I agree with Christine Grahame. The database could be accessed by Police Scotland. I can confirm that, in one of our working group conversations, Police Scotland recognised the benefit of receiving that type of information and intelligence from local authorities and saw that it could support other investigations that could fall under the 1991 act.

The Convener

I am going to bring in Emma Harper. Emma, it is your bill and the floor is yours.

Emma Harper

I thank panel members for their evidence so far and I thank the committee for its scrutiny of the bill. I am pleased that the Government supports the overall principle of updating a 67-year-old piece of legislation.

My question is about the police. To my mind, the police should take the lead in any investigation. That is my goal. There might be other investigating bodies, such as local authority agents, to support them.

I lifted some language from the UEFA European Championship (Scotland) Act 2020. Sections 20 and 21 of that act include language about the

“power to enter and search”

and the

“use of reasonable force”.

I used that language because it is used in legislation that has already been passed. My intention was that, if a latch-key dog was seized in a field, somebody could take that dog and place it in a holding pen.

The Convener

Emma, I am showing you quite a lot of leniency in allowing you to explain the bill, but I cannot show you any more. Please focus and ask the minister your question. You will have the opportunity to explain your bill when you come in front of the committee. I am sorry to interrupt you.

Emma Harper

That is fine. Does the minister think that that should be in the bill and in primary legislation, or could the idea of assigning powers to other people be placed in further regulations?

Mairi Gougeon

We are considering that point and how that might operate. I understand what the member is trying to do with that provision and with the idea of the police being the primary investigating body, with others to assist them as organisations work together. We have other examples where that happens. We need to have that full discussion with the Crown Office to see whether there are any potential issues and then iron them out. I fully understand what the member was trying to do with the provision: it is trying to ensure that the police and the inspectors have the powers to thoroughly investigate such incidents.

The Convener

Do you have another question, Emma?

Emma Harper

Not really—I will save it for another occasion, as I would need something of a preamble in order to get to the information.

11:45  



The Convener

Minister, during the course of the evidence sessions so far, the issue of the value of livestock has been raised. You will know that livestock value can vary and that sheep and rams in particular can be quite expensive. Is the compensation element given enough consideration in the bill? It was suggested that it might be appropriate for dog owners to have insurance to cover any liability in relation to, say, a ram that is worth £20,000, or even, as Stewart Stevenson suggested, in extreme circumstances, £300,000—oh to be able to sell something of that value! I have not achieved that yet, but then I do not have a sheep. Do you think that we should consider insurance along with compensation?

Mairi Gougeon

Farmers should be insured against such incidents. That goes back to the response that I gave to Colin Smyth’s question earlier. The committee had already heard evidence about the one case in which a compensation order was granted, but the statistics show us that only 9 per cent of farmers actually receive compensation. I would want to give that issue further consideration because all the tools could be already available to us. There is also a civil route for compensation. However, it is worth considering why those routes, given that they are available, are not working, so that we can get to the bottom of the reasons for that. Clearly, it is working for some but not for many other people.

The Convener

No other members appear to want to ask questions at this stage. I thank the minister and her team for giving evidence.

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Third meeting transcript

The Convener

Item 5 is to take evidence on the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill. I welcome Christine Grahame, who is joining the committee for this item as Emma Harper’s substitute. Emma is participating as the member in charge of the bill and not as a committee member. Members have already made declarations of interest in relation to farming, and those remain extant.

I welcome the panel: Emma Harper, who is the member in charge of the bill; Nick Hawthorne, who is a senior assistant clerk in the non-Government bills unit; Kenny Htet-Khin, who is a solicitor at the Scottish Parliament; and Charles Livingstone, who is a partner at Brodies LLP.

I ask Emma Harper to give a three-minute opening statement. As a member of the committee, you will know how strict I am on my timings. The floor is yours, as it were.

Emma Harper (South Scotland) (SNP)

I welcome this opportunity to attend the committee to discuss the bill. As members know, the bill aims to strengthen the existing legislation, allow for better protection of livestock, and improve understanding of the issue of livestock worrying in Scotland.

I have been working on the bill since early 2018, when I announced my intention to introduce it. Since then, I have carried out a formal consultation on the bill, which received more than 600 responses, and informal consultation through stakeholder engagement, round-table meetings in Parliament, a meeting with people from all sides of the issue, and meetings with constituent farmers and stakeholder organisations. Organisations who have been consulted include NFU Scotland, the National Sheep Association, the Scottish SPCA, Police Scotland, the Dogs Trust, the national access forum and the British Veterinary Association, to name a few. Throughout the process, I have tried to encompass all organisations, individuals and interested parties.

The bill has a key policy objective, which is to inform, through formal and informal consultation, with the aim of improving the legislation on livestock worrying. If passed, the key change that the bill will implement is an increase in the maximum penalty for the offence of allowing out-of-control dogs to chase, attack and kill livestock, up to a fine of £5,000 or a six-month suspended sentence. It will also allow courts to ban a convicted person from owning a dog or allowing their dog to go on to agricultural land; indeed, it also provides the ability for courts to ban a convicted person’s household from owning a dog.

The bill will also give police greater powers to investigate and enforce the offence, and it provides greater clarity to Scotland’s legal bodies, such as the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, on how to deal with the offence. That is particularly important because, during the consultation, it was identified as an issue with the current legislation.

Additionally, the bill extends the definition of livestock in Scots law to include farm animals such as camelids—llamas and alpacas.

The changes proposed by the bill have been welcomed by Scotland’s leading animal welfare and agricultural bodies, including the NSA and the NFUS.

The bill provides clear protection to Scotland’s hard-working farming community from loss and damage to their livestock—a crime of which the consequences can be not only financially but emotionally devastating. As a result of the consultation, I know that it is also a crime for which the consequences are often limited and insufficient.

I welcome the opportunity to answer members’ questions and look forward to working with members as we move forward.

The Convener

Thank you for sticking to the time so assiduously.

Maureen Watt

In your opening statement, you said that you received responses from a wide variety of stakeholders. How did your consultation with all those various people and groups affect the legislative avenue that you arrived at to tackle the issue?

09:30  



Emma Harper

When gathering the information, we looked at various approaches. One of the main things that people wanted was the ability to make the fines higher on the levels 1 to 5 scale, so we looked at that and included it in the bill. We also looked at education and how or whether we could put it in the bill, but other education opportunities are already being delivered, and the Scottish partnership against rural crime is engaging in work to tackle livestock worrying as part of its other rural crime issues. We looked at lots of ways of taking the legislation forward; ultimately, we took the keep it simple approach, because the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 is 67 years old and we wanted to bring it up to date as simply as possible.

Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

I turn to the current legislation and how it ties in with what we already have on statute. Work is on-going to review a number of areas of dog control legislation. As you know from the evidence, although they do not oppose the principles of the bill, some stakeholders feel that a more co-ordinated approach to dog control legislation should be taken. Why did you choose to introduce that particular legislation, rather than waiting for the results of on-going reviews and trying to incorporate some of your work into what might be coming?

Emma Harper

Lots of work is going on; we talked about the bigger issue and the potential for consolidation legislation, but consolidation legislation would take between five and 10 years. From the chair of the National Sheep Association, as well as NFU Scotland and many members that I have spoken to over the past couple of years, I got a sense of urgency; they do not want to wait another five to 10 years while the number of incidents of livestock worrying continues to increase. For the past 10 years, the number of incidents has increased year on year, so that sense of urgency made me want to focus on this piece of legislation, which, ultimately, can be used as preparatory work if further consolidation legislation is taken forward. Again, I wanted to do something now.

Colin Smyth

To follow up on that question, some people have proposed a complementary measure to align the bill with the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010 and, in particular, consider extending the use of dog control notices to police and potential inspecting bodies for use in the cases of livestock worrying. Do you have any views on that?

Emma Harper

We considered dog control notices, but they are already available as part of the civil process in the 2010 legislation, and we wanted to focus on updating the old legislation. We thought about it, but my understanding is that those notices are already out there and, rather than muddy the waters, that legislation could still be used and is also currently used for livestock worrying offences.

John Finnie

I will touch on the issue of penalties. The majority of stakeholders and those who responded want a robust penalty regime. They are also concerned that it should be proportionate. What is your rationale for the level of penalty that is outlined in the bill?

Emma Harper

The 1953 legislation has the highest penalty at level 1, which is £1,000. In modern farming practice, the value of some sheep in particular can be really high. We saw recently that some tups have been valued at 250,000 guineas.

As I compared the old legislation with the new legislation, I wanted to apportion reasonable penalties from levels 1 through to 5 so that the maximum penalty could be £5,000 and the minimum—I think—£200. That would give prosecutors the flexibility to assess cases based on individual incidents and to apply the level of fine that would fit each individual incident of livestock attack.

John Finnie

We know from the Law Society of Scotland—which confirmed what you said in evidence previously—that a compensation regime is already in place in the Scottish justice system. We also heard about the significant cost of some beasts, but also the relatively modest cost of some. Mike Flynn of the SSPCA talked about £70, but also mentioned the figure of £30,000 for a particular tup. A number of the stakeholders highlighted compensation as being particularly important, and that tool is already available to the courts.

Is that sufficient, or should compensation provisions be in the bill? Clearly—perhaps—you do not think so. However, if you do think so, do you have a view on how that could be determined and what could be done if a convicted person cannot pay? One of the other issues around the question of insurance is the uncertainty about what is being insured—whether it is the £70 or the £30,000. Will you comment on that, please?

Emma Harper

Compensation orders already exist, but we learned from the evidence conducted by Flock Health that only 9 per cent of farmers claimed compensation. When she gave evidence, the minister said that we might need to do more to raise awareness of the fact that compensation orders already exist. I know from discussions with the non-Government bills unit that the mechanism is already in place and that we might have to raise awareness of it.

My understanding is that compensation orders would be part of it if somebody who was required to pay compensation could not afford it; that would be borne by the proceeds of crime financial availability. If I am not being clear enough, Kenny Htet-Khin might be able to respond directly about how compensation orders already work and how they are in current legislation.

I chose not to put that in the bill, because it is probably bigger than what could be proposed and taken forward by a member’s bill. I know that financial resolutions would have to be processed by the Parliament if a wider financial issue were associated.

Nick Hawthorne (Scottish Parliament)

To add to what Emma Harper has said, it is the case, as Mr Finnie said, that compensation can be given at the moment. As the committee heard, that can be done through the civil route and other legislation. The bill would improve that situation, as it would increase the maximum penalty to include a six-month custodial sentence, which would allow the courts to make, under a community payback order, a compensation requirement in lieu of the custodial sentence, which cannot happen at the moment. That is linked to the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010. By including a custodial sentence, the court would have an extra mechanism for requiring compensation to be paid.

John Finnie

Emma Harper, have you had any engagement with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service? You talked about awareness, and the procurator fiscal might need to make a request of the bench about that in individual cases. Has that been discussed?

Emma Harper

The Crown Office responded to the initial consultation and, since then, the minister has met its representatives. Ahead of today’s committee meeting, I sent an additional letter to the Crown Office seeking a response on various issues that have been brought up; I am waiting to receive a response. I am happy to pursue that with the Crown Office and to feed back the response to the committee when I get it.

Oliver Mundell (Dumfriesshire) (Con)

I thank Emma Harper for her helpful input. A few weeks ago, I asked stakeholders about the possibility of introducing a standard compensation scheme, although that might not fix all the problems. Did Emma hear that evidence and would she support such a scheme? The idea that we will find hundreds of thousands of pounds from some dog walkers to compensate landowners is probably unlikely. It would be an important gesture to ensure that at least some of the cost was recovered.

Emma Harper

Compensation is obviously really important to farmers—it was one of the big issues that the NFUS raised—because of the amount of money that they have to spend on vets’ bills when their sheep are attacked and so on. I will need to discuss that in my continued engagement with the minister, because it will be up to the Scottish Government to introduce a standard, capped approach to compensation. It is worth continuing to explore that and I am happy to do so.

Oliver Mundell

Would Emma Harper be happy for something such as that to be included in the bill and for it to be open to amendment later in the legislative process?

Emma Harper

I am not opposed to putting something in the bill, but compensation schemes already exist and I want to keep my bill as simple as possible. As there is other animal welfare legislation, as well as the working group that the minister spoke about during her evidence session, I would prefer to consider compensation schemes and other methods separately from the primary legislation and look at pursuing that aspect in different ways in the future.

Richard Lyle (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)

Many people are dog lovers and like to own dogs. In what cases would you consider it to be appropriate for a person to be disqualified from owning a dog? Would the bill ensure that any such orders were proportionately applied?

Following John Finnie’s question about the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, I want to know whether you have spoken to the Scottish Sentencing Council about issuing sentencing guidance.

09:45  



Emma Harper

The bill proposes flexibility in any approach.

During the consultation process, we heard a wide range of examples, such as of people thinking that their dog was simply having a bit of fun chasing sheep in a field, but the sheep happened to be pregnant at the time; how would people know that that simple chase resulted in pregnancies being aborted?

Other incidents involved blatant disregard. One man’s Labrador attacked five sheep one day and four the next, and when he was approached about it he said, “So what? I will just pay the fine.”

We have wide-ranging examples of livestock incidents. I wanted to make sure that there was flexibility, so that prosecutors could decide, case by case, how they wanted to take things forward. A disqualification would be very rare.

We have heard of repeat offences. Very few individuals would be disqualified, but we have heard some pretty harrowing stories, whereby some people should just not have a dog. The provision would allow the Crown Office to move for disqualification of that person.

Richard Lyle

As a former dog owner, I agree that anyone who owns a dog should be responsible and ensure that the dog does not do the things that you have mentioned.

Legal stakeholders have suggested that, based on provisions in animal health and welfare legislation, it might be inappropriate to disqualify an owner from owning a dog, if the welfare of the dog is otherwise well provided for. What are your thoughts on that?

Emma Harper

The evidence that was presented by the Kennel Club and Scottish Kennel Club talked about that—the welfare of a dog might otherwise be fine, and a particular incident might just be an incident.

Again, it would be very rare for a person to be disqualified from having a dog, and that is why we built into the bill the provision that we could ban somebody from having their dog on agricultural land. One example was of a core path through a farm in Ayr, where a particular farmer was met with verbal abuse on multiple occasions. He would know that particular person, and if that offence could result in his being banned from that land, the farmer would not have to face verbal abuse when he is out doing his work on the core path that goes through his land.

Angus MacDonald (Falkirk East) (SNP)

Good morning, Emma.

I will stick with the issue of disqualification orders. How do you intend disqualification orders that aim to prevent a person from bringing a dog on to agricultural land to work in practice? Had you in mind any particular circumstances in which such an order would be appropriate and practically feasible?

Emma Harper

In the example that I just talked about, the farmer would know the person who was coming on to the land—for example, he would recognise the dog and the person; the disqualification would relate to that piece of land.

It may be that we need to look at a further definition around that, but, again, rather than going for a person and disqualifying them, I wanted a bit of flexibility to allow the police and the Crown Office to make individual assessments of individual incidents and to make adjustments, so that the person could be required not to go to a particular place.

Another example is of somebody who was on holiday, who might have had no idea that they were in an area that might be risky or that livestock would be on that land. The approach would allow for a process to make them aware that disqualification from a particular place would be part of a requirement on them in the future.

Angus MacDonald

That is fine, thank you.

Peter Chapman

Good morning, Emma. You have proposed that additional inspecting bodies might be involved in enforcing the bill. Can you outline your reasoning behind the approach to the appointment of additional inspecting bodies? In what scenarios do you foresee that being of assistance? Who do you have in mind for that role? Given that local authorities and the Scottish SPCA have both said that they are not keen to get involved in that way, what would happen if a suitable or willing body could not be found?

Emma Harper

When we started the process of looking at how we could support the police in the investigation of livestock worrying incidents, we knew that dog control wardens, community safety teams and the Scottish SPCA already support the police in such investigations.

One issue that came up was that the police do not have to hand wands for microchip detection. My local police headquarters has a microchip wand, but all dog control wardens and community safety teams should have the ability to identify a dog that has a microchip. That could assist the police in tracking a dog that is running free without an owner nearby.

In evidence, we heard that 50 per cent of incidents involve latchkey dogs or dogs running free. Once a dog is apprehended, inspecting bodies, or people who have experience of dog behaviour, would be able to support the police and detain the dog. They have the equipment: the cages in the back of the car, the wands for microchip detection and all the kit that is needed to seize or apprehend a dog. That is where the thought of having additional support to help the police in their investigation came from.

Peter Chapman

I appreciate that and I understand the thinking behind it, but the problem is that both the local authorities and the SSPCA have said to the committee that they do not particularly want that role. How do you square that circle?

Emma Harper

Well, the bill does not say that we are going to create inspecting bodies, but it would allow ministers to consider whether that would be necessary. When we engage in the process, further conversation with ministers would need to take place to see whether there was any inclination to do that.

My understanding is that the SSPCA already helps the police if it is invited to do so, and one of the dog wardens in Argyll is already well embedded, with the support of the police, to assist with incidents. Therefore, such measures are currently undertaken. The provision in the bill would enable ministers to appoint inspecting bodies if that were determined to be needed in the future.

Peter Chapman

You have made that quite clear, but I would like to explore the relationship between Police Scotland and any potential inspecting body. Would the police lead the investigation, with the inspecting body assisting? If so—that is what you just outlined—does that need to be clarified in the bill, along with the development of specific guidance on the subject?

Emma Harper

My goal would be that that would not be in the bill because we do not even know whether ministers would want to create inspecting bodies. My intention is that the police would always be the lead in any investigation of livestock worrying or livestock attacks because the police are the experts in the process and protocols. My goal would be that guidance would be created or standard operating procedures set out so that if ministers decided to have inspecting bodies, they would be subordinate to and supportive of the police. Ultimately, the police would be in charge.

Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD)

The bill says:

“The Scottish Ministers may by regulations authorise one or more persons, organisations or bodies to appoint inspectors for the purposes of this Act.”

It goes on to say that

“An inspecting body may appoint an employee”—

or somebody else—and that

“Before appointing a person, organisation or body as an inspecting body, the Scottish Ministers must first consult”.

That is quite a departure from what the Parliament has done in relation to other legislation.

Last year, I was on the committee that considered the bill that became the UEFA European Championship (Scotland) Act 2020. We talked about enforcement officers, which is similar to the situation here. We were quite clear that, if enforcement officers had powers similar to those of police officers, they must be specified in the bill.

Section 17 of the 2020 act says:

“(1) An ‘enforcement officer’ is an individual designated as such by Glasgow City Council.”

That person must be:

“(a) ... an inspector of weights and measures (appointed under ... the Weights and Measures Act 1985),

(b) ... authorised by a local authority to enforce the provisions of ... the Trade Marks Act 1994, or

(c) ... employed by Glasgow City Council”.

In other words, we agreed that there should be enforcement officers but that those people should be specified in the legislation.

In the case of your bill, there would be inspecting officers. At the moment, the way in which the bill is written means that there is tremendous opportunity for anyone to be appointed without their having any specific qualifications. That is my concern. Can you reflect on that?

Emma Harper

I take that concern quite seriously. The purpose of the supporting inspecting bodies would be to offer assistance and guidance to the police. Inspecting bodies would not be required to have the same judicial knowledge as the police, who would investigate an incident. It would be up to the Scottish ministers to appoint inspecting bodies. After their own consultation and process, the ministers would determine that any person appointed would have to have necessary qualifications or experience. It would be up to ministers to propose that, should they decide to go in that direction.

Mike Rumbles

My point is that our job as MSPs—as I am sure that you understand—is to look at the proposed law as it is written, and what you have written gives tremendous power to Scottish ministers to appoint anybody, and those people would not have to have qualifications.

I am concerned because another provision in the bill—section 4—gives powers to authorise entry, search and seizure. I will come on to that in a moment, but I want to refer to it just now. Section 4 includes a tremendous power to enter premises—in some cases without a warrant. We have to be really careful that Parliament scrutinises that. I am fully supportive of the bill, but I want to ensure that we get it right. I am concerned that it gives too much power to an inspecting body and that we will end up with real problems.

Could you look at the UEFA European Championship (Scotland) Act 2020 to see whether the provision in your bill can be amended in similar terms?

The Convener

Before I bring you in to answer that, Emma, I know that Nick Hawthorne wanted to come in. I could bring him in now, unless you want to speak first.

Emma Harper

I was going to say that when the bill was drafted, the drafter, Charles Livingstone, looked at other legislation that was already in force. I am not a lawyer, so perhaps Nick Hawthorne or Charles Livingstone could explain from a legal perspective how we came to the position on inspecting bodies, such that they have not yet been assigned and that, if ministers chose to create them, that would be developed in a proportionate way. I would be happy for Nick or Charles to help support my ramblings.

10:00  



The Convener

Charles Livingstone has kept his head down, so we will go to Nick Hawthorne.

Nick Hawthorne

I will address some of Mike Rumbles’s comments. Obviously, it is for members to debate the policy aspects of the bill, but I thought that it would be helpful to clarify a point about the inspecting bodies. The power would be given to the Scottish ministers, and it would be up to ministers to decide whether to use the power at all. If they decided to do so, there would be a requirement for them to consult the body that they had in mind. If a body did not want to be appointed, there would be an opportunity for it to say so.

In considering the delegated powers memorandum, the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee wrote to Emma Harper to ask her to consider whether the affirmative procedure would be more appropriate. The bill currently suggests that the negative procedure be used for the regulations surrounding the appointment of inspecting bodies. As Emma Harper will be able to confirm, she replied to say that she would consider amending the bill so that the affirmative procedure would be used. That would lead to an enhanced level of parliamentary scrutiny in relation to the appointment of inspecting bodies.

The Convener

That has clarified the position quite a lot. I will bring in Stewart Stevenson before I come back to Emma Harper.

Stewart Stevenson

[Inaudible.]

The Convener

Hold on a moment, Stewart. You are muted. Could you start again?

Stewart Stevenson

[Inaudible.]

The Convener

Unfortunately, you are still muted. Do not touch anything, Stewart—let broadcasting staff see whether they can sort it out. If they cannot, we will come back to you later.

I will give you one more attempt to say something.

Stewart Stevenson

[Inaudible.]

The Convener

We will come back to you.

Does Emma Harper want to add anything? If not, I will go to John Finnie.

Emma Harper

I am happy for you to move on. I am keen to address any issues with the committee. When we consider the process for affirmative instruments, I am happy to engage and to look at whatever we need to do in order to make the best and strongest legislation.

John Finnie

I very much align myself with the comments of my colleague Mike Rumbles. I note that the bill gives the Scottish Government the opportunity to appoint, but we are talking about significant police powers. As those who are charged with scrutinising legislation, we should be very cautious about granting, in effect, police powers, which is what they would be.

I have asked these questions previously. Have you consulted the police on the powers that would be granted? Have you discussed the issue with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service? If so, were any concerns expressed?

Emma Harper

I wrote to the Crown Office following the evidence, but I am still waiting on a response. I agree that scrutiny and approval by Parliament are extremely important. I am happy to respond after I have gone back and looked at that issue. Ultimately, the goal is that we improve the bill so that a flexible approach can be taken to dealing with livestock attacks.

John Finnie

Thank you for that, Emma. I am sorry, but I need to press you on the issue, because giving people the suggested range of powers is an important aspect of the bill. Thus far, has there been anything on that from the Crown Office or the police? I also have a final question: who would do the reporting to the Crown Office on any offences that were detected?

Emma Harper

My preference is for the police to take the lead on that, because I agree that it is important that the police are in charge. Ultimately, if the ministers choose to move forward, it would be up to them to consult on having inspecting bodies and on the level of support that those inspecting bodies should offer, and then there would be scrutiny of that and agreement to it—or not—by the Parliament.

The Convener

At this stage, I will bring in Charles Livingstone, because he has something that he would like to add. I will come back to John Finnie after that.

Charles Livingstone (Brodies LLP)

Thank you, convener; I hope that I can add a bit to that. To explain to the committee, my role is as the drafter of the bill rather than as someone who had anything to do with the policy.

With regard to the drafting and how this is all intended to fit together, it is worth noting that the appointment of the inspectors and their powers broadly mirror the position of inspectors under the regime in the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006. Under that regime, the Scottish Government has a relatively unqualified power to appoint inspectors directly. The difference in the bill is that inspecting bodies would have an intermediary role, so an inspecting body would be appointed, and it could then appoint inspectors. It is a subtle distinction, but one of the reasons for it relates to the provisions in respect of who would meet the costs, and could be reimbursed for the costs, of seizing any dog. One of the reasons why the bill refers to inspecting bodies rather than inspectors is so that the body could meet any costs and the individual inspectors would not have any liability in that regard.

With regard to what inspectors can do, it has been noted that the bill would create powers for inspectors but would not impose any duties on them. Therefore—although it seems unlikely—if, for some reason, somebody was appointed against their wishes, there would be no obligation on them to do anything to use the powers.

The thinking is that somebody from the SSPCA or a dog control officer in a local authority might be the person on the scene in respect of a dog worrying offence. In particular, we might expect the SSPCA, rather than the police, to be called out for a stray dog. Therefore, to a large extent, some of the powers are about allowing them to react to a situation that they find themselves in, as opposed to the SSPCA going out to investigate a criminal offence, which I am sure that it would not want to do. It is important to give the committee that context and say how it all fits together.

We might come back to that issue with regard to warrants, but if the person on the ground is dealing with evidence—the dog—that is mobile and has a mind of its own, it is possibly appropriate for them to have the same powers as police officers, even if they would not investigate the criminal offence themselves.

John Finnie

I thank Mr Livingstone for that; it was helpful. I will leave it there at the moment.

The Convener

I think that Stewart Stevenson wants to come in; let us hope that his microphone is fixed.

Stewart Stevenson

Thank you, convener. With regard to the previous difficulty, my elbow pressed a button on the cable, which switched off the microphone.

I will address the old chestnut about secondary legislation. I ask the member to confirm that, whether it is subject to the negative or affirmative procedure, Parliament has the power to reject secondary legislation.

The Convener

Emma Harper, do you want to come back to that, or do you want to press the button? [Laughter.]

Emma Harper

I always defer to Stewart Stevenson’s knowledge, which is superior to mine. I agree that whatever scrutiny process we decide to adopt will be based on the agreement of the committee and, ultimately, the Parliament. I am happy to defer to the expertise of others.

Mike Rumbles

This is a really important point. You have maintained that the matter can be dealt with through secondary legislation, and we even had a discussion about whether the affirmative or negative procedure should be used. However, the Parliament will have to decide whether it wants to give away tremendous powers to ministers to authorise such powers and deal with the issue through secondary legislation. When considering previous legislation—I am again referring to the UEFA European Championship (Scotland) Bill that we passed last year—members were not content to do that. We made it so that enforcement officers—the equivalent in this bill is inspection officers—had to be appointed specifically and had to have qualifications.

It has been said quite rightly that inspecting bodies can appoint their own inspectors. It was also said that that is about money. I am afraid that it is about a lot more than money; it is about the fundamental principles of Scots law. All that I say to Emma Harper is that we need to revisit the issue.

Emma Harper

I am happy to take all that on board and to discuss the issue with the non-Government bills team and consider the best way to progress matters. If I need to lodge amendments, I am happy to do whatever is proportionate in order to make the bill successful. I am happy to work with Mike Rumbles to better understand what he wants me to change.

Mike Rumbles

That is great—thank you for that helpful response.

The Convener

I, too, have huge concerns about the use of investigating bodies outwith the police, and I agree with Mike Rumbles and John Finnie’s comments. As a member of the committee, I, too, would appreciate the opportunity to work with Emma Harper on the issue. However, I would also like some confirmation from you at this stage that you are listening to the concerns that have been raised by quite a few members. Given the importance of getting the bill passed, you might have to reconsider section 5 quite considerably.

Emma Harper

I am definitely happy to work with everybody, to listen and, potentially, to reword the bill, because it seems as though everybody has concerns.

The Convener

Does Mike Rumbles want to ask any questions on the use of warrants, or is he satisfied that the answers have been sufficient?

Mike Rumbles

I would like to flag up a really important issue about search warrants, which I ask that Emma Harper looks at again. The way in which the bill is framed is a departure from the established legal norm in Scots law. Normally, a person would apply for a warrant in order to search for evidence—it says that in section 4. However, the proposed new section 2A(2) to the 1953 act says:

“This subsection is complied with ... if ... either ... admission to the premises has been refused, or ... such a refusal may reasonably be expected”,

so what is the point in applying for a warrant in the first place? It worries me that that provision seems to give a power of entry to search for evidence. No other act of Parliament does that, so it is a major step away from where we are. Again, we had the same issue with the UEFA European Championship (Scotland) Bill last year. I ask Emma Harper to look at that aspect as well as the one that we have just been discussing.

10:15  



The Convener

It appears that Charles Livingstone has views on the issue of warrants, as he wants to come in on that matter.

Charles Livingstone

I am not commenting on the policy at all—that is not my role, as the drafter—but I want to flag up that the provision in question is basically lifted directly from the provision on powers that are given to inspectors and constables under paragraph 4(2) of schedule 1 to the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006. That includes the ability to enter non-domestic premises without a warrant. The 2006 act says that an inspector or constable is able to

“enter the premises, and ... search for, examine and seize any animal (including the carcase of an animal), equipment, document or other thing tending to provide evidence of the commission of, or participation in, a relevant offence.”

The provision is narrower in the bill, because a warrant can be granted in order to

“identify the dog ... ascertain ... the owner ... and examine, seize and detain the dog”,

rather than to seize documents and other things. The drafting comes from the 2006 act.

Stewart Stevenson

Is Emma Harper aware that the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 2003 provides warrantless access to water bailiffs under circumstances that are a bit wider than those that she is proposing and which are rather similar to the ones that have just been described by Charles Livingstone?

Emma Harper

Yes, I saw the earlier evidence session in which Stewart Stevenson mentioned water bailiffs. The 1953 act allows the police to obtain a warrant to enter and search promises if there are “reasonable grounds” for believing that a dog on the premises was involved in an offence. That relates to the point that 50 per cent of livestock offences are carried out by unaccompanied or latchkey dogs.

The 1953 act does not allow dogs to be seized if there is a warrant. My understanding is that it is about enabling a dog to be picked up and taken to a place of security and safety in order that evidence can be gathered. When we say “evidence”, we are talking about wool in between a dog’s teeth, or blood. We need to ensure that we secure any evidence in order to help prosecutions.

Again, I am happy to look at the language and make changes, if they are needed, in order to make the bill clearer and more appropriate.

The Convener

You have understood the concerns that have been raised by the committee on the subject. I understand that Mike Rumbles has a supplementary question.

Mike Rumbles

I want Emma Harper to appreciate that we understand that there is a difference, as Charles Livingstone said, between entering premises to seize evidence and entering premises to search for evidence. That is a fundamental difference.

The Convener

Emma Harper is nodding, so she has taken on board that point. I will stick to what I have said. Serious concerns have been raised by committee members, and Emma Harper has agreed to go back and look at those issues.

The next questions are from Christine Grahame. Do not look surprised, Christine; your time has come.

Christine Grahame

I am not surprised; this is my normal expression.

We are back to the issue of the gathering of evidence. There is a possibility of criminal prosecution, so evidence must be gathered properly to survive any prosecution. I am looking at the question of consent to examining what we might call “the offending dog”. Who is going to give consent for that dog to be examined? Is it the police? Is it the owner? The owner will probably not be there, so who will give consent? In law, a dog is property. You cannot go on a fishing expedition, which is what that would be if you had no consent to examine the dog but did so anyway. It is a serious question because it is one on which a prosecution might fail.

Emma Harper

The police would direct any examination that was carried out. I understand that current practice is for the police to take photographic evidence or witness statements. If further evidence was needed, such as wool from the dog’s teeth, or—I have heard of this happening—the dog had to be given an emetic, that would be done by the police, as it is currently. That would not be different to the current process.

Christine Grahame

I think that you have had discussions with the Crown Office, which would be carrying out the prosecutions. What is its view on the gathering of evidence and the issue of consent to the getting of evidence?

Emma Harper

I have not spoken directly to the Crown Office; it fed into the consultation. I have written to the Crown Office and am awaiting a response. I am aware that the minister has met the Crown Office and I am seeking a response on the outcome of that. I will chase up the response and feed back to the committee.

Christine Grahame

Let us say that we overcome the issue of consent, although I do not think that we have overcome it. I am presuming that a vet would have to examine the animal. Who will pay the vet to do that? I also suspect that vets would need some education or training on how to obtain forensic evidence. I think that we could overcome the question of the training, but who will pay for the vet’s time?

The Convener

Emma, Nick Hawthorne wants to come in. I am happy to let you lead off, or I can bring him in now—whichever suits you.

Emma Harper

I am happy for you to bring in Nick, and I can follow up with the notes that I have regarding vets.

Nick Hawthorne

I have a quick point in response to Christine Grahame’s questions. The bill provides the legal authority to have a dog examined. That rests with the police or with the inspector, if one has been appointed. You can find that power in section 4(2) of the bill, which inserts new section 2B into the 1953 act.

The Convener

We have found out who can instruct the examination of a dog, but who will pay for it? That is what Christine Grahame is asking.

Emma Harper

We have looked at scenarios. A dog is not usually taken to a vet, although that could, theoretically, happen. If a vet is on site, examining or looking after sheep that have been attacked, that is when the examination would take place. The costs are currently covered by an inspecting body; in future, those would be incurred by the Crown Office or, ultimately, by the Scottish Government. That is being explored in discussions with the minister, but if there is a direct payment to the vet that would initially be covered by the Government.

Christine Grahame

I know that I am getting down to little details, but they are important. Do you have in mind a fee structure so that vets know what the position is? Vets already have fees—if a person takes their cat to a vet to get something done to it, there is a fee structure for that. Alternatively, is the approach based on time?

Emma Harper

I recently spoke to a local vet, who said that, if he was taking evidence for a livestock-worrying case, what he would normally do would be similar to what he does in his usual work—for example, he would take blood, use swabs and give an emetic to the dog. He would normally have a fee structure in place for that.

I have not looked at the real detail of that, but I think that operating protocols or procedures could be established in order to make the structure fair and reasonable. Detailed forensic evidence is not normally gathered, but the bill allows for that, particularly in the case of latchkey dogs. I can look at that issue in more detail and get back to the committee on it.

Christine Grahame

I support your bill, although it does not sound as if I do by the way in which I am questioning you. However, the issue is the practical operation of the law.

Another issue crossed my mind. Vets are busy people. Imagine that you are in a rural area, that there is no vet to hand and that nobody says, “Yes, I admit it was my dog”. There must be an examination by a vet, so who would detain the dog? What would happen if a vet simply will not be around for hours or perhaps even a whole day?

Emma Harper

Local authorities have different ways of detaining unleashed or unaccompanied dogs. Some areas have local authority-run dog centres, and the Scottish SPCA has its own centres, too. An unaccompanied dog would be detained in the way that stray dogs are currently detained. If that was required, I would envisage that process being used. I think that an accompanied dog would go back to its owner’s place. However, if there was an evidentiary issue, the vet would need to gather evidence on site or the police would take photographic evidence on site. The dog could then be returned to its owner pending the investigation and its outcome.

There are various models across Scotland for where dogs can be detained. For example, the local police in Dumfries and Galloway use a privately run canine rescue centre. However, there are other places where dogs can be held pending an investigation.

Currently, the Scottish SPCA uses its own premises for the seizure of puppies that are used for illegal puppy trafficking or puppy farming. It works with the police in order to hold dogs pending investigations and their outcomes.

Christine Grahame

I have no further questions about that.

The Convener

Before we move on, perhaps Emma Harper can clarify something that slightly concerns me. If a vet inspects a dog, they may wait for months to get the money back for the costs of that inspection from the police or the courts. Is it right that vets should be asked to carry that charge when they are probably in the difficult financial situation of having to ensure that all bills are paid on time? How will it be ensured that they are paid quickly?

Emma Harper

That is a reasonable question to ask. The process of gathering forensic evidence has not been a relatively big issue up until now, but I would be concerned about courts taking excessive time to pay vets. I would be happy to look at what process could be developed so that vets would be remunerated quickly. I would support that.

10:30  



John Finnie

Legislation should be the final step in dealing with an issue after other measures have been considered. Did you consider any provisions other than higher fines and greater powers of investigation that might have a deterrent effect in preventing incidents of livestock worrying?

Emma Harper

Among the issues that have come up during the process is that of education. That is a huge issue, but we found it difficult to figure out how to legislate for it. I am aware that education is already provided. Mike Flynn said in evidence that the Scottish SPCA has been educating for 30 years, yet the number of livestock worrying incidents is still increasing.

The bill will educate by raising awareness of the offence and showing the severity of it, and NatureScot’s Scottish outdoor access code provides a number of educational modules and tools. Rather than providing for education in the bill, I am keen for the awareness raising to continue and for us to use all the tools that we have to support the updating of the 67-year-old legislation. The outdoor access code website has great videos for people on how to train their dog to come back and to listen. I support any opportunity to continue to use education as part of the process of raising awareness of the severity of the offence that should go along with the bill.

John Finnie

Notwithstanding the excellent education that is provided, the outdoor access code videos and all the rest of it, livestock worrying remains a problem. Is part of the plan to update some of the guidance to reflect the higher penalties, should the bill be successful? Would you encourage the revisiting of what is already there?

Emma Harper

Higher penalties were sought by the NFUS and the National Sheep Association Scotland because of the severity of such incidents and the extent to which they affect farmers financially and emotionally. I am keen to ensure that awareness is raised of the penalties and of the severity of the offence, as the number of incidents has increased year on year for the past 10 years. I would be happy to support any way in which we can raise awareness of the bill.

One of the challenges is that although the farming magazines and newspapers are happy to print stories about livestock worrying, the non-farming print media have not engaged with the issue at all. That would be a way to educate the general public and the folk who use the outdoors. I would support any further raising of awareness in that way.

John Finnie

I acknowledge your work in fighting illegal puppy trading. Puppies are cuddly, whereas the remains of a savaged sheep are not. However, this is fundamentally an animal welfare issue, and I want to ensure that you have fully explored options short of legislation.

Emma Harper

The 1953 act, which is predominantly the primary legislation that is used in dealing with livestock worrying offences, is 67 years old. You are right that livestock worrying is an animal welfare issue—for instance, I have heard of calves being chased until they died of exhaustion.

It is a question of education and awareness raising, in tandem with updating a law that dates from 1953. Farming practices have changed since then, and I wanted to reflect modern farming practices and to reflect the cost of sheep now, compared with what it was in 1953. We can do other things in tandem with the bill, but the legislation needs to be updated.

John Finnie

I will conclude by commenting that old legislation is not necessarily bad legislation but, of course, it must reflect current need.

The Convener

John, were you going to ask about the issue of a database for dog control notices? I am sorry—it is Oliver Mundell who wants to ask about that.

Oliver Mundell

Yes, I want to ask about that, but first I want to ask about the proposal that Scottish Land & Estates made in its submission that

“a legal obligation should be placed on any dog owner”

to report any incidents to the police and to assist with any investigations. Would it be helpful to include such a provision in the bill?

Emma Harper

We have thought about such issues. If, as a dog owner whose dog had attacked sheep, I were to report that to the police, there might be an issue of self-incrimination. How would that be followed up? A bunch of questions were raised about that. We found that it would be unworkable to put such a provision in the bill, because it would add complexity. Therefore, I did not pursue the inclusion of a provision on self-reporting in the bill.

Oliver Mundell

I will move on to my next question, but I would be grateful for any more information that you can provide on what you looked at in coming to that conclusion. I would be happy to look at that separately.

Emma Harper

I can do that.

Oliver Mundell

Would it be helpful if the proposed dog control notices database included more information on dog control? If so, would the bill be the right place to provide for such information to be collected and stored? Do we need to do more work on standardising the collection of data? We have heard from stakeholders that the collection of data on dangerous dogs is not always consistent across the country.

Emma Harper

I have looked through my notes and found the information about whether there should be a legal duty on owners to report suspected incidents, so I can send that to you, if that would be helpful.

On the database issue, we found through the consultation process that data on livestock worrying incidents—on the number of sheep that were attacked; whether a vet was involved; whether sheep had had to be euthanised; what type of dog was involved; and how many dogs there were—was not being collected in a consistent way across Scotland. There were some issues with data gathering on specific incidents.

However, during that time, the Scottish partnership against rural crime launched its awareness-raising campaign on livestock worrying and other rural crime, and I am aware that SPARC is now collecting data that is more consistent across the whole patch, which is encouraging.

There is a potential opportunity to collect further data. I know that the minister’s team is looking at that and at the gathering of information on dog control notices and other specific data as part of its wider work on dogs and animal welfare legislation. Therefore, rather than providing for that in the bill, I am keen to see what future proposals the minister has as regards data processing and management. Future Government legislation will be able to address those data management issues.

Oliver Mundell

I am happy with that for now, convener.

Christine Grahame

On that issue, unfortunately, the database for dog control notices that has been discussed is being dealt with by the Minister for Community Safety, and Emma Harper’s bill is being dealt with by the minister who is responsible for animal welfare. I ask Emma Harper to check which minister will deal with the database system and everything else, because the subject crosses two portfolios, which is causing an issue.

The Convener

The member is nodding to indicate that she has noted that. I do not think that she is indicating that she has worked out who is going to deal with the issue—or who is going to refuse to deal with it.

Emma Harper

The civil servant who accompanied the Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment when she gave evidence to the committee is also working with Ash Denham’s communities team. It is true that there are cross-portfolio issues, but I understand that the civil servant who is looking at data and additional data management is part of the justice portfolio team.

Christine Grahame

That is the problem—there are two portfolios involved.

Richard Lyle

Emma, what conversations have you had with the Scottish Government regarding resourcing for additional investigation, including for the inspecting body that you were asked about earlier, as well as enforcement and prosecution that might come as a result of the bill? How would the inspecting body be resourced? Can you give us any information on that?

Emma Harper

Yes. From my engagement with the ministers, my understanding is that, initially, the resourcing for what is required in the bill would be covered by the Scottish Government; in the financial memorandum, the Scottish Government expresses support for the bill and agrees to future processes. If the ministers decided that they wanted an inspecting body, as things stand, that would also be financed through the Scottish Government. Therefore, from my conversations with the minister, my understanding is that the Scottish Government would meet any requirements to finance aspects of the bill.

Richard Lyle

That is fine; thank you.

Peter Chapman

Christine Grahame kindly explored the issue of the costs for the vets and who will pay the vets. The vets have said that they might need additional resources for training in forensic procedures and evidence handling. Who will pay for that?

Emma Harper

Again, the Scottish Government would support any necessary education for vets. The vet I spoke to said that taking blood or swabs is normal procedure that qualified vets are already competent to do. There might be additional issues around labelling samples, the chain of custody and securing evidence. That work would be developed through processes and procedures that could be delivered digitally via education modules. If much further education was required, the Scottish Government would work with stakeholders, such as the British Veterinary Association, to deliver it.

Peter Chapman

We have also heard from the vets that there is a potential serious conflict of interests. If a vet is on site because he is there to treat the livestock—the sheep—that have been injured, and, at the same time, the dog is presented to the vet, who is asked to investigate whether it did the worrying, there is a serious chance of a conflict of interests. The dog owner might say that the vet was influenced, because the farmer asked—and paid for—him to be there, so they might not accept that the vet’s evidence is clear, concise and fair. How can we address that? The likelihood is that, if there is a vet on site, he will examine the dog as well as treating the animals.

10:45  



Emma Harper

Peter Chapman is absolutely right. The vet who dealt with the sheep on site would deal with the dog. In the conversation that I had with my vet last week, I was told that vets are professionals, in the same way that doctors and healthcare staff are, and they treat everything impartially. I was assured that, like doctors, vets carry out all their work impartially. They would treat a dog that might have been involved in livestock worrying in the same way that they would treat a dog that had fought another dog. I do not believe that the professionals would see that as a conflict of interests.

Angus MacDonald

I will stick with the issue of resources. You have touched on the fact that public awareness is desirable. What conversations have you had with the Scottish Government about resourcing for the prevention of livestock worrying?

Emma Harper

Discussions are on-going. I am keen to analyse the financial implications of the bill. The financial memorandum reported that we might see an increase in the reporting of incidents, which would lead to an initial increase in costs, but that ultimately, as the bill is used and as people become more aware of it, there would be a reduction in the costs to deliver the outcomes that the bill seeks. In my work with the minister, I am looking at the financial aspects of the bill and at what the ultimate costs would be and who would bear the brunt of those.

If the bill is successful, we should see the cost to farmers and to everybody reduce as the incidence of livestock worrying reduces.

Angus MacDonald

Have you had specific discussions about prevention?

Emma Harper

The prevention aspect is important: I would prefer to prevent offences. In my conversations with the Scottish Government, we are looking at the Scottish outdoor access code and working with the national access forum to look at how we can continue to raise awareness through education. The SSPCA already goes into schools to educate kids about responsible ownership. Part of that is to make sure that, if people have a dog and are around livestock, they do not go into a field in the first place.

My conversations with the Government will focus on additional preventative measures. I would like to see an awareness-raising campaign to give everybody more information. We know that the NFUS and the National Sheep Association Scotland already do education ahead of the lambing season. The Government might have to support a more joined-up stakeholder approach with a national public messaging campaign. I will have conversations with the minister to see whether that is possible.

Angus MacDonald

That is good to hear.

What conversations have you had with the Scottish Government about the timeframe for implementing the bill? Does six months after royal assent give sufficient time to appoint inspectors?

Emma Harper

Six months is the normal timeframe for enacting a bill after royal assent. At that point, the Government might not even have decided whether to have inspectors. The act’s implementation should not be impeded by processes that the Government might not choose to enact now. The six-month period is normal for an act to take effect. If delays were deemed necessary by the Government, we might need to consider delaying the implementation for a further period. I would seek further confirmation from the ministers if they thought that the six-month period should be extended.

Angus MacDonald

That is good—thank you.

Oliver Mundell

I want to go back to Richard Lyle’s question. In some of the evidence sessions—I have also picked up on this in my constituency work, although my question is not a constituency one, convener—we heard that the police are sometimes seen to put a lot of resource into policing wildlife crime but are not seen to be as quick to act on livestock worrying. This is not about new resources for the bill. Rather, are you hopeful that there might be a reprioritisation of resource in Police Scotland to ensure that, through the bill, livestock worrying is taken more seriously and that the police resource in rural communities is used to tackle the issues that are of most importance to those communities?

Emma Harper

The initial feedback from farmers was that there is no point in reporting an incident because the police do not care. However, in my work with Alan Dron—the chief inspector for the Scottish partnership against rural crime—John McKenzie and our local police officers, I have found that they are absolutely committed to the issue and take it seriously. The work of SPARC has been phenomenal. Before Covid, I saw SPARC representatives at a lot of cattle and agricultural shows, including the Royal Highland Show and the Turriff Show. My understanding is that the police take livestock worrying seriously as part of their rural crime work. As we move forward and people become aware that the law is being updated, I believe that farmers will gain confidence that the police take the issue seriously.

John Finnie

I have previously declared my support for Emma Harper’s proposal in broad terms, so I am somewhat dismayed to see the number of exemptions that exist. Why should there be exemptions for working dogs, which we could argue are trained to a higher level than other dogs?

Emma Harper

The exemptions are for working dogs, such as an assistance dog for somebody with mental health issues. If such a dog worried livestock in the course of its work, there would need to be an exemption in order to support equalities issues. We considered other ideas, such as possibly widening the exemption to support dogs. In the original 1953 legislation, the exemption covered dogs that assisted people who were visually impaired, but now we have dogs that provide support in many other ways. The exemption is—

John Finnie

Could I perhaps interrupt you there? I should have made it clear that I have no issue with assistance dogs, hearing dogs or dogs for people with visual impairments. I am thinking about gun dogs and fox hounds, which presumably are trained to a higher standard than other dogs. Why should there be exemptions for those dogs? What happens if a farmer has his livestock worried by such dogs? Who determines that they are performing a role? Is there a definition of that? Is that matter not best left to mitigation in a court? To me, the exemptions that are outlined send a very weak message about the overall direction of the proposal.

The Convener

Nick Hawthorne would like to come in, so I will give Emma Harper the option of letting him come in now or answering those questions first.

Emma Harper

I will answer quickly before Nick Hawthorne comes in. Hunting dogs are supposed to be used for flushing. If a dog is not acting with an intended purpose—flushing out a fox, for example—it is not in control any more. Ultimately, the Crown Office or prosecutors would be able to make determinations on a case by case basis. I am not suggesting that we exempt hunting dogs completely. What happened in a particular incident would be taken on board.

I am happy for Nick Hawthorne to expand on that.

Nick Hawthorne

I will be very brief, because Emma Harper has covered some of what I was going to say. My general point is that the exemptions are not new, in a basic sense; they are included in the 1953 act. However, the bill makes changes in relation to assistance dogs and

“the extent that the dog is performing the role in question”.

That relates to gun dogs and the other things that John Finnie mentioned. The broad policy in the bill is untouched from the 1953 act.

John Finnie

There have been representations from the UK Centre for Animal Law, which I would have thought Emma Harper would have been keen to refer to on such matters. Is her view that the matter would be reported and that, in the first instance, the COPFS should determine whether there should be a prosecution? Would the mitigation be presented to a sheriff? I am unclear about the position, because the bill seems to create an extremely unfortunate precedent. I appreciate that the provisions might well have been in the 1953 act, but the legislation is being updated, so there is the opportunity to right an inconsistency.

The Convener

Charles Livingstone wants to come in. In order to help Emma Harper, I will bring him in first, because he might be able to shed some light on the issue.

Charles Livingstone

I have one technical point. The exemption is only to section 1(2)(c) of the 1953 act, which is the offence of

“being at large ... in a field or enclosure in which there are sheep”.

If a police dog, a guide dog or a pack of hounds were to attack or chase livestock, an offence would still be committed. The exemption is only to the offence of “being at large”.

As Nick Hawthorne said, the provisions are in the 1953 act. The intention is that if, in the course of a hunt, a pack of hounds were to cross a field in which there were sheep, because that was where the hunt took them, that would not be an offence because, by definition, a pack of hounds would not be on a lead or under close control. The exemption is only to the “being at large” offence. That is what informed the original parliamentary intention.

The Convener

John, are you happy with that answer?

John Finnie

I am grateful for Mr Livingstone’s clarification. It is important that there is absolute clarity about the range and scope of the bill.

Emma Harper

We will ensure that the explanatory notes and the guidance that supports the bill have very clear and defined information about the subsections that Charles Livingstone has described perfectly. I will take that on board and go back and look at additional supporting documents.

The Convener

In relation to exemptions for assistance dogs, are you happy that the equalities groups feel that their concerns have been answered?

Emma Harper

In my engagement with the national access forum, I received words of support indicating that, according to the forum’s engagement with equalities groups, my proposals were proportionate and appropriate and they were satisfied with how I was taking the bill forward.

11:00  



The Convener

We move to a question from our deputy convener, Maureen Watt.

Maureen Watt

When we heard the minister’s evidence, we all got the impression that there were still a lot of areas of the bill in which further discussions between Emma Harper and the minister were required. Since we took that evidence, has she had any meetings with the minister or her officials to tidy up those areas? I can see already that a lot of amendments might come from her, and possibly from the minister.

We have talked about issues such as the lack of police wands for reading microchips. This might be my mistake, but I do not think that I have seen a financial resolution for the bill. Would there be a cost to it? If so, what would that be?

Emma Harper

I continue to have conversations with the minister. I had a brief catch-up discussion with her before this evidence session. Because the Government’s research happened while my bill was being drafted, and because that work overlaps with the minister’s work on other legislation, issues have now been raised that I must address. I am happy to consider those and then respond.

The issue about police wands was interesting to me, because I assumed that the police would already have microchip detection devices. Depending on the type, some wands cost less than £50, but others cost about £190. That needs to be considered. We might, for instance, be able to support identification of latchkey dogs very easily if the police were enabled to have wands in their vehicles.

I would have to dig out my papers on the question of a financial resolution, but my proposal was such that the cost would not exceed the level at which a member’s bill would require its funding to be approved by the Parliament through a resolution. The information was looked at and it was considered that the bill would not require an extortionate level of funding. If necessary, I can find the specific information and send it to the committee.

The Convener

That brings us almost to the end of our meeting.

My final question is about making people aware of the legislation should it come into force, which will be important. What discussions have you had with the minister about having a publicity campaign, should your bill get through all the required processes, so that no one is caught by surprise by its requirements?

Emma Harper

As I said earlier, last year, the Scottish partnership against rural crime carried out an extended campaign, from which we can see that loads of stakeholders are really interested in taking forward my proposals. My goal is to engage with the minister to see whether Government support can be provided to engage all the stakeholders under one message, so that we could have a national campaign along the lines of the take the lead campaign. I am happy to ask the minister whether the Government would support a public awareness campaign ahead of the date for the bill to go live.

The Convener

That brings us to the end of our questions.

I thank Nick Hawthorne, Kenny Htet-Khin and Charles Livingstone for giving evidence. I also thank you, Emma. It must be odd for you to sit on the other side of the committee table, being grilled rather than doing the grilling. Thank you very much for the answers that you have given.

We now move into private session.

11:04 Meeting continued in private until 11:34.  



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16 September 2020

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23 September 2020

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28 October 2020

Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee Stage 1 report 

What is secondary legislation?

Secondary legislation is sometimes called 'subordinate' or 'delegated' legislation. It can be used to:



  • bring a section or sections of a law that’s already been passed, into force

  • give details of how a law will be applied

  • make changes to the law without a new Act having to be passed


An Act is a Bill that’s been approved by Parliament and given Royal Assent (formally approved).

Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee's Stage 1 report

Debate on the Bill

A debate for MSPs to discuss what the Bill aims to do and how it'll do it.

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Stage 1 debate on the Bill transcript

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani)

The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-23916, in the name of Emma Harper, on the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill at stage 1.

I advise members that we have no spare time at all in the debate.

16:16  



Emma Harper (South Scotland) (SNP)

I am pleased to open today’s debate on the general principles of the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill. The bill will update and strengthen the law around livestock worrying, which is a horrendous event in which sheep and other farm animals are chased, attacked or killed by out-of-control dogs.

In many cases, sheep and other livestock are mauled to death or left with horrendous injuries and in extreme distress, often meaning that they must be euthanised. Being chased can also traumatise animals, leading pregnant ewes to abort. In addition to the emotional impact that the attacks have on the farmers and their families, there are often substantial financial losses. In some cases, pedigree sheep worth many thousands of guineas can be killed.

In evidence to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, the Scottish partnership against rural crime reported that between April 2018 and March 2019,

“321 attacks on livestock were reported to Police Scotland”—[Official Report, Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, 16 September 2020; c 2.]

and we know that attacks on livestock are underreported. The welfare of all animals is important and the evidence suggests that livestock attacks are a growing problem, which warrants legislative change.

The current livestock worrying legislation, which dates back to 1953, is outdated and no longer fit for purpose. Witnesses at the REC Committee agreed that current deterrents, as set out in the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, are insufficient and need to be updated. The bill provides additional powers for the investigation and enforcement of the offence of livestock worrying, and will increase the maximum penalties that are available to the courts.

The bill also extends the definition of “livestock” to include additional types of farmed animals, such as alpacas, llamas, deer and buffalo, which are not afforded legal protection under the 1953 act.

It is clear from my consultation, which received more than 600 full responses, that the term “livestock worrying” does not adequately reflect the seriousness of the offence. The bill renames the offence from “worrying” livestock to “attacking or worrying” livestock. The word “worrying” has a different meaning today from its meaning in 1953; the word “attacking” is much more definitive and clearer.

I would like to thank everyone who has helped me get to this stage—the Scottish partnership against rural crime; NFU Scotland; the National Sheep Association; the Scottish SPCA; the British Veterinary Association; the British Horse Society Scotland; NatureScot; Scottish Land & Estates; the Dogs Trust; the farmers I met face to face; my vet, Alan Marshall; and the non-Government bills unit. Huge thanks go to my office manager, Scott McElvanney.

I also thank the REC Committee for its consideration of my bill at stage 1 and for supporting the general principles of the bill. I have written formally to the committee in response to its report and recommendations and, as the committee suggested, last week I met the minister to discuss the bill.

Following the positive meeting with the minister and the publication of the committee’s report, I have committed to propose amendments to the bill at stage 2. The committee suggested that penalties could be increased to match recent changes to animal welfare offences. Having discussed that with the minister, I have agreed to the Government lodging a stage 2 amendment to increase the maximum penalty to 12 months’ imprisonment or a fine of £40,000, or both.

The committee called for the powers in relation to the appointment of inspectors by inspecting bodies to be removed from the bill, due to concerns about the range of powers that would be available to those inspectors. I confirm that I will lodge stage 2 amendments to omit the relevant section from the bill to ensure that only the police can carry out any livestock attack investigations.

Additionally, the committee raised concerns about the power that would allow the police to enter non-domestic premises without a warrant in order to seize a dog. I will lodge an amendment at stage 2 to ensure that a warrant is required in all cases.

Finally, on a technical legislative point, the committee recommended that the procedure in relation to regulations regarding the definition of the term “livestock” should be affirmative and not negative. I will lodge a stage 2 amendment to that effect.

One point that I would like to clarify relates to compensation. The committee’s report suggests that the bill contains compensation measures. That is not the case—there are no compensation orders in the bill. Compensation is already available as an option to the courts and, as the committee heard, compensation has been awarded in some cases.

I am hopeful that, with my commitment to lodge amendments at stage 2, the Parliament will support the general principles of the bill today at stage 1. That is the right thing to do to ensure that Scotland’s hard-working farmers and crofters and those involved in agriculture have greater legal protection from attacks on their livestock by out-of-control dogs, which can be financially and emotionally devastating. I am committed to working with any member who has concerns or suggestions on how to improve the bill as we approach stage 2. I urge members to support the bill at decision time this evening.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees to the general principles of the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I call Edward Mountain to speak on behalf of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.

16:22  



Edward Mountain (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

Before I begin, I would like to make a declaration of interests, in that I am a member of a family farming partnership.

As convener of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, I am pleased to speak in this stage 1 debate. I thank all those who submitted their views, which informed our stage 1 report. It was those views that led us to support the bill’s key aims. However, it was clear to us that considerably more clarity and amendment would be needed to make the bill effective.

Due to time constraints, I can touch on only a few of the issues. Considerable work has been put into the bill not only by the member in charge but by the committee. I therefore have to say that I find it totally unacceptable that such a short amount of time has been allocated for the debate. If the Parliament and its committees are to provide effective scrutiny of proposed legislation, sufficient time to do so must be found, and it is clear to me that an hour is insufficient.

I thank the member in charge and the Scottish Government for their responses to our report. Certain elements of the response from the member in charge did not appear to fully grasp the reasoning behind some of the committee’s decisions. However, I welcome the clarity that the Scottish Government’s more detailed response brought.

We consider the increased penalties for the offence of livestock worrying to be justified, but we raised a question about whether they should be higher or in line with penalties in other legislation. I am pleased to note that the Scottish Government will resolve that by lodging an amendment to increase the maximum penalty available so that it is consistent with other legislation.

The committee found that certain elements of disqualification orders in the bill were unclear. To give one example, witnesses questioned how an order disqualifying a person from bringing a dog on to agricultural land would be enforced or monitored. The Scottish Government response agrees that the issue presents a challenge and accepts that further discussion is required.

The committee voiced deep concerns about the appropriateness of involving inspecting bodies in cases of livestock worrying. We therefore recommended that the provisions on that be removed. Again, I am pleased that the Scottish Government and the member in charge—today—have confirmed that they will make the required amendment.

Questions were also raised on practicalities to do with the role of vets in examining dogs, including how the integrity and continuity of evidence will be managed and the costs that will be involved. We asked for information and guidance to be provided, and the Scottish Government has indicated that that will be forthcoming, and that the police are expected to bear the costs.

I turn to the power of entry, search and seizure without a warrant, on which the committee had serious concerns, to the extent that we questioned whether the provisions were legally competent. We were not persuaded that the power was required or appropriate. Therefore, I welcome the fact that the Scottish Government agrees that the provisions should be removed from the bill, and I note that the member in charge has undertaken to do that.

Although the committee supported the general principles of the bill in our report, we did so only in very broad terms, and we provided some strongly worded caveats on the detail of its provisions. If the bill is to deliver Emma Harper’s objectives and to be effective legislation, the important issues that the committee highlighted in its stage 1 report must be resolved in later amending stages.

I look forward to hearing other members’ views on the bill and—if the Parliament agrees that it should progress to stage 2—to the issues that have been identified in the committee’s report being the subject of the considerable amendments that have been discussed.

16:26  



The Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment (Ben Macpherson)

I am pleased to have an opportunity to contribute to the debate, and I commend Emma Harper for her commitment and excellent work in bringing the bill to Parliament. I express my thanks, and those of my predecessor, to her for her constructive and collaborative attitude in working to deliver something simple and effective to modernise and improve the legislation on livestock worrying. I also thank the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee for its detailed scrutiny of the bill proposals and its stage 1 report on the bill. As has been mentioned, I have already written to the committee to set out the Scottish Government’s response to that report. I want to highlight key aspects of our position.

As has been said, the bill, as introduced, increases the maximum penalties for, and provides additional powers to investigate and enforce, the offence of attacking and worrying livestock. It proposes a minor but important change to the definition of “worrying livestock” and gives the attack element more prominence, although the scope of the offence remains the same. It also amends the list of animal species to which the offence relates to take account of the species that are commonly farmed in 2021.

I think that those changes are a useful modernisation of the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 and, in support of those principles, I agree with the intention to allow for future amendments to the definition of livestock as farming practices evolve.

The main focus of the bill is to increase the maximum penalties that are available for the offence of livestock worrying, which is a worthwhile aim. However, as Emma Harper indicated, to ensure consistency with the new penalties that are now available for many animal welfare and wildlife crime offences, which the convener of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee mentioned, and to allow the courts to impose appropriate penalties, depending on the particular facts and circumstances of the case, it is my intention to lodge an amendment at stage 2 that will increase the maximum available penalties on imprisonment from six months to 12 months and/or a £40,000 fine.

The vast majority of people in Scotland treat livestock with respect and care, but the small minority who do not must be held accountable through consequences that appropriately reflect the severity of their crime. Increasing the maximum penalties that are available will allow the courts to impose appropriate sentences, once they have considered the facts and circumstances of each case.

Furthermore, I agree that there is merit in the bill’s proposal on disqualification orders, which seeks to give the convicting court the power to prevent people who are convicted of the offence to be disqualified from owning or keeping a dog for such a period as the court thinks fit.

Such orders may be an effective way of dealing with certain offenders, particularly in cases where there appears to be a high probability of reoffending. However, it should be acknowledged that the enforcement and monitoring of such orders might be challenging, and we would not expect them to be appropriate in every case.

Overall, the bill is largely sound across its measures. However, there is scope potentially to simplify and improve some key aspects, which have already been mentioned. The Scottish Government would recommend that elements of the bill regarding inspection bodies and powers of entry be removed, as they are not considered to be necessary or appropriate, given that the relevant authorities already have powers in that regard. I have relayed that to Emma Harper, who is the bill’s sponsor, and I understand from our conversations and the remarks that she made earlier that she has consulted and engaged with the authorities and those with practical experience, who share that view.

The bill includes a power to appoint inspecting bodies other than Police Scotland, but the evidence that was presented to the committee raised many questions about the role of the proposed inspectors and their working relationship with the police. The committee had fundamental concerns about the principle of inspection bodies taking the lead in circumstances in which a criminal offence has taken place.

Scottish ministers agree that responsibility for investigating the criminal offence of livestock worrying should remain with the police, with assistance from local authorities or the Scottish SPCA, as appropriate in the circumstances. The committee, Emma Harper and I, on behalf of the Scottish Government, agree that, should the Parliament agree to the general principles of the bill at stage 1, amendments will need to be lodged at stage 2 to remove the sections that relate to inspecting bodies.

Scottish ministers, in consultation with enforcement organisations including Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, have concluded that the proposed power of entry, search and seizure without a warrant relating to non-domestic premises seems unlikely to be required or used in practice if the police remain the investigating authority. Other speakers have mentioned that. I therefore propose that that power, too, be removed by a stage 2 amendment.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Will you come to a close, please?

Ben Macpherson

Of course, Presiding Officer.

I hope that the Parliament will welcome those changes as I believe that they will strengthen and improve the bill and they have been agreed in principle with Emma Harper.

The Scottish Government supports the general principles of the bill, and I look forward to the remainder of today’s debate.

16:32  



Jamie Halcro Johnston (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

I remind members about my entry in the register of members’ interests as a partner in a farming business. I am also a member of NFU Scotland.

I congratulate Emma Harper on bringing the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill to the chamber. I share her interest in the subject. We both represent predominantly rural regions and we know all too well that livestock worrying remains a constant problem that is faced by farmers and the wider agriculture sector.

Dogs are mentioned in the title of the bill, but the real problem is inadequate and often reckless supervision by owners who allow such situations to occur. For far too long, there has been a strong belief among the rural sector that little has been done to safeguard its livestock. The member’s bill consultation identified not only the scale of the problem, with dozens of offences being reported each year, but its increasing prevalence. We also know from NFU surveys that a great many offences go unreported.

When attacks occur, the financial costs can be considerable, but it is just as important that we reflect on the serious detrimental impact on the welfare of the animals that are involved. I suspect that many people do not realise just how easy it is for dog worrying incidents to result in harm to sheep and other animals, or how much damage an uncontrolled dog can cause.

The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee’s stage 1 report, which was developed before I became a member of the committee, is a detailed piece of work that makes a measured and reasoned case for the bill’s future. I share the concerns that it expresses about some of the proposals in the bill and agree with the questions that it raises about a range of the bill’s provisions. Much of the evidence that the committee took pointed to changes that might be positive. There are a number of those, but I do not believe that that needs to be fatal for the bill.

Perhaps the most pressing issue is the proposed powers of entry, search and seizure. The committee has chosen not to support those, and there appear to be some deep-seated problems with them, which have been highlighted by the COPFS and the police. I am not sure that the proposed powers are really needed by those who enforce the law on the ground.

The report also addresses some thorny issues on which balance is essential and proper interaction with existing law would be beneficial. Making higher penalties available for livestock worrying offences is an overdue step that has broad support, but I hope that Emma Harper will take note of the committee’s recommendations and look to find consensus with the Scottish Government to ensure that the bill is consistent with existing animal welfare legislation.

Compensation is another issue that has come up and was considered by the committee. There are undoubtedly barriers to seeking compensation through the courts, but we should keep in mind that the courts are there to make decisions on what is appropriate and to adapt to individual situations. If alternative compensation approaches are to be proposed, they must deliver real and tangible benefits to the injured party. Clarity is required on disqualification orders, and I hope that that can be provided as the bill progresses.

Of course, there are areas beyond the scope of the legislation that will impact on its effectiveness in achieving the positive aims that Emma Harper sets out. The discussion around inspecting bodies and the police highlights an obvious point: rural crime cannot be combated effectively if the required resources are not there. Public awareness will be key. I commend Police Scotland for its approach and work with the rural community, and its campaigns on livestock worrying that it has run at important points in the farming calendar, most notably lambing season. More will be necessary if the legislation is to be successful.

Members’ bills are useful tools to correct particular wrongs, and this one focuses on what has been a long-standing problem for rural communities across Scotland. It is for the Parliament to take up the challenge and create a bill that will work effectively. I appreciate that time will be limited as we come to the end of this session, but the bill’s progress will be closely watched by many in Scotland’s countryside. As others have highlighted, there are undoubtedly areas on which we should all reflect and offer suggestions and proposals.

The bill will have our support today.

16:37  



Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

Labour will support the general principles of the bill. I thank Emma Harper for introducing it.

Livestock worrying is a problem that should concern not only farmers and crofters, but anyone who has an interest in animal welfare. When collecting evidence on the bill, the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee heard from Fiona Lovatt from Flock Health Ltd, who said that its research has estimated that the number of livestock attacks might be as high as 10,000 per year. Charlie Adam of the NFUS noted a recent members survey that showed that 72 per cent of its members had been affected by attacks on their livestock.

Although the precise costs that are associated with livestock worrying incidents are hard to identify due to a lack of consistent data, the Scottish Government has indicated that incidents cost an average of £700. Livestock worrying is first and foremost a threat to the welfare of farmed animals, but it is also expensive and stressful for our farmers and crofters.

What is perhaps most concerning is that many stakeholders expressed to the committee the view that livestock worrying is on the rise. It is clear that the issue needs to be addressed, which includes the need to update legislation—although that is by no means a panacea.

Although Labour will be voting to support the general principles of the bill for those reasons, the bill requires substantial changes to make it fit for purpose. My major concerns with the bill lie, as do those of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee and the minister, with the enforcement provisions—specifically, those relating to inspecting bodies and the proposed powers of entry, search and seizure without a warrant.

As it stands, the bill would give ministers the power to appoint inspecting bodies to carry out investigations. I absolutely recognise the need for more specialism when it comes to investigating animal welfare and wildlife crimes; indeed, I raised that point during the passage of the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill. However, I am not convinced that the provisions in this bill are the way to achieve that. As many stakeholders pointed out to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, there is a significant lack of clarity about what exactly is being proposed, and about how, or even whether, the powers would be used.

There is widespread agreement that Police Scotland remains the most appropriate body to lead on livestock worrying investigations. Based on that evidence, I am not convinced that the enabling powers in the bill are useful. Similarly, I have serious reservations about the need for the bill’s provisions allowing entry, search and seizure without a warrant under certain circumstances. I welcome Emma Harper’s commitment to amend those provisions.

Evidence that the committee received called into question what purpose the powers would serve in practice. I am uncomfortable about the prospect of introducing the new powers without any justification. Although similar powers exist in relation to other animal welfare offences, they are not in the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, so they have not been used before in relation to the particular crimes at issue, and I have seen no evidence that they are needed.

Finally, I want to highlight the concerns that have been raised regarding the exemption that the 1953 act provides for dogs that are participating in a hunt, which means that they are not required to be kept under control when they are in a field with sheep. I welcome the clarification that the bill proposes in limiting the application of that exemption

“if and to the extent that the dog is performing the role in question”.

However, some stakeholders have called for the bill to go further on that exemption; their points merit further consideration. The Scottish steering committee of the UK Centre for Animal Law raised that issue and pointed out that

“numerous incidents have been observed in Scotland where packs of foxhounds have been hunting in proximity to flocks of sheep”,

which has caused sheep to panic and run. OneKind called for the exemption for hunting to be revoked altogether, and rightly pointed out that

“Packs of hounds in the vicinity of sheep can cause them considerable stress”,

and, unlike the other exemptions, it is not providing an essential service.

In conclusion I say that although the bill is welcome, it requires change. Many issues were highlighted to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee in our evidence sessions. I thank all those who gave evidence, and I thank the clerks for their work on the committee’s stage 1 report, which brings the concerns together.

I look forward to working with the member in charge of the bill over the coming weeks to discuss the issues, and how to ensure that the legislation will work as effectively as possible and ultimately deliver stronger action to help to protect the livestock of Scotland’s farmers and crofters, which is what we all want.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Members should be aware that speeches are starting to run over time a wee bit. John Finnie has three minutes. [Interruption.]

Excuse me, Mr Finnie—there is a wee issue with your sound. Do not do anything other than start again.

16:41  



John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

Thank you, Presiding Officer.

I congratulate Emma Harper on getting the bill to this point. The Scottish Green Party will support the general principles of the bill at decision time, but I have grave reservations about its content, as it stands.

Notwithstanding the widespread support for the bill, if the existing legislation does not, as we have heard, enjoy much respect among crofters and farmers, what in the bill will fundamentally change that mindset? What will change the priority or otherwise that Police Scotland gives to the matter? I certainly would not want legislation that would have Police Scotland not fulfilling its obligation to investigate crime.

On the role of inspecting bodies, Parliament needs to be extremely cautious about providing policing and enforcement powers. The powers of entry and search and seizure without warrant were, and remain, unacceptable. Had the member in charge not moved towards having them removed, I and, I am sure, others would have done so.

In dealing with crime, we must have absolute clarity about roles. On the role of vets and the relationship between the vet, the owner of the injured livestock and the owner of the accused or suspected animal, I take some heart from the Scottish Government’s having encouraged Police Scotland, Scotland’s Rural College’s veterinary services and others to develop guidance and to establish contacts to provide expert advice, as appropriate, in individual cases in order to address that. Good grief! Is that not the case now? If not, why not?

I am glad that the question of costs has been clarified. The police investigate crime and meet costs, and they have a relationship with the Scottish Police Authority on forensic examinations.

I am keen that we are to have regard to evidence from the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the British Veterinary Association. Crimes require to be evidenced, and the integrity and continuity of evidence are very important. The review that the Scottish Government has talked about must address capacity issues.

On the welfare of the animal that is the subject of the accusation, I take the view of the Dogs Trust, which has suggested that, in instances of multiple livestock deaths, post mortems should be considered. That could be mitigating evidence in case of aberration in the behaviour of the dog.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has made its position very clear on the issue of search and entry. We have heard nothing to say that the existing warrant arrangements are inadequate. We must legislate only to the extent that it is needed, especially when important rights are being confronted.

There is still a way to go with the bill, but the Scottish Green Party will support it at decision time.

16:44  



Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD)

I am pleased to see that our committee’s report on the bill is a unanimous one that recommends that Parliament agree to its general principles today. I, too, commend Emma Harper for introducing the bill.

The job of the committee was to examine the bill in detail, to ensure that it was fit for purpose and to see whether and how it could be improved. In the short time that is available to me, I will highlight just two of our recommendations, which previous speeches also addressed.

First, committee members feel that the proposed statutory power for the police to enter and search non-domestic property without a warrant is neither appropriate nor practical. As the convener has said, the committee questioned whether that power would even be legally competent. Personally, I feel that the power runs completely contrary to long-held principles of Scots law. For the police to carry out searches without a warrant would be unacceptable. To use a mixed metaphor, I note that the idea of the police going on a fishing expedition is just not on.

In Emma Harper’s written response to the committee’s report, she noted that her view is that the Scottish Government, as opposed to the committee, is “best placed to decide” whether that is a necessary power, and that if it is the Government’s view that it is not necessary, she would “consider removing the provisions”.

I am glad to have heard Emma Harper confirm that she will lodge an amendment to ensure that a warrant will always be necessary. I heartily welcome that. I also thank the minister, Ben Macpherson, for clearly acknowledging the committee’s concerns—I knew that he would. I say gently to Emma Harper that saying that she would take the Scottish Government’s view as opposed to that of the committee was not particularly helpful ahead of stage 2, but there we are.

Secondly, the committee identified many unresolved issues with the proposal to appoint inspectors to aid the police in their duties. It said:

“The Committee has ... fundamental concerns about the principle of inspection bodies taking the lead in any circumstances in which a criminal offence of livestock worrying has taken place”,

and that

“responsibility for dealing with such criminal offences should lie with the police alone.”

I could not have put it better than John Finnie has just put it. The committee therefore recommended

“that the Member in charge should remove the inspecting bodies provisions from the Bill”.

I was, again, glad this afternoon to hear that Emma Harper will lodge the necessary amendments to do that.

I know that time is short, so, with those two caveats, I am very pleased to recommend to colleagues that we vote to approve the general principles of the bill at decision time. That will allow the bill to proceed to stage 2, when it can usefully be amended to everybody’s satisfaction.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

We move to the open debate. We are running a little short of time. All members who are speaking in the debate are likely to end up on gallery view shortly—please be aware that you might be getting shown to the world. Speeches should be no more than three minutes, please. I call Maureen Watt, to be followed by Finlay Carson.

16:48  



Maureen Watt (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

I, too, am pleased to be taking part in this stage 1 debate to urge parliamentary colleagues to allow further consideration of the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, as the committee recommends. I congratulate Emma Harper on pursuing this member’s bill.

I speak as someone who was raised on a farm. I know the heartbreak of losing sheep and lambs due to dog worrying. That farm was more than 2 miles from the nearest town, but dog worrying affects animal owners anywhere. It is not just sheep that are affected, as Emma Harper has said, but other animals, such as cows, mares, nanny goats and all the new species that are being raised on Scottish farmlands. They can abort due to dog worrying and some animals die or have to be put down. Anything that can be done to improve animal welfare and ensure the highest levels of protection should be done, and Emma Harper’s bill adds significantly to that aim.

I thank the many organisations that have sent us briefings prior to the debate and note NFU Scotland’s support, saying that

“there is a need for more robust legislation, stronger penalties and appropriate compensation to hammer home the responsibility and liability of dog owners who do not exercise their pets responsibly on agricultural land. This Bill would be a big step forward.”

I also note the briefing from Scottish Land & Estates, which also supports the principles of the bill but stresses the need for more awareness raising and education to increase prevention and says that that will need a long-term campaign and commitment from all stakeholders. The bill also has the support of the many animal welfare organisations in Scotland.

The bill was given due scrutiny by the committee at stage 1, undergoing detailed questioning on issues such as penalties, compensation, inspecting bodies, the role of vets, the powers of entry, search and seizure, and where the events occur and what constitutes relevant land. In its response to the bill, I note the Scottish Government’s detailed response to the report and its willingness to engage with Emma Harper on the areas in which amendments are seen to be necessary to make the intentions of the bill more fit for purpose.

I welcome the minister to his post. He has said that the vast majority of dog owners walk their pets responsibly in all environments but, sadly, some do not. As members will be aware from their parliamentary inboxes, the issue affects most members of the Scottish Parliament, so I look forward to further consideration of the bill at stage 2.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

We seem to be having a few issues with connectivity. I will try Finlay Carson on audio only.

We still seem to be having a problem with Finlay Carson, even if he is just on audio, so we will move on to Claudia Beamish.

16:52  



Claudia Beamish (South Scotland) (Lab)

I thank Emma Harper for bringing forward the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill. Scottish Labour fully supports the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee’s recommendations for the bill at stage 1. I identify myself with the remarks of my colleague and friend Colin Smyth, who is on the committee.

Although I am not on the committee, I am keenly aware of how necessary the legislation is. Much of the South Scotland region that I represent is rural, so dogs worrying livestock is an issue that is regularly raised by many of my constituents, especially those from the farming community. I regularly meet the NFUS and the issue is never far from the agenda.

Jen Craig, chair of the National Sheep Association and NFUS Clydesdale branch chair, farms in my region, quite close to where I am now, and she has expressed real concern about the increase in instances in dog worrying, which have been exacerbated by more people taking to the outdoors during the pandemic, some of whom do not take responsibility for their dogs. She said:

“Dog worrying and attacks on livestock is a problem that is becoming more frequent and in many cases more severe. Not only are the livestock suffering but so are the farmers and stocksmen and women who care for them and have to witness these incidents.

The aftermath of an incident is not only costly in terms of the financial losses but it’s also heartbreaking and leaves a lasting impact on all those involved. Many feel powerless to be able to protect their livestock, prevent it from happening again and feel that justice is rarely achieved.”

The Dogs Trust also highlights that this is an animal welfare issue for the livestock that are attacked and for the dog because of irresponsible dog owners. I am therefore pleased that, through the amendments that will be considered, disqualification orders and dog control notices will be looked at again, and consideration will be given to greater powers to investigate instances and enforce penalties. However, more needs to be done on the bill to ensure that all aspects of the legislation are effective and fit for purpose. How to use existing powers to their full force must also be considered.

Penalties are only part of the solution. It is a notoriously difficult problem for the police, especially in rural and remote areas. If we are really to get underneath the issue, more consistent data gathering on dog worrying instances has to be a priority for the police, along with Scottish Government-backed campaigns to raise awareness of how grave the consequences can be if a dog owner is neglectful or reckless on a simple walk.

I want to stress that the benefits to wellbeing that the outdoors brings should be encouraged for us all. I fully support the work of organisations such as Paths For All and Healthy Valleys, which run very successful dementia walks, for example, in my local area. Those provide wonderful opportunities for people to experience the pleasures that walking can bring.

I am also proud of Scottish Labour’s introduction of the first land reform bill in 2005, which gave the statutory right to roam. However, that comes with a public responsibility. The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill that we are discussing today will be a tangible reminder of that responsibility and Scottish Labour supports the principles of the bill.

16:56  



Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

I declare that I am the joint owner of a very small registered agricultural holding that our neighbour Gordon, who is a farmer, puts sheep on from time to time during the year.

I start by congratulating Emma Harper on all the work that she has undertaken in preparing the bill and taking it through Parliament. I know how extensive that has been because, although she is a South Scotland MSP, I met her at the Turriff show a few years ago—she had come right to the north of Scotland to proselytise about improved protection for animals on farms.

If, like me, members have seen photographs of sheep that have been attacked by dogs that are not under proper control, which I would not wish to show widely to people, they will know why the principle that is at the heart of our consideration today—that we should better protect sheep and other animals that are being cared for in farming settings—is a good one. What I hear from the debate so far is that we all support it.

Creating a legal framework that improves the environment of protection is a substantial and difficult issue, as is demonstrated by the committee’s investigation of the bill and other speeches. I welcome the fact that there appears to be a clear way forward to bring the bill to the statute book after the subsequent phases of consideration.

In some of the speeches, we were in slight danger of forgetting where evidence comes from because it is not simply a matter for the police. It is the police, broadly, who will communicate with the procurator fiscal to initiate prosecutions, but the evidence that will be relied on in those prosecutions will very largely come from people who happen to be in the vicinity, be they vets, farmers or laypersons like me. It is important to remember that that evidence will be tested in a court setting, as is proper to the person who might be accused of an offence.

It is worth saying that, many years ago, when I was a water bailiff under now-obsolete legislation, I could enter premises with the warrant card that I held, so those provisions on entry, which will not be there at the end, are not unique in the history of Scots law.

I congratulate Emma Harper and encourage Parliament to vote unanimously to approve the principles at decision time. I am happy to be here to support the bill.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

For the last of the open speeches we will try Mr Carson again. I know that you will all be disappointed if it is audio only, but we are trying that. Can we hear Finlay Carson this time?

16:59  



Finlay Carson (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)

Good afternoon, Presiding Officer.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Hello, Mr Carson. We can hear you fine.

Finlay Carson

As a former farmer, member of the NFUS and dog owner, I welcome the opportunity to speak in this stage 1 debate. I support in principle the aims of the bill, which rightly seeks to strengthen and update the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 with reference to “livestock worrying”. There is still, without question, a need to review how the 1953 act is working—or, indeed, not working.

However, from the outset, my position and that of other stakeholders is that the best approach to addressing livestock worrying and other dog behaviour would have been for the aims of the bill to form part of a wider consolidation of dog control law. That said, I recognise the hard work of Emma Harper and her staff in the consultation work that was carried out in preparing the bill.

It is unfortunate that it was left to a back bencher to introduce the bill as a result of the Scottish Government’s failure to act in a timely matter. As the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee said in its stage 1 report,

“more immediate action to amend legislation on livestock worrying is merited.”

The Scottish Conservatives welcomed the passing of the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act 2020, which resulted in an increase in the maximum penalties to five-year sentences and unlimited fines. The Law Society of Scotland highlights that tougher sentencing should reduce crime, reform and rehabilitate offenders, protect the public and make the offender give something back. However, we need to ensure that offenders and potential offenders are aware of the nature of the offence and the likely sentences. Prevention is better than cure, but that can come about only following significantly improved efforts to educate the public through a fit-for-purpose publicity campaign.

Christine Grahame’s Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010 was brought in to ensure that

“dogs which are out of control are brought and kept under control”.

However, despite being a substantial piece of legislation, it has been generally ineffective because of the lack of awareness of the law among the public, police and local authorities. Indeed, that issue was raised at the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee. At that time, the Minister for Community Safety said:

“Responsible dog ownership is at the heart of Scottish Government policy in this area, with effective enforcement of existing legislation critical in improving public safety.?”

That makes it even more disappointing that the Scottish Government has not introduced proposals such as those favoured by the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, which considered that the best approach to addressing the issue of livestock worrying would be for it to form part of a wider consolidation of dog control law. That position was supported by the NFUS and others, including Blue Cross, who submit that the bill will help to tackle the problem in a more cohesive manner but should not be seen as a panacea.

Dog control problems are complex and require imagination and innovation to be tackled fully. Great improvements could have been achieved if the Government had introduced a consolidation bill covering not only livestock worrying but dog control, dog breeding, puppy trafficking and responsible dog ownership.

Time is limited today, but I welcome the bill as a short-term plaster to fix an urgent and growing issue that is of great concern to livestock owners in Scotland. It has a great financial and emotional impact on the owner, brings distress to witnesses and veterinary responders and, of course, great pain, distress and, frequently, death to the attacked animal.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

We move to closing speeches. We are a wee bit behind time, so it would be useful if members were to apply brevity.

17:03  



Colin Smyth

This afternoon’s debate has set out clearly why the bill is needed, and I welcome the consensus that we have heard in support of the principles of the bill. However, the debate has also highlighted the many problems with the bill as it stands and the changes that we will need to make to ensure that it is as robust as possible. I set out my views on that during my opening speech, and many of the concerns were echoed by other members in the debate, so I will not repeat them. Instead, I will make some final observations.

As we heard in the debate, the changes that the bill proposes would ideally have been introduced as part of a more comprehensive review of dog control laws. It is disappointing that delays to the Scottish Government’s work in this area have made it necessary to introduce stand-alone legislation on one aspect of the many changes in law that we need. It is therefore important that we try to ensure that the bill is ultimately consistent with its wider legislative context, in order to avoid unnecessary fragmentation and possible conflicts in related laws.

For example, it has been suggested that the penalties in the bill should be brought into line with those that were introduced in the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act 2020 for other animal welfare-related offences. I support that, particularly if it is the Scottish Government’s intention to set fines at that level in the future for other crimes related to dog control. That increase would also allow greater flexibility for the courts to respond to individual cases as they see fit and send a clear message on the seriousness of the crime. However, it is equally important to emphasise that penalties must be applied appropriately, particularly if the maximum penalty is to be increased so drastically.

Crucially, although the bill will make welcome changes to how such crimes are dealt with once they have occurred, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the first priority must always be prevention. In her response to the committee, Emma Harper rightly noted that

“in most cases incidents of livestock worrying and attack are likely not premeditated and often lack ... intent to cause harm.”

That point was made by a number of stakeholders in their evidence to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. For example, the National Dog Warden Association Scotland said:

“Most dog owners do not believe their dog is likely to attack sheep and are shocked and distraught after the event.”

Likewise, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home highlighted that livestock worrying often occurs when the owner is not even present. It pointed to a report by the United Kingdom Parliament’s all-party parliamentary group for animal welfare that found that two thirds of incidents occurred when the dog had escaped from the house or garden of a neighbouring property. That highlights the need for the bill to be accompanied by an awareness campaign to communicate the risks that exist and the seriousness of the issue, as well as to make people aware of the laws and any new penalties.

The Dogs Trust highlighted the need to gain a better understanding of the issue. It pointed out:

“By working to better understand the problem, we believe it will be possible to undertake targeted proactive measures that aim to result in the prevention of worrying, therefore protecting the welfare of livestock more robustly.”

A number of stakeholders highlighted how underreporting and inconsistent data collection make it difficult to get a clear picture of the scope of the issue. As my colleague Claudia Beamish stressed, that needs to be addressed so that we can monitor the problem and ensure that the changes, if they are enacted, have the desired effect. That is the case for all animal and wildlife crime.

I know that time is tight in this debate, but it is also tight until the end of this parliamentary session. A considerable amount of work will be needed if the bill is to be fit for purpose. Labour will certainly support the principles of the bill, and we will do all that we can to ensure that changes are made to deliver on the intention of protecting the livestock of Scotland’s farmers and crofters.

17:07  



Peter Chapman (North East Scotland) (Con)

I welcome the opportunity to close the debate for the Scottish Conservatives. I remind members of my entry in the register of members’ interests, which shows that I am a partner in a farming business.

As my Scottish Conservative colleagues have stated, we are generally supportive of the bill and recognise that livestock worrying by dogs is an increasing issue, to the point that it is becoming almost impossible to keep livestock in some fields near towns and villages. Official statistics show that there were more than 230 cases of dogs worrying livestock in the north-east in the past five years. However, we need to recognise that that is only the tip of the iceberg, because many incidents are not recorded.

It is important to highlight that any attacks on livestock do not just have a financial impact on livestock owners, serious though that can be. The emotional stress of witnessing an attack and the aftermath of the attack place a great mental strain on farmers, too. Therefore, there is an urgent need for the law on livestock worrying to be updated and strengthened. The current £1,000 fine, which is laid out in the 1953 act, is simply too low. The proposed increased fines and/or custodial sentences of up to 12 months better reflect the gravity of the offence and the impact that it has on farmers.

The implementation of disqualification orders to restrict the right of a person who is convicted of a livestock worrying offence from owning a dog, and their rights of access to agricultural land when accompanied by a dog, will help to reduce incidences of livestock worrying. However, some elements of disqualification orders are not clear. For example, how is banning a convicted person from bringing a dog on to agricultural land to be enforced? Some witnesses also wondered how we would decide what agricultural land is. Moreover, given the increase in the number of dog walking services, there are questions about where responsibility would lie if another person who was deemed to be fit and proper was in charge of a dog at the time of an attack.

A number of stakeholders have noted the importance of compensation for livestock keepers. I highlight that compensation is already available under the current legislation. The problem is that the existing compensation mechanisms are not widely known among livestock keepers, so an awareness campaign about existing compensation schemes is sorely needed.

Further clarity is also needed on the role of inspecting bodies and who they may be. Both the Scottish SPCA and local authorities have expressed reluctance to take on that role, citing a lack of resources, but they have stated that they would be happy to assist the police. In my view, there is no doubt that the police must retain overall responsibility for pursuing the crime.

There are also questions regarding the role of vets in examining a dog. Will the police be given authority to give consent or will that remain with the owner? Who would be responsible for covering the cost of a vet? The bill also contains proposals to grant the power of entry, search and seizure without a warrant when cases are being investigated. There is a lack of clarity around the practical use of that power, and it raises serious legal questions. I therefore believe, and the committee believes, that the power must be dropped.

In conclusion, the Scottish Conservatives are generally supportive of the bill and see why it is needed. However, some aspects need further clarification. We therefore call on Emma Harper to take note of the concerns that members on all sides of the chamber have raised and to work with the committee and the Government to improve the bill.

17:11  



Ben Macpherson

I welcome the consensus on the amendments that the bill requires, and in particular on the merit of making the agreed changes to the 1953 act at this time.

I note the points that John Finnie and Claudia Beamish raised about prosecution and resources for investigation. I am happy to liaise with members, including Emma Harper, on those matters ahead of stage 2.

Claudia Beamish, Colin Smyth and Finlay Carson made points around looking again at dog control notices. I simply highlight the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee’s report on the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010, and the committee’s on-going work, which will include hearing from the Minister for Community Safety shortly.

There is also a Scottish Government-led working group that covers animal welfare policy. Participation in that forum has involved looking at both legislative and non-legislative opportunities to improve the dog control notice regime, and that work will continue. I am happy to liaise with members on those matters ahead of stage 2, if that would be helpful.

I again thank Emma Harper for seeking to modernise the legislation in a practical way, in order to address the concerns of the farming community. As Stewart Stevenson mentioned, dog attacks can have devastating effects, such as the horrific reported killing of 50 pregnant sheep in Wales just a few days ago. I know that farmers care deeply about the welfare of their livestock, and the bill will help to ensure that all animals in Scotland, whether they are farm-dwelling or companion animals, receive the protection that they deserve.

I maintain that the focused changes that are proposed in the bill will have an immediate impact in raising public awareness of not only what is in the bill, but the associated general issues, as Peter Chapman emphasised. I believe that the passage of the bill will, in due course, help to assure the farming community that this Parliament takes the matter of livestock worrying very seriously.

Given the stage that we are at in the parliamentary cycle, and the undoubted on-going impacts of the pandemic and of European Union exit, I hope that members will work collaboratively to allow the swift passage of this focused bill through stage 1 and on to completion by the end of the parliamentary session. The bill, as amended in the ways that we have debated today, will strengthen the law and help to reduce distressing attacks on livestock and the associated mental and financial hardship that those attacks cause to all concerned. The Scottish Government therefore supports the general principles of the bill and urges the Parliament to pass it at stage 1, at decision time.

17:14  



Emma Harper

I will pick up on a few points in closing, but first I thank all members for their contributions today. I also thank the members of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, and the minister for his supportive comments and his contribution in closing. Finally, I thank the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism, Fergus Ewing, and the Minister for Public Health and Sport, Mairi Gougeon, for their encouragement in respect of the bill.

The minister said that the goal is to make the bill simple and effective. That was my intention from the start. A farmer in Ayr told me, “Keep it simple.”

The bill deals with a minority of irresponsible people. We know that most dog owners are responsible outdoors. Claudia Beamish was right to say that accessing the outdoors is a good thing. We want folk to do that and we know that it supports mental health. The issue applies to only a minority of people.

I am happy to engage further with Edward Mountain and all committee members about the disqualification orders.

Jamie Halcro Johnston highlighted financial costs. That is a huge problem caused by out-of-control dogs. We know that NFU Mutual paid out £1.6 million to settle members’ claims in 2017 and has noted a 67 per cent increase in the cost of livestock worrying incidents.

Colin Smyth also presented specific statistics when he said that 72 per cent of NFU members had experienced attacks on their sheep.

I note the idea of exemptions for hunting dogs and I am willing to discuss that.

I welcome the scrutiny and comments from Mike Rumbles and John Finnie. They are fellow committee members and have much experience. I welcome any support that they can give me as we take the bill forward.

We know that there have been many campaigns to educate folk over the years, such as take the lead and take a lead. Those are great: I support any continued education, including any by NatureScot or Police Scotland in the partnership against rural crime. However, Mike Flynn of the Scottish SPCA asked the committee why, if education worked, we are still seeing an increase in attacks on sheep. We need to do more and I hope that the bill will deter irresponsible access to the countryside.

We know that the harm is caused by a minority of people, but farmers are asking for legislation. They asked me for stand-alone legislation and that is what I am trying to achieve. I will finish by giving the final word to a sheep farmer called Brian Walker, who is one of Mike Rumbles’s constituents. This is what he told me:

“Having been on the sharp end of various livestock attacks in recent years, I am left in no doubt. The law needs to be brought up to date as soon as possible to reflect modern times.”

I encourage members to support the general principles of the bill and I am keen to see any amendments as we move forward.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

That concludes the stage 1 debate on the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill.

Vote at Stage 1

Video Thumbnail Preview PNG

Vote at Stage 1 transcript

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

Before I put the first question, I remind members that, if the amendment in the name of Michael Russell is agreed to, the amendment in the name of Monica Lennon will fall.

The first question is, that amendment S5M-23958.3, in the name of Michael Russell, which seeks to amend motion S5M-23958, in the name of Donald Cameron, on prioritising Covid-19 vaccination and economic recovery, be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Presiding Officer

There will be a division.

I suspend the meeting to allow members to access the voting app.

17:26 Meeting suspended.  



17:31 On resuming—  



The Presiding Officer

We will go straight to the vote. I remind members that we are voting on amendment S5M-23958.3, in the name of Michael Russell, which seeks to amend motion S5M-23958, in the name of Donald Cameron, on prioritising Covid-19 vaccination and economic recovery. This is a one-minute division.

The vote is now closed. If members have any issues, please let me know by raising a point of order.

The Minister for Europe and International Development (Jenny Gilruth)

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I was not able to vote, but I would have voted yes.

The Presiding Officer

Thank you very much, Ms Gilruth. We will add your name to the register.

Claudia Beamish (South Scotland) (Lab)

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I would have voted no. I was not able to type in the PIN today, for the first time.

The Presiding Officer

Thank you, Ms Beamish. I note that you would have voted no. That will be added to the register as well.

A number of members online are asking for confirmation that their votes were registered. We are just checking that.

For

Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Allan, Dr Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Gougeon, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Hyslop, Fiona (Linlithgow) (SNP)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
McMillan, Stuart (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
Paterson, Gil (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Russell, Michael (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)
Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Swinney, John (Perthshire North) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Ind)
Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)

Against

Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Balfour, Jeremy (Lothian) (Con)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Reform)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Boyack, Sarah (Lothian) (Lab)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Davidson, Ruth (Edinburgh Central) (Con)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Harris, Alison (Central Scotland) (Con)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Lindhurst, Gordon (Lothian) (Con)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
Mason, Tom (North East Scotland) (Con)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
Mountain, Edward (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Rowley, Alex (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Sarwar, Anas (Glasgow) (Lab)
Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Tomkins, Adam (Glasgow) (Con)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)
Wishart, Beatrice (Shetland Islands) (LD)

The Presiding Officer

The result of the division on amendment S5M-23958.3, in the name of Michael Russell, which seeks to amend motion S5M-23958, in the name of Donald Cameron, on prioritising Covid-19 vaccination and economic recovery, is: For 65, Against 56, Abstentions 0.

Amendment agreed to.

The Presiding Officer

The amendment in the name of Monica Lennon is therefore pre-empted.

The next question is, that motion S5M-23958, in the name of Donald Cameron, on prioritising Covid vaccination and economic recovery, as amended, be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Presiding Officer

There will be a division. This will be a one-minute division.

The vote is now closed. Please let me know if you believe that your vote was not registered or counted.

Claudia Beamish

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I still could not type in the PIN. I would have voted no.

The Presiding Officer

Thank you, Ms Beamish. Your vote will be recorded and added to the register.

For

Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Allan, Dr Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Gougeon, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Hyslop, Fiona (Linlithgow) (SNP)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
McMillan, Stuart (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
Paterson, Gil (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Russell, Michael (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)
Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Swinney, John (Perthshire North) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Ind)
Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)

Against

Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Balfour, Jeremy (Lothian) (Con)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Reform)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Boyack, Sarah (Lothian) (Lab)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Davidson, Ruth (Edinburgh Central) (Con)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Harris, Alison (Central Scotland) (Con)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Lindhurst, Gordon (Lothian) (Con)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
Mason, Tom (North East Scotland) (Con)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
Mountain, Edward (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Rowley, Alex (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Sarwar, Anas (Glasgow) (Lab)
Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Tomkins, Adam (Glasgow) (Con)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)
Wishart, Beatrice (Shetland Islands) (LD)

The Convener

The result of the division on motion S5M-23958, in the name of Donald Cameron, on prioritising Covid vaccination and economic recovery, as amended, is: For 65, Against 56, Abstentions 0.

Motion, as amended, agreed to,

That the Parliament believes that the people of Scotland have the right to choose their own future and to escape the disastrous hard Brexit that Boris Johnson and the UK Conservative Administration are imposing on them; notes that the Scottish Government paused work on independence to focus on the pandemic in contrast to the UK Government, which recklessly pursued Brexit and ended the transition period at the worst possible time; supports the Scottish Government’s decision to follow the JCVI priority list for the first phase of the vaccination programme, which has been drawn up by independent experts to provide the greatest possible protection against preventable mortality from COVID-19; agrees that it is for the people of Scotland to decide what sort of country and economy should be built following the pandemic, and that therefore, should there be a majority in the next Parliament for an independence referendum after the pandemic, there can be no justification whatsoever to deny people in Scotland their democratic rights.

The Presiding Officer

The next question is, that motions S5M-23973 and S5M-23975 to S5M-23978, all in the name of Graeme Dey, on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau, be agreed to.

Motions agreed to,

That the Parliament agrees that the Criminal Legal Aid and Advice and Assistance (Counter-Terrorism and Border Security) (Scotland) Regulations 2021 [draft] be approved.

That the Parliament agrees that the Restitution Fund (Scotland) Order 2021 [draft] be approved.

That the Parliament agrees that the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 (Supplementary Provisions) Order 2021 [draft] be approved.

That the Parliament agrees that, under Rule 12.3.3B of Standing Orders, the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints can meet, if necessary, at the same time as a meeting of the Parliament on Tuesday 2 February 2021 and Tuesday 9 February 2021 from approximately 3.30pm to Decision Time.

That the Parliament agrees that the Justice Committee be designated as the lead committee in consideration of the legislative consent memorandum in relation to the Financial Services Bill (UK Legislation).

The Presiding Officer

The next question is, that motion S5M-23988, in the name of Roseanna Cunningham, on approval of a Scottish statutory instrument, be agreed to.

Motion agreed to,

That the Parliament agrees that the Single Use Carrier Bags Charge (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2021 [draft] be approved.

The Presiding Officer

The final question is the one that we deferred from last Thursday. The question is, that motion S5M-23916, in the name of Emma Harper, on the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill at stage 1, be agreed to.

Motion agreed to,

That the Parliament agrees to the general principles of the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill.

Meeting closed at 17:39.  



Stage 2 - Changes to detail 

MSPs can propose changes to the Bill. The changes are considered and then voted on by the committee.

First meeting on amendments

Documents with the amendments considered at the meeting on 24 February 2021:


Video Thumbnail Preview PNG

First meeting on amendments transcript

The Convener (Edward Mountain)

Good morning, and welcome to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee’s seventh meeting in 2021. I ask members to ensure that their mobile phones are in silent mode. The meeting will be conducted in virtual format.

The first item on the agenda is stage 2 consideration of the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill. I welcome Emma Harper, the member in charge of the bill; Christine Grahame, the committee substitute for Emma Harper, who is attending for this agenda item; and Ben Macpherson, the Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment.

Before we go any further, I ask members whether they wish to make a declaration. I will start. In my entry in the register of members’ interests, I have recorded that I am a member of a family farming partnership in Moray.

Peter Chapman (North East Scotland) (Con)

I, too, am a member of a farming partnership.

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

I jointly own a very small registered agricultural holding from which I derive no income.

Jamie Halcro Johnston (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

I, too, am a partner in a farming business.

The Convener

Before we begin, I will recap how the stage 2 process works in a virtual setting. Members, the member in charge and the minister will be called to speak to their amendments in the usual way. Members who have not lodged amendments in a group but who wish to speak should indicate such by inserting an R in the chat function. I will ensure that they are called to speak.

Voting on amendments will be carried out electronically, using the chat function. I will separately call members to vote yes, no or abstain. Committee members should type their vote into the chat box—Y for yes, N for no, A for abstain—and the result will be read out in full, with the names of who voted for each option and the vote result. It is vital that that is done to ensure that the correct vote is recorded.

As has happened before, if we lose connection to a member or to the minister during stage 2 proceedings, I will suspend the meeting until the connection is re-established. In the unlikely event that reconnection is not possible, we will need to reschedule our stage 2 consideration.

If a member loses connection at the point at which he or she is required to move an amendment and the connection cannot be restored after a brief pause, another member from the same party group will move the amendment. That member will have an opportunity to speak to the amendment if it has not already been debated. If the member who is required to move the amendment loses their connection and does not have a party group member present to move their amendment, I will suspend the meeting to allow the connection to be restored.

If a committee member loses their connection at the point at which a division is called or when it is taking place, I will suspend the meeting for up to 10 minutes to allow the connection to be restored. During that period, the clerks will contact the member who has lost their connection and clarify whether she or he is content for the vote to proceed without them, if the connection is still lost. The vote will be delayed beyond 10 minutes only in the likelihood of a close division.

I hope that that adequately explains the process. We now move to consideration of amendments.

Section 1—Offence under section 1 of the 1953 Act: name, definition and penalty

The Convener

Amendment 1, in the name of John Finnie, is in a group on its own.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

Amendment 1 is about an exemption in the fine piece of legislation that is before us. I think that many people would be surprised that there are any exemptions, given that the protection of livestock is a significant animal welfare issue—the clue is in the bill’s name.

My proposal is simple. I think that we all readily accept that it is a bad idea to have a dog loose among livestock, with the notable exception of the stockperson’s dog to deal with sheep, cattle or whatever. It is an even worse idea to have a number of dogs loose—I would say that regardless of whether we were talking about sled dogs, greyhounds, terriers or whatever.

The existing exemption for police dogs is appropriate—I declare that I am a former police dog handler—for the circumstances in which a police dog handler finds themselves among livestock. Ideally, the aim would be to encourage the relocation of livestock if a search was being conducted for stolen property or if specialist dogs were looking for explosives, drugs, firearms or human remains. That is a key role in the protection of life or property; a police dog would be properly controlled, so that exemption is appropriate.

There is no logic in continuing to allow livestock to be subject to the intrusion of a group of dogs for whatever reason, not least because of the impact that that could have—as a farmer, the convener will know about that. That could cause livestock distress, which is compounded if the animals are pregnant or nursing—if that is the correct term. Trauma is associated with that. For all those reasons, I will move my reasonable amendment.

I move amendment 1.

Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD)

I disagree with amendment 1. The legislation already makes exemptions; as John Finnie said, police dogs are exempted. There is an exemption for a dog that is lawfully used in pest control, but John Finnie would remove the exemption for such lawful activity. There is no need to do that. I will not rehearse the arguments about hunting with dogs that we have had over the past 22 years. The legislation is about dogs that are used for pest control. If John Finnie’s amendment was agreed to, it would lead to a lot of problems.

I do not support John Finnie’s amendment, which I know was lodged with good intention, and I ask him not to press it. I do not think that it will have committee members’ support, but I am willing to listen.

Jamie Halcro Johnston

I will not rehearse the position that Mike Rumbles described, which summed up my concerns. The exemption is for pest control, and the dogs are used with the permission of landowners and farmers for them to be there. Amendment 1 is more ideologically based than about the welfare of livestock, so I will not support it.

Christine Grahame (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)

I will not support amendment 1. When we talk about using a group of dogs, let us be honest that that is fox hunting by another name—that is all that I can think of. I totally oppose fox hunting and I have no problem with banning it, to be frank. However, that is not what we are talking about today, and this is not the place for such an amendment.

I do not recall the issue being teased out in stage 1 evidence. I am old-fashioned and I think that evidence should be teased out at stage 1 on things that are to be proposed at stage 2. That allows the parties on both sides, or a group of people who are interested, to give their evidence.

I wholly support what John Finnie is trying to do, but this is the wrong place for it. We have not taken evidence on the issue, so I will not support the amendment.

Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

Amendment 1, in the name of John Finnie, is entirely reasonable and would remove the exemption that allows dogs to be at large in a field with sheep provided that they are part of a hunt. It would remove what is a totally unnecessary loophole that we know causes sheep a great deal of distress. The exemption legitimises what is a cruel so-called sport that should rightfully have been banned almost a decade ago. Although I appreciate that the exemption does not allow dogs to attack or chase sheep, the distinction between such behaviour is not at all clear.

Christine Grahame said that the matter was not teased out in evidence and that we did not take evidence on it. We did. In its evidence to the committee, the UK Centre for Animal Law Scottish steering committee raised the issue and pointed out that

“numerous incidents have been observed in Scotland where packs of foxhounds have been hunting in proximity to flocks of sheep”,

which causes sheep to panic and run, even if the dogs are not strictly chasing them.

Similarly, OneKind called for the exemption for hunting to be removed altogether, highlighting that, even if dogs do not attack or chase,

“Packs of hounds in the vicinity of sheep can cause them considerable stress.”

It also highlighted the crucial point that, unlike with other exemptions in the section, the dogs are not providing an “essential” service. I highlighted that point in the stage 1 debate, so we have discussed and debated the issue.

There is good reason for the law requiring that dogs be kept under control in the countryside. Frankly, I can see no practical reason why the exemption should continue. There are practical exemptions for sheep dogs, given the specific nature of their role, and for guide dogs. However, the exemption for hunting turns a blind eye to the problem that is caused to livestock by hounds hunting foxes. The exemption means that there is one law for blood sports and one law for families walking their pets. I can see no justification for the exemption continuing.

Frankly, there is no justification for hunting continuing, but the very least that we can do is hold hunts to the same basic rules that we ask the general public to follow. As I said, I highlighted the issue in the stage 1 debate.

I thank John Finnie for raising this important issue, and I urge members—particularly those who claim to oppose fox hunting—to support amendment 1. Actions speak a lot louder than words.

The Convener

I would like to comment on amendment 1 before we hear from the minister. Given the wide area of ground that can be farmed and used for grazing in Scotland—which includes, on the margins of hill ground, areas of juniper and gorse bushes—it is entirely proper that dogs can, under the legislation, be used to flush out foxes from cover. The law allows that; it does not allow hunting. I regret to say that I think that Colin Smyth has misunderstood the legislation on hunting in Scotland, which is entirely proper. It would be improper to try to contain and move sheep to allow such activity to go on. Therefore, amendment 1 is faulty and I will not support it.

I like to allow members to come in once and then move on, but I see that Christine Grahame wants to come in again.

Christine Grahame

[Inaudible.]—by Colin Smyth. I defer to no one in my position on fox hunting, but I do not think that we should slide such provisions into a bill that is called the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill. If we are to ban fox hunting—which I want us to do—we should do so through a stand-alone piece of legislation. That is my position. I want to defend myself. It is not the case that I approve of fox hunting, but I do not approve of the particular amendment to this particular bill.

The Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment (Ben Macpherson)

Good morning. Thank you, convener, for the opportunity to respond on amendment 1.

The Scottish Government has made it clear that the legislation that was introduced in 2002 to protect foxes from unnecessary hunting has not had the desired effect. We have therefore committed to acting on many of the recommendations in Lord Bonomy’s review to clarify and strengthen the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002.

09:45  



Although I understand why John Finnie might wish to try to advance the agenda of protecting foxes through this bill, there are a number of issues with amendment 1. Currently, it is an offence for a dog to be at large—not on a lead or otherwise under close control—in a field or enclosure in which there are sheep. One exception to that is when the owner of the dog is there with the permission of the owner of the sheep. There is another exemption for police dogs, guide dogs, trained sheep dogs, working gun dogs or a dog lawfully used to hunt.

The last part of the definition could include situations in which a dog is being used to control rats or rabbits at the request of a neighbouring farmer or landowner, as well as dogs being used to support people on foot who are carrying out legitimate fox control. It would seem completely disproportionate to make it an offence, in those situations, to do something that does not actually cause harm to livestock and that may be incidental to a perfectly legitimate use of a dog.

The bill will extend the exemption to include other assistance dogs while adding the condition for all types of dogs that the exemption will apply only if, and to the extent that, the dog is

“performing the role in question”.

Amendment 1 would, unhelpfully, remove that added condition for all types of dogs, including police dogs and trained sheep dogs.

Regarding the issue of fox control, we are strongly committed to safeguarding animal welfare, including that of wild animals—notably, foxes. It is disappointing that, owing to the need to prioritise our response to the unprecedented challenges of Covid-19, we have not been able to introduce a bill on fox control in the timetable that was originally planned. It is because of the practical implications of our response to Covid, which has been necessary to save lives, that the Parliament has been physically unable to operate as planned.

We remain absolutely committed to introducing legislation on fox control, and we intend to do it during the next Parliament if we are re-elected to Government. The bill that we are debating today is not the place to attempt to introduce new controls on hunting with dogs. I acknowledge the intent behind Mr Finnie’s amendment, but it is neither needed here nor helpful, as it could affect a wide range of legitimate work that is carried out by dogs. I am sure that that is not the intention, and I hope that Mr Finnie will withdraw amendment 1 accordingly. Should he not withdraw amendment 1, I hope that the committee will not support it.

Emma Harper (South Scotland) (SNP)

Mr Finnie has set out his reasoning for lodging amendment 1. In essence, the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 makes the owner of a dog criminally liable if the dog is “at large” in a field of sheep, but it includes an exemption for specific categories of dog, including a dog that is “lawfully used to hunt”.

Amendment 1, in the name of John Finnie, would do two things: it would remove hunting dogs from the exemption and it would remove the new provision, added by the bill, that all the categories of dogs listed in the 1953 act, including those added by the bill, are exempted when they are working by

“performing the role in question”.

I do not support either of the effects of amendment 1. On the first point, I do not consider that my member’s bill is the right vehicle through which to pursue hunting-specific concerns. As the minister has just said, it is likely that the issue of hunting will be considered in the next session of Parliament—such issues should be considered then, in their full context and with a full debate with stakeholders and the public.

I also do not support removing the qualification that is added by the bill, that the exempted dogs are exempt only when

“performing the role in question”.

That qualification was not criticised during the stage 1 process, and there have been no suggestions that it should be removed. It adds a helpful qualification to the 1953 act and ensures that, for example, a guide dog is exempted only when performing the guide dog role and otherwise should be treated like any other dog—for example, when being exercised by a sighted person. That provides added protection for livestock owners, and I do not support weakening the bill by removing the provision.

On Monday, I spoke with one of the inspectors in the Scottish partnership against rural crime, and they have not had any evidence of livestock being attacked or worried by dogs used in the control of foxes.

For those reasons, I urge the committee to reject amendment 1.

John Finnie

I thank all the members who have taken part in the debate. We are debating the protection of livestock and that is what I was talking about. Members have chosen to take a different approach to the discussion and that is a matter for them. The debate has been peppered with euphemisms, starting with Mike Rumbles, who used the term “pest control”. I take great exception to Mr Halcro Johnston’s pejorative comment that I am being ideological and am not interested in the welfare of livestock. That is a shameful thing to say. I hope that he will reflect on that comment and offer an apology.

I have a great regard for Christine Grahame, our Deputy Presiding Officer, particularly when it comes to parliamentary procedure. Of course, it would have been helpful if Christine Grahame had been aware of all the evidence that has been offered on the topic. I do not accept her reprimand and I most certainly do not accept that the amendment is incompetent. If the amendment were incompetent, convener, you would have ruled it as such. Amendment 1 is perfectly competent and has a sound basis.

As is frequently the case, I am grateful to my colleague Colin Smyth, who made a detailed résumé of the evidence that we have had on the matter.

In your comments, convener, you talked about the margins and juniper bushes. That is the sort of territory that I am very familiar with and, in fairness, you accurately outlined the law as it is supposed to operate. However, as we then heard from the minister, it is not how it is operating in practice.

Members have said that I am trying to “advance an agenda”. I have never once mentioned foxes in relation to the amendment. The minister mentioned safeguarding. The bill that we are discussing is about safeguarding livestock. I hear the member in charge of the bill suggesting that a proposal that I am not putting forward should be the subject of full debate. For the avoidance of any doubt, I say that of course I would like to see a ban on fox hunting and, although I will not be around in the next session, I wish the incoming Government—if indeed it is the minister’s Government—the very best of luck in securing such a ban. We know that livestock have been harmed. Of course, the inducement of compensation paid to the owner of land that hunts go over has been seen as some way of offsetting those concerns. However, my concern in amendment 1 is simply the wellbeing of livestock.

I go right back to what I said at the beginning. It is not a good idea to have any dog loose among livestock. It is an even worse idea to have several dogs loose. That can have a negative impact on the wellbeing of livestock, which is my simple concern.

The Convener

Before we vote on the amendment, I point out that Christine Grahame is here as a member of the committee. Although she has another role in the Parliament, that is nothing to do with her role on the committee—that is just an observation

The question is, that amendment 1 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

We are not agreed, so there will be a division. In the chat box, please type Y to vote for the amendment, N to vote against the amendment, or A to abstain.

For

Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)

Against

Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
Mountain, Edward (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

The Convener

The result of the division is: For 2, Against 9, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 1 disagreed to.

The Convener

Amendment 2, in the name of the minister, is grouped with amendments 3 to 5.

Ben Macpherson

It is important that the range of penalties for offences under the bill is sufficient to be proportionate but also appropriate for the seriousness of the offence committed. Throughout the bill consultation and during stage 1, we heard about horrific instances of the impact on farmed animals and farmers and crofters and their families when animals had been killed or horribly injured by dogs that were out of control on their land. We have considered the proposed penalties carefully, and we have considered the recommendations of the committee’s stage 1 report. We have also considered the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Powers and Protections) (Scotland) Act 2020, which has now been commenced. The maximum penalties for many wildlife crime offences as well as offences specified in regulations that are made under part 2 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006—aside from the regulations for fixed-penalty notices—are now 12 months’ imprisonment or a fine of up to £40,000, or both.

Accordingly, it is important to ensure consistency of approach to penalties in the bill with the increased maximum penalties in the 2020 act for animal welfare offences and a wide range of wildlife crime offences. My amendments therefore propose to increase the maximum penalty in the bill from six months’ imprisonment and/or a level 5 fine—currently £5,000—to 12 months’ imprisonment and/or a £40,000 fine. That would, rightly, still allow for courts to impose appropriate penalties, depending on the particular facts and circumstances of the case.

Amendments 2 and 3 are the substantive ones in the group; amendments 4 and 5 are consequential and technical.

I hope that committee members agree with that approach and support amendments 2 to 5.

I move amendment 2.

Mike Rumbles

I have no issue about raising the level of the fine. If damage is done to stock to that extent, that is absolutely correct. Does the minister think that there is any difference in the deterrent effect or level of punishment of imprisoning somebody for six months or for 12 months? I would imagine that sending somebody to prison would be enough of a deterrent or a punishment. Why set those levels—other than just for the sake of tidying up legislation? I was listening very carefully to what the minister said about making the fines in the bill the same as those in other pieces of legislation. I am concerned that we are increasing the period of imprisonment because it sounds tough. What is the evidence for these levels, other than just tidying up legislation? Is there any evidence to suggest that increasing the period of imprisonment from six to 12 months is reasonable?

The Convener

That was a question. I am not sure that this session is a time for taking evidence but, minister, if you would like to respond to that, I will be delighted to let you in; if not, I will move on to the member in charge of the bill.

10:00  



Ben Macpherson

Perhaps I can address it in my summing up.

The Convener

Thank you very much. No one else has indicated that they wish to speak, so I call the member in charge of the bill, Emma Harper.

Emma Harper

As the minister has explained, the bill increases the maximum penalties that are available. That was a key part of my policy. I wanted to increase the maximum available penalties significantly, so that they could act as a greater deterrent, while setting them at an appropriate level in order to acknowledge that, in most instances, the owner has no intent to cause harm.

At stage 1, the then Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment noted that there might be a case for increasing the penalties even further, to match those available under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006, as amended by the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act 2020. The 2020 act had not been passed when my bill was consulted on or drafted. The committee’s stage 1 report supported the Government’s view and recommended amending the bill accordingly. I am content to support amendments 2 and 3, in the name of the minister, to further increase the maximum available penalties in the bill to a maximum prison sentence of 12 months and a maximum fine of £40,000.

Amendments 4 and 5, which were also lodged by the minister, have the effect that the increased maximum penalties in the bill and the order-making powers under section 2 will apply only to offences that are committed after those provisions have come into force. I agree with that policy intention and am therefore content to support those amendments.

Ben Macpherson

I thank Mike Rumbles and Emma Harper for their comments. The action that the amendments seek to undertake is in line with the recommendations of the committee and the discussions that we had collectively in the stage 1 debate. The intention of the amendments, as I put forward in my opening remarks, is—quite rightly, in the Government’s view—to ensure consistency of approach between the penalties in the bill and the increased maximum penalties that are now available for a wide range of animal welfare and wildlife crime offences.

On Mike Rumbles’s specific questions about the effect of sentencing on the propensity to offend, I think that that is a wider question that is perhaps for others in the Justice Committee or elsewhere to consider. The point is that our approach to sentencing is based on the seriousness of the crime in question. It was deemed by the committee—and by the Government, in bringing the amendments—that, in order to emphasise the seriousness of the crime that we are discussing, it was right and appropriate to bring in amendments to ensure that the approach to penalties was consistent with the increased maximum penalties that are, in effect, now available for a wide range of animal welfare and wildlife crime.

The Convener

The question is, that amendment 2 be agreed to. Are we agreed? If you do not agree, type N in the chat box.

We are not agreed. There will be a division.

For

Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
Mountain, Edward (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

Against

Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)

The Convener

The result of the division is: For 10, Against 1, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 2 agreed to.

Amendments 3 and 4 moved—[Ben Macpherson]—and agreed to.

Section 1, as amended, agreed to.

Section 2—Power to make order in respect of person convicted

Amendment 5 moved—[Ben Macpherson]—and agreed to.

Section 2, as amended, agreed to.

Section 3—Power to seize etc dog suspected of attacking or worrying livestock

The Convener

The next group is on removal of power to appoint inspecting bodies and inspectors. Amendment 6, in the name of Emma Harper, is grouped with amendments 7 to 14, 16 to 24 and 27. I draw members’ attention to the information on pre-emption in the groupings document. If amendment 15, which seeks to remove the ability to search without a warrant, is agreed to, I cannot call amendment 14.

Emma Harper

The bill currently allows the Scottish ministers, by regulation, to appoint inspecting bodies, which, in turn, can appoint inspectors. The policy intention was to allow for the provision of more formal support to the police if that was thought necessary. However, evidence at stage 1, including from the police and the Scottish SPCA, stated that the provisions may not be required and that no organisation seemed willing to take on the role of inspecting body.

I acknowledge the committee’s stage 1 report, and its recommendation that the provisions be removed. In order to achieve that, I have lodged amendment 22, which will remove section 5 in its entirety. The other amendments in the group will remove all reference to inspectors, and cross-references to section 5 or to the provisions that it would insert into the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953.

I move amendment 6.

Colin Smyth

The amendments in this group, which I support, reflect the calls that the committee made in its stage 1 report. In that report, we noted our

“fundamental concerns about the principle of inspection bodies taking the lead in any circumstances in which a criminal offence of livestock worrying has taken place”,

and we made a clear recommendation that

“the Member in charge should remove the inspecting bodies provisions from the Bill during the amending stages of the Bill, should it proceed.”

That recommendation was made after a number of stakeholders raised concerns about the role of the new body, and the lack of clarity about its intended role and whether the enabling powers would be used at all. There was widespread agreement among stakeholders and committee members that the police remain the most appropriate body to lead investigations on the issue.

There is a need for more specialism when it comes to investigating animal welfare and wildlife crimes and a discussion remains to be had about the best way of achieving that. The vague enabling powers that are proposed in the bill are not the best way to go about it. I asked the bills team to draw up amendments to remove those provisions but felt it fair to wait to see whether the member in charge would take a similar approach and lodge such amendments. I am pleased that Emma Harper has done so. I support the amendments and strongly urge other members to do so.

John Finnie

I have a brief comment. Like Colin Smyth, I will lend support to these amendments, which are entirely appropriate. Following the comments of the member in charge, I would not want any inference to be drawn that it was the absence of any bodies coming forward that had any influence on my decision to reject this provision. Parliament has to be extremely cautious when giving policing powers to any bodies and it is for that reason that I was always opposed to the proposal in the bill to do that. I entirely welcome the member lodging the amendments in this group to remove this provision.

Ben Macpherson

The Scottish Government supports these amendments to drop the provisions regarding inspecting bodies, including the power of the Scottish ministers to appoint inspecting bodies and the powers of search, entry and seizure so far as they relate to the powers of inspectors. I assure the committee that I have given this matter careful consideration and have noted the concerns that the committee expressed in its stage 1 report.

I understand the intention of those who seek a role for bodies other than the police to investigate potential crime offences under the bill but, on balance, there are important reasons why it is the police that are the investigating body across the full panoply of criminal law in Scotland. I am also not convinced that other inspecting bodies are generally able or willing to take a leading role in investigations of livestock worrying.

I therefore agree with Emma Harper that responsibility for investigating the criminal offence of livestock worrying should remain with the police, with assistance from local authorities or the Scottish SPCA as appropriate in the circumstances. I hope that the committee supports Emma Harper’s amendments.

Emma Harper

For clarification, my intention was always that the police would be the leader in any investigation. The intention of the original provision in the bill was so that the police could obtain support, if necessary, from a local authority or an inspecting body that would be appointed. Based on the evidence that we had at stage 1, I was happy to press these amendments to remove references to inspecting bodies.

Amendment 6 agreed to.

Amendments 7 to 9 moved—[Emma Harper]—and agreed to.

Section 3, as amended, agreed to.

Section 4—Powers to authorise entry, search, seizure etc

 

Amendments 10 to 13 moved—[Emma Harper]—and agreed to.

10:15  



The Convener

Amendment 15, in the name of Emma Harper, is in a group on its own. I draw members’ attention to the pre-emption information on the groupings list: if amendment 15 is agreed to, I will not be able call amendment 14 from the group on the removal of the power to appoint inspecting bodies and inspectors.

Emma Harper

The bill gives the police specific new powers to enter and search premises. That currently includes—under new section 2A(6) of the 1953 act—a power to do so “without a warrant” in specific circumstances. Evidence was given at stage 1 by the police that that power would be very unlikely ever to be used, and it is not one that the police are seeking.

I acknowledge the committee’s concerns on the issue during stage 1 and the recommendation to remove the provision that was made in the committee’s stage 1 report.

I move amendment 15.

Mike Rumbles

I thank Emma Harper for lodging amendment 15. She is, of course, quite right that the point that it addresses was one of the major issues that the committee was concerned about; I was particularly concerned about it. I had experience of dealing with the same issue as a member of another committee that considered the UEFA European Championship (Scotland) Bill. Ben Macpherson, who was Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development at the time, recognised that the proposed provision was not appropriate. I am very pleased that he has done so again. The committee feels the same way, and so does Emma Harper.

Amendment 15 removes something that I thought was contrary to common law in Scotland. It is important that, when the police are required to search premises, as they have to do, they obtain the appropriate warrant from the appropriate authorities, and that we do not allow the police simply to go on fishing expeditions. I noted from their evidence that the police did not want such a power and that they would hardly ever use it. The problem was that, if it was included in the eventual legislation, it could be used. I am pleased that Emma Harper has recognised that and lodged her amendment, and I fully support her in having done so.

Colin Smyth

Amendment 15, lodged by Emma Harper and supported by me and Mike Rumbles, is important. In its stage 1 report, the committee stated:

“the Committee has very real concerns about the powers proposed in this section of the Bill and questions whether they are legally competent. It is therefore not persuaded that the powers of entry, search and seizure without a warrant are required.”

I am pleased that the member in charge of the bill has listened to those points and concerns, which were raised by a number of stakeholders during our scrutiny of the bill, and that she has lodged amendment 15.

Granting the police a new ability to enter a premises without a warrant is not a decision that should be taken lightly, and it should not be granted without a very clear need for it. The evidence that we received called into question what purpose the powers would serve in practice, and we could not find any real demand for the powers from law enforcement.

In the light of that, I asked for an amendment on the matter to be drawn up by the non-Government bills unit, but I held that back in order to see whether Emma Harper would lodge an amendment to the same effect. I am pleased that she did so, and I am therefore happy to support amendment 15.

Ben Macpherson

After further discussion with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, it seems that the proposed power of entry, search and seizure without a warrant relating to non-domestic premises is unlikely to be required or to be used in practice if the police remain the investigating authority. Therefore, as members have already said, the Scottish Government supports amendment 15 to drop those provisions in view of the concerns that the committee raised.

Emma Harper

I acknowledge the committee’s concerns, especially those that were raised when we took evidence, and I welcome the input from Mike Rumbles and Colin Smyth. The power to enter without a warrant was only for non-domestic premises, but I take on board all the evidence that was presented. During further engagement with the Scottish partnership against rural crime team, I was assured that the power to enter premises without a warrant was not required, so I am happy to press amendment 15.

Amendment 15 agreed to.

Amendments 16 to 21 moved—[Emma Harper]—and agreed to.

The Convener

Amendment 28, in the name of Peter Chapman, is grouped with amendment 29.

Peter Chapman

I will be very brief. Amendment 28 is very clear and simple. It is all about ensuring fairness. In any outbreak, if animals are injured and dying, the first person that the farmer will call is his vet; he may or may not phone the police, but he will certainly phone his vet. Therefore, the farmer’s vet will be on site when the police arrive, and if a dog is being held that needs to be examined, that will be done by the farmer’s vet, because he will be on site and available to do that work. All I want to ensure is that the farmer does not end up picking up the bill for the work of examining the dog. As far as I am aware, nowhere in the bill does it specifically say that the police will pick up the tab and pay for the examination of any dog that might be being held. Amendment 28 makes it absolutely clear that, if the farmer’s vet does the work of examining the dog, that part of the vet’s bill will be picked up by the police and not by the farmer.

Amendment 29 is about making arrangements for any more specialist investigations that might be needed that the local vet perhaps cannot provide, such as taking DNA samples. The vet labs of Scotland’s Rural College are an example of where that kind of specialist work could be undertaken. Amendment 29 tasks the Government with having such specialist work done if necessary.

I move amendment 28.

John Finnie

I speak in support of Mr Chapman’s amendment, which is entirely reasonable. My one caveat relates to what we discussed in our deliberations around the potential for securing the best possible evidence and avoiding cross-contamination of evidence. That does not take away from Mr Chapman’s amendment, which is quite proper, but it perhaps needs to be underwritten by some sort of protocol. Although I am sure that vets would have regard to that anyway, the forensic aspect of acquiring evidence for a criminal case might not be the norm for a farmer’s vet. I am happy to support amendment 29, but I think that it will need to be underpinned by protocols—perhaps between the Crown and the police—regarding the acquisition of evidence and avoiding cross-contamination.

Jamie Halcro Johnston

I support Mr Chapman’s amendments, particularly amendment 28, which is a useful clarification that acknowledges some of the practical implications of the bill and the situations that we might find ourselves in as a result of it.

Ben Macpherson

I thank Peter Chapman for explaining the purpose of amendments 28 and 29. However, I do not agree that they are either necessary or desirable, and I urge him not to press amendment 28 and not to move amendment 29. I will explain why. First, Police Scotland will currently pay for the cost of the veterinary examination of a dog that is suspected of livestock worrying in cases in which Police Scotland considers that that is appropriate to gather evidence for a potential prosecution. We have already supported amendments this morning that will ensure that Police Scotland remains the only investigating body involved, so there is no need to introduce a new requirement in law for Police Scotland to pay for the costs of gathering evidence.

The situation that Mr Chapman described is worth some consideration, though, and I would be happy to work with him, ahead of stage 3, to give him comfort that the situation that he described could be covered in guidance or otherwise. I would welcome such a discussion, were he to withdraw amendment 28. I do not support the amendment and ask that it be withdrawn. Should Mr Chapman press amendment 28, I hope that committee members agree that we should not be making law for the sake of it, especially when there is no deficiency that requires to be remedied. I encourage members to resist amendment 28.

Amendment 29 would place an unnecessary and onerous burden on the Scottish Government to provide additional veterinary services to examine any dog that was suspected of worrying livestock after it had been seized by Police Scotland. As we stated at stage 1, there are various possible scenarios in which it might be appropriate for forensic evidence to be collected from a live suspect dog to link the dog to a particular attack. Such cases are rare, and the need to collect and analyse evidence would be agreed in advance by Police Scotland with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, depending on the potential relevance of that evidence to any possible prosecution case.

If it is appropriate to gather evidence from a live dog, there are different ways of arranging that, depending on the availability of suitably trained persons to handle the dog. That could involve Police Scotland officers, with the assistance of other enforcement authorities, the Scottish SPCA or local veterinary practices, as appropriate for the circumstances at the time.

To require a blanket approach in law whereby the Government would have to provide veterinary surgeons who were able to examine suspect dogs anywhere in Scotland and in all circumstances and cases would be disproportionate, not least in terms of the cost. It would also cut across current practice, in that it is currently quite straightforward for dogs to be presented to local veterinary practitioners for examination at the request of Police Scotland when that is necessary.

As I have just described, a new arrangement for veterinary services and specialist facilities is not required, nor is legislation in that respect. Therefore, I do not support amendment 29 and request that it not be moved. However, should Mr Chapman move it, I encourage members to resist it, for the reasons that I have set out.

Emma Harper

The issue that amendment 28 deals with was raised by Mr Chapman during the stage 1 evidence sessions, in which I referred to an experience that I had of speaking to one local vet, who said that,

“if he was taking evidence for a livestock-worrying case, what he would normally do would be similar to what he does in his usual work—for example, he would take blood, use swabs and give an emetic to the dog.”—[Official Report, Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, 28 October 2020; c 25.]

That would be the usual practice for a vet.

10:30  



My understanding is that, as the police, as the investigating body, would arrange for examination, they would be responsible for paying for the examination in the first instance and would be able to reclaim that cost from someone else, such as the dog’s owner, only if they had statutory authority to do so. On that basis, I do not consider amendment 28 necessary and do not support it.

Amendment 28 would also introduce into the bill a new reference to an “inspecting body”, even though the committee has just agreed to remove the provision that allows inspecting bodies to be appointed.

With regard to amendment 29 and the need for support for examinations, again, it is normal practice for vets to take blood or swabs, and qualified vets are already competent to do so. Therefore, it is unclear what amendment 29 would add; it is also unclear what the “arrangements” that it refers to would consist of or what they would have to include. I agree with the minister’s view that no statutory power for the SRUC or local vets is required in the bill, because they can already be involved in collecting evidence from animals that are presented to them by the police. On that basis, I do not support amendment 29.

The Convener

I ask Peter Chapman to wind up and to press or withdraw amendment 28.

Peter Chapman

I welcome the comments from Emma Harper and the minister, as well as John Finnie’s support.

Amendment 28 is a simple and worthwhile amendment, but I accept what the minister has said. I also accept that, as we have just removed reference to other inspecting bodies from the bill, amendment 28 becomes less necessary, given that we have agreed that the police are the body that will prosecute the case. I have more confidence now that other bodies have been taken out of the equation.

I welcome the minister’s offer to discuss the issue further with him and accept his assurance that the police accept that they will have to pick up the tab for that work.

Given all that and the fact that the minister will work with me to ensure that the issue is absolutely clear, maybe we need something in the guidance rather than in the bill. If we can get something in the guidance, which the minister said that he might consider, I would be prepared to withdraw amendment 28.

The Convener

That sounded like a conditional withdrawal. Are you withdrawing amendment 28 or pressing it?

Peter Chapman

I am withdrawing it, given that the minister has said that he is prepared to work with me.

Amendment 28, by agreement, withdrawn.

Section 4, as amended, agreed to.

Section 5—Inspecting bodies and inspectors

Amendment 22 moved—[Emma Harper]—and agreed to.

After section 5

Amendment 29 not moved.

Section 6—Definitions

The Convener

Amendment 30, in the name of Jamie Halcro Johnston, is in a group on its own.

Jamie Halcro Johnston

Amendment 30 seeks to clarify that “agricultural land” includes woodland that is used for grazing, and would amend the interpretation provision in section 3(1) of the 1953 act. The definition of “agricultural land” in that act is already broad. However, woodland is increasingly being used for low-density grazing, which would not have been foreseen when the act was drafted.

Forest Research, which operates as part of the Forestry Commission, has noted that

“Cattle are thought to provide biodiversity benefits in woodlands when grazed at low density since they eat dense vegetation of a low digestibility and break up vegetation mats with their hooves.”

It has highlighted that

“Because of these perceived benefits there is increasing interest in the use of cattle as a tool for nature conservation management in woodlands.”

Done well, woodland grazing is something that a range of environmental bodies, including those involved in Scotland’s forests, are working to encourage. Amendment 30 would simply put beyond doubt that “agricultural land” would include that area of increasing interest and provide woodland grazers with the same protections that are available on other types of land.

I hope that members will support my amendment.

I move amendment 30.

Maureen Watt (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

I welcome amendment 30, which is a helpful one. As Jamie Halcro Johnston said, grazing in woodlands is becoming increasingly common. That is because we know that, in many cases, bracken is a nuisance. We are not only talking about cattle grazing in woodlands, as pigs are quite good at turning up the ground in woodlands, as are wild boar and other livestock breeds. As has been said, to increase biodiversity and deliver better use of land, it is important that we agree to this amendment. I hope that everyone will support it.

Ben Macpherson

I welcome this discussion, although the amendment is probably unnecessary, as the definition of “agricultural land” in the 1953 act focuses on the use of the land in question and, if woodland is used for the purpose of grazing animals, it is likely that it would be considered to be grazing land and therefore agricultural land for the purposes of the 1953 act.

However, considering the increase in woodland planting and woodland grazing systems, which are becoming more common in Scotland—that is a good thing—I can see that the amendment might in future be helpful to confirm that woodland that is used for grazing is considered to be agricultural land for the purposes of the legislation that we are discussing today. Therefore, the Scottish Government has no objection to the amendment and welcomes the clarity that it will bring.

Emma Harper

The definition of “agricultural land” in the 1953 act includes grazing land, but what is meant by that is not expanded on. Amendment 30 would ensure that woodland that is used for grazing counts as agricultural land.

I welcome Jamie Halcro Johnston’s comments on the use of agricultural land and Maureen Watt’s comments on bracken, wild boar and pigs. I have no strong views on whether the change is needed but, if the minister and the committee believe that the change would help, I will not oppose the amendment at this stage.

Jamie Halcro Johnston

I am grateful to Maureen Watt, Emma Harper and the minister for their comments and to the minister for the “However” at the end of his comments and the recognition that the amendment provides potential future proofing for the bill. I will press amendment 30.

Amendment 30 agreed to.

Amendments 23 and 24 moved—[Emma Harper]—and agreed to.

The Convener

Amendment 25, in the name of Emma Harper, is in a group on its own.

Emma Harper

With the removal of inspection bodies provisions from the bill, it now contains only one delegated power, which is a power for the Scottish ministers to make regulations to amend the definitions in section 3(1) of the 1953 act. The bill states that such regulations

“are subject to the negative procedure.”

However, the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee recommended in its stage 1 report that the affirmative procedure be considered, given that

“The change of a definition could have an impact with regards to whether an offence has been committed”.

That recommendation was supported by the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee in its stage 1 report.

I move amendment 25.

The Convener

As no other member has indicated that they wish to speak to the amendment, we will move straight to the minister.

Ben Macpherson

I thank Emma Harper for lodging amendment 25 and explaining its purpose.

The bill allows for future changes to the definition of “livestock” and, indeed, to all other definitions that are contained in the 1953 act. Amendment 25 will ensure relevant and proportionate parliamentary scrutiny of any changes of definitions by requiring future regulations to follow the affirmative process. That is in line with the recommendations of this committee and the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee, and the Scottish Government is happy to accommodate that. I hope that members will support amendment 25.

Emma Harper

I have no further comments to make, and I am happy to press amendment 25.

Amendment 25 agreed to.

Section 6, as amended, agreed to.

Section 7—Minor and consequential amendments to the 1953 Act

The Convener

Amendment 26, in the name of Emma Harper, is in a group on its own.

Emma Harper

Amendment 26 is a minor, technical drafting amendment to section 7. Currently, the section refers only to section 1; it does not specify the act, which is made clear only in the section title. I understand that it would be normal drafting practice to specify the act in the body of the section as well as in the section title.

I move amendment 26.

The Convener

As no other member has indicated that they wish to speak to the amendment, we will move straight to the minister.

Ben Macpherson

I am happy to support amendment 26.

The Convener

I ask Emma Harper to wind up, if she needs to, and to press or seek to withdraw the amendment.

Emma Harper

There is no need to wind anybody up, convener. I am happy to press amendment 26.

The Convener

I am delighted that you are not going to wind me up.

Amendment 26 agreed to.

Section 7, as amended, agreed to.

Section 8 agreed to.

Section 9—Commencement

10:45  



Amendment 27 moved—[Emma Harper]—and agreed to.

Section 9, as amended, agreed to.

Section 10 agreed to.

Long title agreed to.

The Convener

That ends stage 2 consideration of the bill. The bill will be reprinted as amended at stage 2. I believe that it will be published tomorrow morning. The Parliament has not yet determined when stage 3 will be held. Members will be informed of that in due course along with the deadline for lodging stage 3 amendments. In the meantime, stage 3 amendments can be lodged with the clerks in the legislation team.

I formally thank Emma Harper for her attendance, but she should not disappear. I also thank the minister and Christine Grahame for their attendance. I think that Christine Grahame will now disappear to allow Emma Harper back on to the committee.

Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill as Amended at Stage 2

Additional related information on the Bill

More information on the powers the Scottish Parliament is giving Scottish Ministers to make secondary legislation related to this Bill (Revised Delegated Powers Memorandum)

Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee's report on the Bill after Stage 2 

Stage 3 - Final amendments and vote

MSPs can propose further amendments to the Bill and then vote on each of these. Finally, they vote on whether the Bill should become and Act.

Debate on the proposed amendments

MSPs get the chance to present their proposed amendments to the Chamber. They vote on whether each amendment should be added to the Bill.


Documents with the amendments to be considered at the meeting on 24 March 2021:


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Debate on proposed amendments transcript

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

The next item of business is stage 3 proceedings on the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill.

In dealing with the amendments, members should have with them the marshalled list, the bill as amended at stage 2 and the groupings of amendments. I remind members that, if we have a vote, the division bell will sound and proceedings will be suspended for five minutes. Each vote will last for one minute.

Section 6—Definitions

The Presiding Officer

Group 1 is on minor and technical amendments. Amendment 1, in the name of Emma Harper, is grouped with amendments 2 to 4.

Emma Harper (South Scotland) (SNP)

I will be happy to move amendment 1 and speak to all the amendments in the group, which are minor and technical. At stage 2, the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee agreed to an amendment that Jamie Halcro Johnston lodged whose aim was to clarify that woodland that is used for grazing was included in the definition of agricultural land. I had no strong views on whether that change was needed but, as the minister and the committee believed that the change would be helpful, I supported the amendment.

Technical issues were subsequently identified with the drafting of Mr Halcro Johnston’s amendment, and amendments 1 and 2 will rectify those deficiencies. There will be no change to the substantive effect of Mr Halcro Johnston’s amendment.

Amendment 3 will remove section 8. Section 129 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 provides a defence for anyone who has killed or injured a dog if that was done to defend livestock from attack by the dog. When the bill was being drafted, we thought that it would be sensible to amend the terminology in section 129 to be in line with the changes that we were to make to the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 and to ensure that the same definition of livestock was used in both acts.

However, it was pointed out to me at a late stage that section 129 of the 1982 act has already been repealed except to the extent that it provides a definition of livestock for the purposes of section 74 of the 1982 act, which allows people who find living creatures other than stray dogs or livestock to keep them if they are unclaimed after two months. As section 129 of the 1982 act is no longer relevant to protecting livestock, there is no need for the bill to amend it. Accordingly, section 8 of the bill can be removed.

Amendment 4 is a minor tidying-up amendment. Section 9 includes section 6(4) in the provisions that are to be commenced the day after royal assent, but section 6(4) merely provides for the parliamentary procedure for regulations that are made under the power that section 6(3) creates, and there is no point in commencing one ahead of the other.

That anomaly came about because, in the bill as introduced, section 6(4) also provided for the parliamentary procedure for regulations to appoint inspecting bodies. Once the power to make such regulations was removed at stage 2, there was no longer any need for early commencement of section 6(4). Amendment 4 will clarify the commencement timing issues.

I move amendment 1.

Jamie Halcro Johnston (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

I was going to ask Emma Harper for a little more clarification about amendment 3, but she has provided that. I thank her and the minister for their constructive approach to my vital clarification in relation to grazing. We will support all the amendments.

The Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment (Ben Macpherson)

The Scottish ministers fully support these technical amendments, which will improve the drafting of this important bill.

The Presiding Officer

That was short and sweet. Does Ms Harper wish to add anything to wind up?

Emma Harper

I am happy that the minor and technical amendments will be made and I am happy to proceed.

Amendment 1 agreed to.

Amendment 2 moved—[Emma Harper]—and agreed to.

Section 8—Consequential amendments to the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982

Amendment 3 moved—[Emma Harper]—and agreed to.

Section 9—Commencement

Amendment 4 moved—[Emma Harper]—and agreed to.

The Presiding Officer

That ends consideration of amendments.

As members might be aware, at this point in proceedings, I am required under standing orders to decide whether in my view any provision of the bill relates to a protected subject matter—that is, whether it modifies the electoral system or franchise for Scottish parliamentary elections. In my view, the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill does no such thing, so it does not require a supermajority to be passed at stage 3.

Final debate and vote on the Bill

Once they've debated the amendments, the MSPs discuss the final version of the Bill.

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Final debate and vote transcript

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Lewis Macdonald)

The next item of business is a stage 3 debate on motion S5M-24270, in the name of Emma Harper, on the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill.

Members should note that the question on the motion will be taken immediately following the conclusion of the debate.

16:30  



Emma Harper (South Scotland) (SNP)

I am weel chuffed to open the stage 3 debate on my Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill. I am pleased that the bill, which I have worked on for more than four years, has had unanimous cross-party support and is the final bill that will be passed during this parliamentary session.

The bill came about because, in my work as a member, I heard about many horrific incidents of dogs attacking sheep and kye. In pursuing those, I discovered that the current legislation, which is now 68 years old, was seriously outdated and needed to be modernised. I also discovered that incidents of livestock attack are underreported by farmers and crofters. Police Scotland said in its evidence to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee that the auld law

“has not kept pace with evolving practices within the farming industry, some terminology is outdated plus it does not provide sufficient deterrent that could influence an owner or person in charge of a dog to act with greater responsibility”.

It is now lambing season. Fields are full of pregnant ewes and new lambs and it is distressing to see photographs of carnage of sheep and lambs killed in attacks by out-of-control dogs. Those tragic incidents dramatically highlight why the bill is needed.

The bill extends the definition of “livestock” to include llamas, alpacas and buffaloes, which were not covered by the 1953 act. It also expands and modernises the definition of “worrying” to include to “chase, attack, and kill.” It also gives additional powers to the police to allow them to seize and detain a dog suspected of livestock attack on agricultural land for the purposes of identifying and securing evidence of the offence. The bill will increase the maximum penalties for that crime, bringing them in line with the animal welfare legislation introduced by the Government last year.

During the progress of the bill, we heard and saw evidence of the devastating financial and emotional impact that incidents of livestock worrying and attack can have on both animals and farmers. Those attacks continue to increase in number, as recent media reports show.

During the Covid lockdown, we have seen how important it is for our physical and mental health to be able to access our wonderful countryside, which more people are doing. I encourage everyone to spend time in nature, enjoying the benefits it gives, and to do so responsibly. I am a dog owner and I get great pleasure from accessing the countryside with my twa dugs.

The bill will make a real difference to farmers and will, I hope, help to educate everyone about the importance of keeping our dogs under control around livestock. I hope to see a year-on-year reduction in incidents of worrying and attack and a rise in responsible access to our stunning countryside.

I thank a number of people and organisations, without whom we would not be here today. I thank the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee and the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee for their scrutiny, MSP colleagues for their support, and the Scottish Government ministers Mairi Gougeon and Ben Macpherson and their officials. A huge thank you goes to Mary Dinsdale, Nick Hawthorne and Kenny Htet-Khin from the non-Government bills unit, to Charles Livingstone, the bill drafter, and to my office manager, Scott McElvanney, who has supported me from the beginning and who has helped us get to stage 3 today. More thanks will be given in my closing speech because the bill has been a real collaborative effort.

I welcome the cross-party way in which the bill has been taken forward and the suggested changes and amendments from committee members and from the Government. We have a piece of legislation that will really make a difference to farmers across Scotland and will promote responsible access to our braw and bonnie countryside, some of the best of which can be experienced in Galloway.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees that the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill be passed.

16:34  



The Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment (Ben Macpherson)

I am pleased to speak for the Scottish Government in support of this important legislation, which will do much to protect livestock all across Scotland.

I thank Emma Harper, once again, for her constructive and collaborative approach in bringing this bill to Parliament. A member’s bill does not reach this stage without significant commitment and a great deal of effort, and I know how much work Emma has put into the bill, particularly during the consultation stage, to hear from and listen to a wide spectrum of views. Scott in her parliamentary office has been essential to all that work, as have Parliament officials, particularly the Parliament’s non-Government bills unit, and Scottish Government officials, and I pay tribute to my officials for the work that they have done on the bill and more widely.

I also thank the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee for the role it has played in hearing evidence and producing helpful recommendations at stage 1. We considered the recommendations carefully, and they led to the changes that were brought in at stage 2 and a bill that now undoubtedly provides a modernised statutory framework on livestock worrying.

Scottish ministers are keen to emphasise that responsibility for investigating the criminal offence of livestock worrying shall remain solely with the police, with assistance from local authorities or the Scottish SPCA as appropriate in the circumstances.

Throughout the bill process, we have worked with key partners and stakeholders to clarify roles and responsibilities and to increase understanding about what private vets may be asked to do in relation to investigating livestock worrying incidents. As a result, I can advise Parliament that a simple protocol for vets in private practice will be drawn up, and it will be endorsed and publicised by all relevant parties, and made available to police officers.

That protocol will be available before the new powers to have dogs examined are expected to come into force later this year, and will give suitable prominence to the point that Police Scotland, as the investigating authority, will pay for any investigative work that it requests. That should reassure Peter Chapman and others who were interested in that point at stage 2.

There is no doubt that farmers and crofters care deeply about the welfare of their livestock, and the bill will help to ensure that all animals that are commonly farmed in Scotland receive the protection from attack that they deserve.

Some members might have noticed that the Scottish Government and the Scottish SPCA have been running a responsible dog ownership campaign. Although it has not been solely focused on livestock worrying, it emphasises the importance of training pet dogs correctly and reminds dog owners that they have a legal responsibility to ensure that their dog is kept under proper control in order to prevent incidents and reduce the risk of them occurring. The campaign offers dog owners practical tips and advice to ensure that they know the steps to take to prevent their dog from getting out of control and causing harm to others, including livestock.

It will be necessary to halt that campaign as we move into the pre-election period, but I hope that a future Government will consider running it again. Education is key to ending livestock worrying incidents and the associated unnecessary suffering for all concerned.

It is not often that the Government comes to a stage 3 debate with very little to say in amendments, but we had none on the bill. That is a clear signal of the bill’s success. Through members working collaboratively throughout the legislative process, we have a bill before us that is worthy of Emma Harper’s hard work and I hope that members will pass it unanimously.

Indeed, in the circumstances that we are in, I reflect on my first speech in Parliament five years ago, when I stated that we share a

“unifying hope of a better Scotland”—[Official Report, 26 May 2016; c 81.]

across all parties, perspectives and constituencies. I think we would do well to keep that in mind. This bill is a good example of how, when we work together, we can produce effective legislation and make positive change for the common good of all Scotland. I ask members to pass the bill.

16:39  



Jamie Halcro Johnston (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

I draw members’ attention to my entry in the register of members’ interests as a partner in a farming business and a member of NFU Scotland.

I am pleased, once again, to have the opportunity to speak on the bill at its final stage, and on one of the final items of business of this parliamentary session. It will, I hope, be the seventh member’s bill to pass at stage 3 in this session, and I again commend Emma Harper for guiding it through the Parliament.

This is one of the bills on which I have had the pleasure to speak at all stages, given that it came before the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee at stage 2. I was even able to add a few words to clarify the bill’s coverage of woodland grazing. The minister graciously remarked that that was both “helpful” and “probably unnecessary”, but I am pleased that that clarity is included—Scotland’s woodland grazers will rest that little bit easier in their forests, orchards and thickets once the bill is passed, as will the many other livestock farmers across our country, who the bill defends.

More seriously, in the two decades of this Parliament, members’ bills have served to get a number of important issues on to the floor of the chamber for debate and, on many occasions, effected significant change.

It is a positive feature of this Parliament that members’ bills arise. As Emma Harper set out, her bill will update legislation on livestock protection drafted in the mid-1950s. It recognises that time and context have moved on.

Although the broad principles were agreed to, this has not been an easy bill. There has been significant amendment, reflecting the findings of the stage 1 report. However, Emma Harper’s positive and consensual approach aided the process considerably.

There are two worthwhile objectives behind the bill. The first is animal welfare. At stage 1, we heard many examples of the injuries and distress that livestock can face from attacks and worrying incidents. Many of us will have direct experience of that, given that a number of farmers are represented in the chamber.

The second objective is to address the economic harm that occurs from damage to livestock. The incidents that the bill sets out to guard against can have considerable costs. We know all too well that farming today often runs on tight margins and that livestock are a valuable asset; and dog attacks can often be very distressing to livestock owners in their own right.

As I mentioned at stage 1, the bill is far from anti-dog. As a big supporter of Holyrood dog of the year, my pro-dog credentials are well known. However, too often, owners are not providing the proper control of dogs in rural areas. In some cases, that is bred by indifference; on other occasions, it is ignorance.

The Dogs Trust, in supporting the bill, has highlighted the many occasions when worrying incidents can take place without the owner present. A dog may have escaped from a garden, or been left out unaccompanied. That is why it is important that information campaigns are run, that school pupils—even in our urban communities—learn the countryside code and that everyone in our rural communities recognises the dangers that can occur. Prevention is key.

Our countryside is the heritage of everyone, and visitors are valued, but it is important that we are all sensitive to the fact that Scotland’s rural areas are not just beauty spots but the workplace for many thousands of people and bring their own risks and dangers. Understanding them, and the people who populate those parts of our country, is vital.

I will not dwell long on today’s amendments. They are largely technical changes that improve the bill and tie up loose ends from the volume of work that was undertaken in committee. However, the bill is much changed as a result of stage 2. The direction that it has taken has narrowed its scope a little but also provided considerable improvement.

The minister’s work to ensure that penalties fitted well into recent reforms to animal legislation was a welcome step. My colleague Peter Chapman, with his considerable experience, lodged important amendments around specialist veterinary care and the allocation of costs, recognising the practicalities around examinations in practice and on the ground. John Finnie made an important point in committee that much of the work will hinge on the protocols and working relationships between farmers, vets, the police and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in relation to evidence recovery. Significantly, Emma Harper’s changes reflected the considered view of the committee and the evidence that it heard.

The bill tackles a perennial issue of complaint in Scotland’s countryside, which can cause considerable harm to livestock and the people who work our land.

I, too, add my thanks to all those who have contributed to improving the bill and supporting its progress, from the people in the sector who provided evidence to our always exceptional committee and legislation teams for their work on pulling together the stage 1 report and stage 2 amendments.

The bill has reached stage 3 thanks to the positive efforts of members from all parties, in the best traditions of this Parliament. I offer again my congratulations to Emma Harper. I am pleased to say that it will have the support of the Conservatives at decision time.

16:44  



Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

The bill represents a positive step for Scotland’s agriculture sector and our animal welfare standards, so Scottish Labour is happy to support it. I thank Emma Harper for introducing it.

Although I have now passed the baton of being Scottish Labour’s rural economy spokesperson to my colleague Rhoda Grant, during my time in that position over the past three and half years, and also as a member of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee and a member who represents a large rural region, I have heard all too often about how common livestock worrying is and the devastating welfare, financial and emotional impact that it can have.

NFU Scotland has highlighted a recent survey, which found that 72 per cent of its members had been affected by livestock worrying, and the Scottish Government’s estimates suggest that each incident costs an average of almost £700. Particularly alarming are the concerns, which a number of stakeholders raised, that rates of livestock worrying are on the rise.

It is therefore clear from the evidence that more needs to be done to tackle the scourge of livestock worrying, which will involve making legislative changes. The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 is almost 50 years old and, sadly, like far too much of our animal welfare legislation, is badly in need of updating. The bill will help to deliver that improvement.

However, it is important that we get the legislation right, so I am pleased that, as the bill passed through Parliament, the member in charge, Emma Harper, took on board many of the concerns about the bill that I and other members of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee raised in our stage 1 report. The bill was much improved during stage 2 and, as a result, I am pleased that we have been able to get to a position where it seems that all parties can not only vote for it but do so with confidence that it will help to deliver the robust legal context that is needed.

I hope that the bill will be a first step towards making meaningful progress in reducing the rates of livestock worrying. However, of course, prevention is always better than punishment, and the passing of the bill must be a starting point for consideration of what more needs to be done to tackle the issue more widely. A key aspect of that must be a strong awareness campaign that will communicate not only the specific effects of the new laws but the seriousness of livestock worrying in general, and the practical steps that can be taken to avoid it.

Indeed, in her response to the committee’s stage 1 report, Emma Harper noted:

“in most cases incidents of livestock worrying and attack are likely not premeditated and often lack ... intent to cause harm.”

A number of stakeholders also made that point as the bill made its way through Parliament. The National Dog Warden Association (Scotland) said:

“Most dog owners do not believe their dog is likely to attack sheep and are shocked and distraught after the event.”

Battersea Dogs & Cats Home pointed out that livestock worrying often occurs when the owner is not even present. Changing the law will not tackle that, but raising awareness of livestock worrying and how to prevent it might help.

The laws introduced in the bill and in the 1953 act are undoubtedly needed, but our aim needs to be that they are used as seldom as possible. That will mean having a strong awareness-raising campaign to accompany the bill, and longer-term measures such as consistent education and improved infrastructure and signage. In order to understand the issue and monitor our progress in tackling it, we will also need more information on the scale of the problem.

Dogs Trust has highlighted that issue, pointing out:

“By working to better understand the problem, we believe it will be possible to undertake targeted proactive measures that aim to result in the prevention of worrying, therefore protecting the welfare of livestock more robustly.”

Stakeholders from a range of backgrounds also highlighted how underreporting and inconsistent data collection make it difficult to get a clear idea of just how common the problem is. That will need to be addressed if we are to ensure that the new laws and any related measures are working as intended.

Finally, although I am pleased that this particular issue is now being addressed, I am disappointed that it is not happening as part of a wider review of dog control laws. A comprehensive review of such laws is badly needed and I hope will be progressed in the next parliamentary session.

I am pleased to be voting in favour of the bill. I congratulate Emma Harper on her work in getting it to this point and also everyone who has been involved in developing and improving it throughout the process. That is a welcome change, which has seen cross-party support that will provide farmers and crofters with reassurance that the issue of livestock worrying is being taken seriously by all parties. It is also another small step in progress to improve Scotland’s animal welfare regime. However, there is still an awful lot more to do.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I call Mike Rumbles, who will be making his final speech in the Parliament.

16:49  



Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD)

I, too, congratulate Emma Harper on introducing the bill. It will be good to get it passed before the session ends. It will be at the last minute, but that will still be good.

My one major concern about the bill has been addressed. It centred on the initial intention to give the police the power to search non-domestic premises without a warrant. That was the second time in this parliamentary session that that idea had appeared in legislation; the first time was in the Government’s UEFA European Championship (Scotland) Bill. I thank in particular the minister, Ben Macpherson, for looking at that in this second bill. Thankfully, on both occasions it was recognised that the provision would have overridden historical safeguards in our common law that were designed to protect people by not allowing authorities to search people’s property without first obtaining evidence of a crime. Thank goodness that common sense prevailed, but it shows that vigilance is always required from MSPs when they examine legislation from the Government, from committees or from individual MSPs.

Presiding Officer, if you will indulge me for a moment, considering that this is my last speech in Parliament, I will make a general comment on the work of MSPs. Since I was first elected some 22 years ago, I have seen a marked change in, if I may say so, the independence of mind of my MSP colleagues—across the board; I am not leaving anybody out—when it comes to voting in the Scottish Parliament. We have collectively become far more tribal and more “My party, right or wrong”. I would urge those colleagues who are returned at the election to consider this. It is fine when the following three elements are aligned—your own values and beliefs, the interests of your constituents, and your party’s leadership decisions. Unfortunately, in politics, those do not always neatly align.

For me, the most important of those three elements is remaining true to the values and beliefs that brought you to Parliament in the first place, especially when considering which way to vote at decision time and it is everybody’s decision. The one example that I will give of what I mean is when we had the vote on closing our churches during the pandemic. Today’s judgment from Lord Braid ruled that the move was unconstitutional, disproportionate, and consequently unlawful, yet how many colleagues voted against their better judgment? Only five of us voted against our own parties’ position on it, and every party’s decision was to support the Government’s position on closing down the churches. Therefore, my message to returning MSPs is simply this: value your own judgment, and always do what you believe is the right thing.

Presiding Officer, you can see why my party leaders over the years—Jim Wallace, Nicol Stephen, Tavish Scott and now Willie Rennie—have not had an easy time from me. I thank them for their forbearance. On that point, I end my 17 years of contributions to parliamentary debate.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Thank you, Mr Rumbles. I call John Finnie, who is also making his final speech in Parliament.

16:52  



John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

Like others before me, I would like to thank everyone who has brought us to this point in the bill, and to congratulate Emma Harper, who has worked extremely hard over four years, as we have heard. Success will arrive in a very short time—the bill will achieve the success that it deserves.

Within the past fortnight, in Sutherland, just north of me here, there was a serious incident in which five sheep were killed and other beasts traumatised, as would be the owners, the neighbours and the police who are investigating the incident. As a young police officer in the 1980s, I was called to a scene of carnage, in which many sheep were killed and numerous others were injured and required to be humanely destroyed. At the request of the dogs’ owners—good folk, whom I knew—I assisted the good vet, whom I knew, to put down dogs that I knew, so I am acutely aware of the wider implications of an incident like that in a rural community.

As has been said, legislation on its own will not stop livestock worrying, but this enhanced legislation, which includes new protection for my dear friends the camelids—I am a big alpaca fan—is needed and will help. Education is the key, so I welcome the recent Scottish Government social media campaign that the minister alluded to. This is entirely about responsible ownership. Scottish Greens will support the bill at decision time tonight.

I hope that the Presiding Officer will indulge me, as she did Mr Rumbles before me. Tha mi às na Cluainean, baile beag snog air taobh Loch Lòchaidh faisg air a’ Ghearsdan. For that reason, it has been a real honour to represent the Highlands and Islands in the Parliament. I thank the constituents for the privilege to do so.

The day after I was elected in 2011, I arrived at the Parliament building for the very first time with my former colleague Dave Thompson MSP. We were greeted with a smile by the security officer and we immediately met Paul Grice, the chief executive, and had a blether. From that day to this, that is the way that engagement has been with the parliamentary staff. I take this opportunity to thank the present chief executive, David McGill, and each and every one of the parliamentary staff for their courtesy and assistance, and likewise the Scottish Government officials.

I have enjoyed my parliamentary work and particularly helping constituents. To that end, I could not have been better served than by Linda Wilson in my constituency office throughout both sessions. Linda’s courteous and engaging manner has been invaluable in our helping countless constituents, and she can be very proud of the support that she has given the communities of the Highlands and Islands. Thanks, too, to past employees Richard, Pauline and Gary, and to Kevin and more recently Liam, both real wordsmiths, who have been of great help to me.

My long-suffering office manager, Steven Dehn, has been with me since the start in 2011 and has tirelessly kept me on course with all things parliamentary. Steven was pivotal in the progression of the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill into law and we are both very proud of being part of the big team behind the bill. I value my staff and will be for ever in their debt.

I value our Parliament, too. In the relatively short time for which it has been in place, it has brought great progress to our country. I always want to be forward looking and positive. However, I must say that I have been dismayed and indeed angered by those, particularly of late, who have sought to undermine our Parliament and our institutions for their own shabby ends.

Fortunately, session 5 of the Parliament will be remembered not for their wrecking crew’s activities but for progressive legislation such as the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, the Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Bill, the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act 2021 and many other pieces of legislation including—dare I say it?—my bill that became the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act 2019, without which the historic United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill would not have been possible.

Soon, I hope, our Parliament will have to raise its horizons even further, our magnificent chamber resonating to new voices and wider issues, with debates about Scotland’s foreign policy, Scotland’s defence policy and all the powers that are in the meantime held elsewhere. I believe that it is a matter of when, rather than if, Scotland takes its place at the United Nations as an independent nation and rejoins our European friends.

Like many, I have spent the past year working entirely from home. I thank my wife of 45 years, Bernadette, for her endless support and forbearance. Perhaps there will be one final debrief for her after today’s events, following which I promise that there will be no more running commentaries on the political business of the day.

In a year like no other, I thank all those who have helped our communities in whatever capacity, and I pay tribute to the Presiding Officer, Ken Macintosh; the Deputy Presiding Officers; the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Jeane Freeman; and our First Minister for their leadership.

I thank my dear Green colleagues and our super Green staff. Indeed, I thank colleagues across the chamber, past and present, for their camaraderie. I wish those who are standing down healthy and less-demanding days ahead. New members are coming, and I am delighted that our Parliament will welcome more women. I hope that my successor as lead candidate, the talented Ariane Burgess, my dear friend Gillian Mackay, and indeed my daughter Ruth Maguire, of whom I am very proud, will be among that growing number.

However, no matter how the next Parliament is configured, I wish everyone well in discharging their sworn duty of public service. Presiding Officer, one last time, mòran taing a-h-uile duine agus tioraidh.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Mòran taing, Maighstir Finnie.

We move to the open debate. I ask for three-minute speeches, please.

16:58  



Christine Grahame (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)

I can see people around the chamber timing me before I even start. [Laughter.] I wish John Finnie and Mike Rumbles well, and I particularly thank the cabinet secretary, Roseanna Cunningham. I believe that this will be her final speech. A few of the ’99ers are left. I am struggling on and I hope to be returned. They will need to shoot me like an old horse. [Laughter.]

Anyway, I am pleased to speak in this debate on Emma Harper’s bill, not only as convener of the cross-party group on animal welfare but as someone whose constituency straddles farms in Midlothian and the Borders, and as a colleague who substituted for Emma Harper on the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee during the evidence sessions. I commend Edward Mountain for trying to chair me. It is a difficult job.

I also speak as someone who has introduced members’ bills in previous sessions, sometimes with success, such as with the bill that became the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010. Therefore, I know how tough it is for a member to get this far and how long it takes, even with the excellent expertise of the non-Government bills unit. The fact that Emma Harper has, I think, been progressing her bill since 2017 shows that it is a very long gestation.

The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill addresses the horrendous issue of the worrying and savaging of farmed livestock by unattended or out-of-control dogs. Worrying carries a high welfare risk for livestock, and there are fatalities. The impact on farmers is not only financial, in the form of veterinary costs and the cost of replacing lost animals; perhaps the most significant effect is the emotional impact of having to deal with half-dead and mutilated dying animals.

The dog is not to blame, and the majority of dog owners walk their animals responsibly in all environments. A farm is a working environment. As usual, it is the minority—either through ignorance or wilfully—who let their dogs run wild. The proposed increase in the penalty available to a maximum fine of £40,000 and/or up to 12 months’ imprisonment is long overdue. Indeed, with the upsurge in dog ownership during Covid, the bill could not be timelier. Its penalties are important, and I hope that, as well as reflecting the culpability of the dog owner, they will act as a deterrent. The bill should be a vehicle to educate dog owners on their responsibilities in the working countryside.

I have two asks of the Scottish Government in the event that the bill is passed, as I hope it will be, at decision time: first, that the bill receives from the Government the publicity that it gives to its own bills—I have been banging on about that for years; secondly, that we at last have a national database that is linked to the existing microchip data on Scotland’s dog population, which brings together dog control notices and offences under the bill. In that way, serial offending owners will not be able to dodge being identified.

Finally, I offer many congratulations to my colleague Emma Harper on what I hope will be a well-earned success at decision time.

I have five seconds left, Presiding Officer.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

That was a very timely contribution.

17:02  



Claudia Beamish (South Scotland) (Lab)

I have been frantically trying to cut my speech from four to three minutes, Presiding Officer; I will do my best.

I thank Emma Harper for introducing the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill. What a lot of work for all involved! I am keenly aware of how necessary the bill is. Much of the South Scotland area that I and Emma Harper represent is rural, so the worrying of livestock by dogs is an issue that is regularly raised by many constituents, especially those who are members of the farming community.

I regularly meet the NFUS, and the issue is never far from the agenda. Jen Craig, who is the chair of the National Sheep Association Scotland and the NFUS Clydesdale branch, farms in my region and has expressed real concern about the situation. She said:

“Dog worrying and attacks on livestock is a problem that is becoming more frequent and in many cases more severe. Not only are the livestock suffering but so are the farmers and stocksmen and women who care for them and have to witness these incidents.”

She added that it is not the dog’s fault—I completely agree with that—and went on to say:

“It’s the 5 second decision that the owner makes to not put their dog on a lead that can lead to these horrific incidents.”

Tom French, a former chair of the NFUS in my region of Forth and Clyde, who is a good friend and a farmer in Crawfordjohn, told me:

“very often the distress caused to the animals themselves, as they are chased can be overlooked, and not appreciated or even recognised by those whom the dogs are supposed to be under the control of.”

He has also heard of people who think that their dog is just “having fun” as an attack is under way. He added that such behaviour is irresponsible and is one of the reasons that some farmers are understandably cautious and worried about the anticipated increase in the number of members of the public who will take access in the future.

However, the benefits to wellbeing that the outdoors brings should be encouraged, and I fully support the work of organisations such as Paths for All and Healthy Valleys in Clydesdale, which runs successful dementia walks in my area. Those organisations provide wonderful opportunities for people to experience the pleasures that walks can bring, and the people who go on those walks often take their well-behaved pets with them—they are very welcome.

I am proud of Scottish Labour’s introduction of the bill that became the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, which gave people the statutory right to roam, but that right comes with public responsibility. If Emma Harper’s bill is passed, as I am sure it will be, it will serve as a tangible reminder of that responsibility to all concerned.

17:04  



Clare Adamson (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)

On their final day, I offer congratulations to all members who are leaving and to Mike Rumbles and John Finnie in particular for their contributions. I offer a special thanks to the Lanarkshire lassies. In 2011, I joined a very elite group that included Linda Fabiani, Christina McKelvie, Aileen McLeod and Aileen Campbell—formidable women, one and all. They have been my mentors, friends and support, and I wish Ms Campbell and Ms Fabiani the very best for the future.

I move from the Lanarkshire lassies to our Galloway lass, Emma Harper. I congratulate her on the bill’s progress, which demonstrates the commitment to animal welfare that she has shown throughout her time in the Parliament. There was a timely reminder today of the important work that she has done in conjunction with the SSPCA after another family was left devastated by a pup dying within six days of being purchased from a puppy farm. I note that the SSPCA has been involved with work on the bill from the start. That has been a great partnership, which Ms Harper established. I thank the SSPCA for its contribution to the bill.

I thank Mr Macpherson for his comments about dog ownership. Owning a dog is a wonderful experience—it is one of the most wonderful things that a family can do—but it comes with the huge responsibility of ensuring that our dogs are under control at all times. I have been struck many times by the number of people I know who are surprised by their dog’s behaviour. We have to educate people about that. Dogs are animals and they have an instinct when they engage with wildlife, whether that is in our countryside or gardens or even on our shorelines—I note the recent attack on a seal, which the dog owner did not expect to happen. That is why education is key, and I thank charities such as the SSPCA, the Dogs Trust and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home for the support that they give dog owners.

I thank Mr Halcro Johnston for noting that we live in a shared environment: what is, for some, a walkway for an afternoon stroll may be owned by a commercial organisation, and those spaces have to be respected.

It is important to note that the bill covers all our livestock, including llamas, sheep and alpacas, which Ms Harper mentioned earlier. I will finish by saying that if my good friend and colleague Rob Gibson was still an MSP, I am sure that he would say that it even extends to the buffalo on the farm in Achiltibuie.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

John Scott will make a brief contribution before we move to closing speeches.

17:08  



John Scott (Ayr) (Con)

Thank you for your indulgence, Presiding Officer. I have very little to say except to welcome the passage of the bill and declare an interest—[Interruption.] I thank the cabinet secretary for her sedentary intervention.

I declare an interest as a sheep farmer and I give a heartfelt welcome to Emma Harper’s bill, having twice had my in-lamb ewes worried by dogs. There is no worse sight than ewes with their throats ripped open and stomachs burst and dead lambs lying around. Owners of dogs do not appear to care or understand the damage that they have done, not just to the dead and dying animals but to the whole of the surviving flock, leading to subsequent abortions and hypoglycaemic ewes.

I am delighted that the bill has been introduced by Emma Harper and I wish it every success.

17:09  



Rhoda Grant (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Like others, I congratulate Emma Harper on introducing the bill. I pay tribute to Mike Rumbles and John Finnie on their final speeches, and to you, Presiding Officer, as this is also your last meeting in the Parliament.

I am really pleased that Emma Harper introduced the bill. Even this short debate has shown the devastation that can be caused by dogs chasing animals such as sheep. Pregnant ewes can abort their lambs, as Emma Harper said.

Livestock worrying is absolutely distressing to animals. Claudia Beamish talked about owners thinking that their dogs are just having fun—that it is just what dogs do. However, the livestock are being absolutely terrorised. If the owner saw another animal terrorising their dog, they would see the distress that can be caused. There is no hierarchy of animals.

Dogs can kill sheep, as John Scott said. He painted a very vivid picture of what a farmer or crofter sees during sheep worrying incidents. It is devastating and absolutely heart-breaking, because such incidents involve somebody’s animals—animals that they have cared for. It can also be costly, with people losing a huge amount of money.

Colin Smyth told us that most dog owners do not know that their dogs are likely to attack sheep. They are quite often shocked and disturbed by that, and they cannot understand how their dogs will react in such situations. As Clare Adamson said, some dogs have a built-in instinct to immediately start chasing sheep when they see them, which can lead to animals being bitten and killed.

Claudia Beamish highlighted that a lot more people are going out into the country, which means that sheep worrying is becoming a lot more common. As Colin Smyth mentioned, the NFUS said that 72 per cent of their members—a huge number of farmers—are affected by sheep worrying. The NFUS also said that the average cost is £700. If we add up each incident, we can see that it comes to a huge sum of money—money that is lost not just to individuals, but to the rural economy.

I support what Colin Smyth said about data. We will not be able to see how the bill is working unless we gather the data about the incidents that occur and how they are dealt with.

Many members spoke about the important issue of awareness raising. The Government has said that it is taking that on and is making good investment in it, and that needs to continue. We need to make sure that people understand how their dogs will react in such situations. There needs to be education for those using the countryside, to make sure that they keep their dogs on a lead while out in the fields. Those fields might seem just to be wide open spaces in which their dogs can run, but people need to be very careful about what is being farmed in them. Fields can also be dangerous for dogs: cattle can turn on dogs and their owners, which can be absolutely terrifying not only for the dog but for the owner. People could be putting their own lives in danger.

I welcome Police Scotland having the role of policing livestock worrying. It should not be down to individual farmers.

I very much welcome the bill. I pay tribute to Emma Harper. I know that it is not easy to introduce a member’s bill—it takes a lot of hard work, so I say well done. The bill will make a difference.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I call Peter Chapman, who is also making his final speech.

17:13  



Peter Chapman (North East Scotland) (Con)

Let me remind the chamber for the last time that my entry in the register of interests states that I am a member of a farming partnership. As you say, Presiding Officer, it is the last time that I need to say that because, as most folks know, I am standing down from Parliament. As such, I beg some latitude from you, Presiding Officer, for my closing remarks, and maybe a wee bit more time.

I must address Emma Harper’s Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill. Of course, I welcome the bill and the extra protection that it gives our farmers from attacks on their livestock by out-of-control dogs. Emma deserves a great deal of credit for successfully driving the bill to completion before recess, and I have no doubt that it will become law at decision time. Normally I would say much more, but as the bill has cross-party support and this is my final speech, I would like to cover some other issues that are important to me.

It is important that I say thank you to the many folk who have supported me in the past five years. My loyal staff here and in my Aberdeen office have been tremendous, and so have all the people who are sometimes forgotten but make such a difference to our lives and our ability to do our jobs. I am talking about the folks in the Scottish Parliament information centre, our committee clerks and their teams, the information technology support staff, the security staff, the canteen workers, and the people in human resources and allowances. The list goes on. They all, without fail, do their jobs professionally, politely and with a smile. They are a great bunch of people, and they should be proud of their dedication to doing their best.

I wish that I could be equally complimentary about other people and other things that go on in the Parliament. Of course I cannot, because there is something sinister and worrying going on that is undermining the very credibility of the Parliament. It is, unfortunately, being perpetrated by the Scottish National Party—the very party that likes to tell us that we should respect Parliament.

We have a First Minister who is determined to hang on to power and whom we know has misled Parliament. If she had a shred of self-awareness or honour, she would already have resigned, but she will not. [Interruption.] Our first First Minister, Donald Dewar, was a truly honourable man—

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I will stop you, Mr Chapman. There is a little disorder in the chamber. I encourage you to confine your remarks to the usual finishing remarks in a final speech.

Peter Chapman

I hear what you say, Presiding Officer, but—as I said—some of these issues are, to my mind, very important, so I wish to make the points, as I have stated I would.

Donald Dewar must be turning in his grave seeing the damage that the Administration has done to the integrity and standing of our Parliament. The Parliament was launched with such high expectations that we would do politics better. The Sturgeon-Salmond scandal has discredited our Parliament and highlighted a fatal weakness in our ability to hold the party in power to account. We have seen the SNP Administration wilfully ignore a series of votes that it has lost and wilfully ignore requests for information that was promised by our First Minister to the investigating committee at the outset.

Democracy is a fragile flower. Without proper scrutiny and the ability to hold a Government to account, our democracy is at risk.

The Administration is mired in scandal and failure on many fronts. No issue is more serious than the decline in our education system. Our education system was once the envy of the world. After 14 years of SNP rule, it is but a shadow of its former self. Nicola Sturgeon has said on many occasions that we should judge her on education. We have, and she has failed miserably.

On a lighter note, one of the maist memorable speeches I hiv delivered in the last five years was the ane I did in my ain north-east tongue—the Doric. Fin I pit it on the Facebook, it wint viral, an I hiv hid aboot twa hunner an sivinty thoosan hits fae aa ower the world. At jist gings tae show hoo important the Scots language is tae sae mony folk an foo important it is tae wir heritage an wir culture.

I wid love tae see wir Scots language pit on an equal fittin wi Gaelic an get the same level o support an fundin as Gaelic gets. In my mind, it is jist as important. It wid be great if the mony fantastic poems written in the Doric, for instance, cwid be taught in schools, bit thankfully wir Doric winna be forgotten fin I leave becis Mark Findlater is fechtin the Banff an Buchan seat instead o me, an he is a native spicker an jist as passionate aboot it as I am.

In conclusion, I have had only five years in my role as an MSP. It has been a great experience, and I have made many new friends but, frankly, I leave disillusioned with what the Parliament has become, and concerned about the future of my country.

Another five years of an SNP Administration with an overall majority, and without the ability to hold it to account, fills me with dread. Another divisive independence referendum is the last thing that this country needs just now, and I passionately hope that we can prevent that from happening. I promise that I will be doing my bit up to election day to return as many Conservative MSPs as possible, because a balanced Parliament will be a better Parliament.

17:20  



The Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (Roseanna Cunningham)

On the last day of the current parliamentary session, it seems fitting that we are considering a member’s bill that has strong cross-party support and addresses a matter that is of serious concern to everyone who has an interest in animal welfare. I warmly congratulate my colleague Emma Harper on her successful initiative.

Improving the lives of Scotland’s animals is something to which I am strongly committed. Despite having to deal with the extreme pressures of European Union exit and the Covid pandemic, this Government has still been able to deliver many groundbreaking and innovative improvements in that area. Therefore, I am happy to commend the bill to members.

This will be my last speech in the chamber—well, my last in my elected capacity. This time comes to us all, sometimes without warning, so I count myself lucky to have been able to make the decision to retire at a time of my choosing.

I confess to the occasional bewildering thought about how it all came to this. In 1967, as a 15-year-old living in Australia, I wrote to the SNP after the Hamilton by-election, and the party wrote back. I still have the package of booklets and leaflets, although they are a little out of date now. Approximately five minutes later—or so it seems—I am standing here making a valedictory speech in a Scottish Parliament. It has been the most extraordinary experience, a great privilege and, of course, a matter of some pride. Only the achievement of independence itself will top that for me.

I say this in the spirit in which I hoped all valedictory speeches would have been made. Not everyone knows about it, but in the early years of the Parliament, there was an informal cross-party back-bench dining group. In those years, some enduring friendships emerged, including my friendship with John Scott. John was an active diner and will remember the great fun we had. The ease with which he and I have been able to negotiate our way through some tricky policy issues in the intervening years is, I suspect, a consequence of that early period.

Tavish Scott, who left us during the session, was also an enthusiastic diner. When Liam McArthur was elected, Tavish pulled him into the same relationship—usually assisted by prosecco, it has to be said—although Liam’s cross-chamber texts are not quite as wicked as Tavish’s were.

I have to apologise to Anas Sarwar. Pre-lockdown, I said that I would make him a rhubarb and ginger cake, which I have singularly failed to deliver, thereby allowing him to say with authority that nationalists do not keep their promises.

There are many others whom I could have named—members who were here in the early years and who have left before now. However, I hope that the point that I am making is clear: the capacity to forge relationships in this place should not be confined to party groups.

I give huge thanks to all the people who have worked for me over the years, up to and including my current constituency staff—Emma, Carroll, Sheena and, of course, Calum, who has been with me from the very start. I also thank all the officials and staff, both parliamentary and Government, who have supported me, including innumerable members of my various private offices over the past 12 years.

I give a special shout out to all the wonderful Government car drivers, who provide ministers with mobile offices and/or decompression chambers on a regular basis.

Most of all, I give my thanks and abiding love to all my amazing SNP colleagues throughout those years—everyone from the best First Minister that Scotland has ever had, whom I first met when she was 17 years old, to all the newer members who came in after 2016.

However, I have special words for my very good and long-time pal John Swinney, who cannot be in the chamber today. He was 19 when I first met him. We have been the Perthshire double act for so long that it seems strange to bring it to a close. I make the point that Perthshire is the most beautiful part of Scotland. I sneaked into the House of Commons a few years before John, and I am sneaking out of the Scottish Parliament some years before him, too. He has been a friend and, often, a confidant for decades, throughout which we have fought for, and continue to fight for, independence for Scotland. That is what motivated the 15-year-old me, and it motivates me still.

I believe that I am right in saying that I am currently the longest-serving parliamentary representative in Scotland. As I leave, I pass the baton to John, and I wish him so well in the next years of his career.

With that, Presiding Officer, I bid the chamber farewell. [Applause.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I call Emma Harper to respond to the debate and to wind up.

17:26  



Emma Harper

In closing, I have additional people to thank. More than 600 people responded to my consultation in full, and I appreciate the time and input from members of the public. Many organisations have been involved, as well, including the National Sheep Association in Scotland. Claudia Beamish mentioned Jen Craig, who has been helpful in giving evidence to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, as well as away from the committee—as has the previous chair of the association, John Fyall. Those organisations also include NFU Scotland, the Scottish SPCA, The Scottish Farmer, Scottish Land & Estates, NatureScot, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, the Dogs Trust, OneKind, the Scottish Outdoor Access Network, the Kennel Club, Blue Cross and many others.

I give special thanks to Inspector Alan Dron, who is the national rural crime co-ordinator, and his team, which includes Willie Johnstone, Allan McKean fae Dumfries, and Constable John Cowan from Police Scotland in Dumfries and Galloway. The support from the Scottish partnership against rural crime has been phenomenal, and its knowledge and input have been gratefully received.

I welcome what the minister, Ben Macpherson, said during the debate as he announced a modernised statutory framework for livestock worrying and a simple protocol that will support veterinarians in their work.

I agree with Colin Smyth that prevention and education are key—as with the Government’s responsible owner advice that I have been seeing on the internet in the past few days. We know that increasing awareness is needed to accompany the bill. However, Police Scotland has said that the current law does not provide sufficient deterrent that could influence an owner to act with greater responsibility. Christine Grahame said that nobody takes their dog out with an intent to attack sheep, alpacas, llamas, buffalo or whatever livestock is in our Scottish fields these days. I thank everyone who spoke in the debate.

I appreciated Jamie Halcro Johnston’s amendment at stage 2; we just needed to tweak it a wee bit today.

Clare Adamson also spoke in the debate, as did Mike Rumbles and John Finnie—both of whom I wish well for the future, as those were their last contributions.

Work will continue. We know that the Scottish partnership against rural crime is continuing to engage and that Scotland’s Rural College has sheep fitbit technology that can alert farmers when livestock are disturbed. It disnae just stop here.

I welcome the fact that Roseanna Cunningham has closed the debate on behalf of the Government with her valedictory speech. Again, I am chuffed that that was about my bill.

Gail Ross (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)

Will the member take an intervention?

Emma Harper

Of course I will.

Gail Ross

It would be remiss of me not to personally thank Emma Harper for all the hard work that she has put into the bill. It is a fitting end to our parliamentary session, and I have been privileged to work with her on it. I thank her on behalf of people such as Joyce Campbell, Sally Crowe and all my constituents in Caithness, Sutherland and Ross.

Emma Harper

I thank Gail Ross for that. It is very fitting that she mentions Sally Crowe and Joyce Campbell. I know that they will be keen to hear that we are—as I hope—passing this bill tonight.

Again, I thank everyone who has contributed to this updated legislation to support oor farmers—including Joyce, Sally and other farmers in Dumfries and Galloway—and crofters, to protect livestock and to support responsible access to oor bonnie countryside when folk are oot wi their dogs.

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

We will move to the vote on the bill. Before that, however, I suspend the meeting for a technical break to allow members to access the voting app.

17:31 Meeting suspended.  



17:35 On resuming—  



The Presiding Officer

We will go straight to the vote. The question is, that motion S5M-24270, in the name of Emma Harper, on the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, be agreed to. Members may cast their votes now. This will be a one-minute division.

For

Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Allan, Dr Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Balfour, Jeremy (Lothian) (Con)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Reform)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Davidson, Ruth (Edinburgh Central) (Con)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Gougeon, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Harris, Alison (Central Scotland) (Con)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Hyslop, Fiona (Linlithgow) (SNP)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Lindhurst, Gordon (Lothian) (Con)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Marra, Jenny (North East Scotland) (Lab)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
Mason, Tom (North East Scotland) (Con)
Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
McDonald, Mark (Aberdeen Donside) (Ind)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
McMillan, Stuart (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
Mountain, Edward (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
Paterson, Gil (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Rowley, Alex (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Russell, Michael (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)
Sarwar, Anas (Glasgow) (Lab)
Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Sturgeon, Nicola (Glasgow Southside) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Tomkins, Adam (Glasgow) (Con)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)
Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)
Wishart, Beatrice (Shetland Islands) (LD)
Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)

The Presiding Officer

The result of the vote is: For 120, Against 0, Abstentions 0.

Motion agreed to,

That the Parliament agrees that the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill be passed.

The Presiding Officer

As the motion has been agreed to, the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill is passed. [Applause.]

I hand the chair to my Deputy Presiding Officer, Linda Fabiani, for the next item.

Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill as passed

This Bill was passed on 24 March 2021 and became an Act on 5 May 2021

Find the Act on legislation.gov.uk

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