Scotland politics

Bid for SNP conference to debate dog tail docking

working dog Image copyright PA
Image caption Ministers say working dogs are at an increased risk of injury if they do not have their tails docked

SNP activists are mounting a campaign for the party to reintroduce the ban on tail docking of dogs in Scotland.

The outright ban on tail docking was relaxed in June when MSPs backed a change to existing laws - but the vote saw splits in the governing party.

A bid has now been mounted to get the issue on the agenda for the SNP conference in Glasgow.

Councillor Chris McEleny said branches across the country were backing his campaign to recall the decision.

He has also won the support of MSP Christine Grahame - the only SNP member to actually vote against the move - and the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

'Proportional' changes

The Scottish government brought in an outright ban - the only one of its kind in the UK - in 2007 as part of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act.

The amendment agreed at Holyrood added exemptions for two specific breeds of working dogs - spaniels and hunt point retrievers - which can be at increased risk of injury while working on hunts. The change applies only to the final third of the tail.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham argued the move was "proportional", conceding that tail shortening was "briefly painful" but saying it was nothing compared to the injuries suffered by some working dogs later in life.

Nine SNP MSPs abstained in the final vote, with Ms Grahame voting against it, but the government ultimately won out with backing from the Conservatives and some Lib Dems.

The move was also backed by Holyrood's environment committee, although that was also a split decision.

Image copyright Chris McEleny
Image caption Chris McEleny - pictured at a previous conference - wants the full tail docking ban reintroduced

Mr McEleny, who is the leader of the SNP group on Inverclyde council and who stood for the party's deputy leadership in 2016, wants a debate to be added to the agenda for the three-day conference.

He said: "One of the benefits of a policy conference is that it gives ordinary members of the party the opportunity to set the political direction of our party. It is for elected representatives to then follow that direction.

"It is clear to me that many SNP members, supporters and indeed people across the country do not agree that tail docking should be introduced.

"This is a topical issue and I think that we should give party members the opportunity to voice their opinion and as a party we should have an informed debate that lets us set our view on it."

'Backward step'

Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn backed the idea of reinstating the ban, saying that "no dog should have its tail docked for any reason other than immediate veterinary need".

He added: "We do not agree with the recent change in Scottish law and believe it was a backward step for animal welfare in Scotland."

The main agenda for the conference, which begins on Sunday, October 8, has now been published.

It includes resolutions on public sector pay restraint, Brexit, the military age of recruitment and the devolution of immigration powers.

Mr McEleny wants tail docking added as a member's choice motion, which delegates at the conference could select for debate.

The text of the motion - backed by the SNP groups on Edinburgh and Inverclyde councils alongside local branches in areas including Stonehaven, Rosyth, Arbroath and Ballochmyle - notes that conference "does not support the decision" to permit some tail docking.

It then "calls on the Scottish government to review this decision and maintain the ban on tail docking in Scotland".

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