A SENIOR Scottish Tory MSP is facing calls to “firmly distance herself” from a fox hunting group at the centre of a police probe.
The controversial Lauderdale Hunt – which Rachael Hamilton has close ties to – was allegedly filmed allowing a pack of hounds to pursue a fox across a field last month.
Campaigners have raised concerns the incident broke the law, while Green MSP Alison Johnstone, who accompanied the League Against Cruel Sports to observe the hunt, said she was left in no doubt that current legislation is failing to protect wildlife.
The SNP said Ms Hamilton now has “serious questions” to answer.
A spokesman said: “Rachael Hamilton’s fox hunting connections are well known and it’s not the first time the Lauderdale Hunt has faced serious allegations of breaking the law.
“And now the activities of this group have been witnessed first-hand by an MSP and, once again, reported to the police.
“Rachael Hamilton has some serious questions to answer. Has she ever taken in part in an illegal hunt? Is she aware of illegal hunting by the Lauderdale Hunt?
“And will she firmly distance herself from this group while the police investigate these reports?”
Police confirmed they are examining the latest incident, which is alleged to have taken place on November 20.
Campaigners said footage showed hounds chasing a fox across an open field with no guns in sight.
Fox hunting has been banned in Scotland since 2002. However, a loophole allows foxes to be driven from cover using dogs before being shot.
Ms Johnstone, who observed the Lauderdale Hunt alongside campaigners, said she saw a fox “running for its life, pursued by a pack of dogs”.
The MSP added: “The mounted hunt followed after them, and I was left in no doubt that the current law is failing to protect our wildlife.
“Hunting with dogs was meant to have been banned in Scotland in 2002, but this clearly has not worked.”
Ms Hamilton, the Scottish Tory’s shadow culture secretary, has ridden with the Lauderdale and Duke of Buccleuch hunts, while her husband Billy says he manages the Lauderdale group on his Facebook page.
The Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP said she was not present on November 20, and declined to comment.
Members of both the Lauderdale and Buccleuch hunts have previously been accused of flouting rules.
A spokeswoman for the Lauderdale Hunt said it “operates within the law to comply with the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002”.
She added: “Hunts are regularly subjected to spurious allegations regarding their legal hunting activities. Any evidence of illegal activity should be reported to the police and investigated through the proper channels.”
A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “Police in the Borders received a report of an incident relating to fox hunting in the Gordon area on Tuesday 20 November.
“It was reported on Wednesday 21 November and inquiries are ongoing into the full circumstances.”
Source : The Heard