Scottish Animal Welfare Commission: review of Scottish Government activity affecting the welfare of animals, as sentient beings

Review of Scottish Government activity affecting the welfare of animals, as sentient beings, by the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission (SAWC).

2. Scottish Government - Programmes for Government

Session 5 of the Scottish Parliament ran from 12 May 2016 – 5 May 2021. During that period, the Scottish Government issued a Programme for Government each September setting out its commitments for the coming year. All of these Programmes for Government contained proposals for measures relevant to animal welfare.

2016 – 2017 A Plan for Scotland

In the 2016 - 2017 Programme for Government, the Scottish Government announced its intention to introduce a Wild Animals in Circuses Bill to ban the use (performance and exhibition) of such animals in travelling circuses on ethical

grounds and put in place enforcement provisions and sanctions.

The Scottish Government intended to increase the penalties for wildlife crime and consider the creation of new sentencing guidelines in line with recommendations from the Wildlife Crimes Penalties Review Group, which had reported in 2014. A new Wildlife Crime Investigation Unit was to be created and the operation of the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime was to be review

The outcome of Lord Bonomy's review into hunting with dogs was to be considered.

The Scottish Government stated that it would continue its review of pet welfare, including consideration of the results of consultations on electronic training collars and tail docking of working dogs.

The Programme also included a proposal for a Good Food Nation Bill, although at this time the Scottish Government did not make a direct connection between good food and animal welfare, as well as measures affecting wild fisheries and salmon conservation.

2017 – 2018 A Nation with Ambition

This Programme for Government noted that the Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses Bill had been introduced to prohibit the use of any animal not commonly domesticated within Britain for exhibition, display or performance in a travelling circus in Scotland. The Scottish Government also announced that it would develop new licensing requirements to protect the welfare of wild and domesticated animals used for public performance or display in other circumstances.

With regard to the wider rural economy, the Scottish Government stated that it would press for all powers over agriculture, animal health and welfare, fishing and rural and environmental policy to transfer to Scotland.

On wildlife, the commitment to take forward proposals with Police Scotland for new resources to tackle wildlife crime was renewed. An independent group was to be established to consider the management of grouse moors, and research would be commissioned to examine the impact of large shooting estates on Scotland's economy and biodiversity. A further independent group would advise on effective and sustainable deer management. Lord Bonomy's recommendations to strengthen the law on foxhunting and Professor Poustie's recommendations to increase penalties for wildlife crime remained works in progress.

Direct commitments to improve animal welfare included a new communications campaign to build on research commissioned on illegal importation and sales from "puppy farms".

Legislation was proposed to amend the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 to increase the maximum penalty for the most serious cruelty offences to five years' imprisonment as well as allowing fixed penalty notices for lesser offences.

Proposals were also underway for a modern system of registration and licensing of animal sanctuaries and rehoming activities as well as dog, cat and rabbit breeding, dealing and selling. Stricter control of electronic dog training collars was again proposed.

The Scottish Government also planned to consult on the introduction of compulsory video recording of slaughter at abattoirs in Scotland to aid enforcement of welfare requirements by abattoir management and Food Standards Scotland.

Consultation on a Good Food Nation Bill remained on the agenda. In other farmed animal areas, the Scottish Government planned legislation to eradicate bovine viral diarrhoea and work with Livestock Health Scotland to identify the next target livestock diseases, and to build the service and supply chain to promote farmed fish and seafood to international and domestic markets.

2018 – 2019 Delivering for Today, Investing for Tomorrow

In this Programme for Government the Scottish Government announced that it would

"establish an Animal Welfare Commission to provide expert advice on the welfare of

domesticated and wild animals in Scotland and ensure that we maintain high standards of animal welfare after Brexit."

It would also take steps to allow animals taken into the protection of the Scottish SPCA or local authorities to be rehomed much more quickly and efficiently than at present and introduce increased sentences for the worst types of animal cruelty, including attacks on police dogs. Work would continue to introduce and reform licensing of animal activities including animal sanctuaries, rehoming

centres, breeding and the use of animals in public display or performance.

Farm Animal Welfare Codes were to be updated and compulsory video recording of slaughter in abattoirs was to be introduced.

There was further reference to a Good Food Nation albeit without a clear commitment to legislation. Primary school children would be given more opportunities to visit farms to raise their awareness of where their food came from and the role of Scottish farmers as custodians of the countryside and food producers.

2019 – 2020 Protecting Scotland's Future

This was the Programme for Government with the greatest number of commitments relevant to animal welfare. The Animal Health and Welfare (Amendment) Bill was to be taken forward, not only increasing the maximum penalties and simplifying the re-homing process for animals in cruelty cases, but also providing powers to make regulations for fixed penalty notices in relation to animal welfare offences. Work was also underway on regulations to ensure a modern licensing system for dog, cat and rabbit breeders, pet sellers and animal sanctuaries and rehoming services.

On biodiversity, the Scottish Government intended to develop "a strategic approach to wildlife management that puts animal welfare at the centre while protecting public health and economic and conservation considerations", with the publication of a set of principles planned for the following year. Responses to the independent reviews on grouse moor management and deer management were to be published in 2020.

Recruitment was underway to the interim Scottish Animal Welfare Commission.

New Farm Animal Welfare Guidance for the keeping of chickens had been published and similar work for egg-laying hens and other species of livestock was planned. Following the consultation on compulsory video recording of slaughter in abattoirs, secondary legislation was in prospect and the industry would be supported to introduce CCTV in advance of this. Calf rearing systems in the dairy sector were under review.

A 10-year Farmed Fish Health Framework had been published, intended to address the health and wellbeing of farmed fish, promote innovation in fish health management and reduce fish farm mortality. Tighter thresholds had been introduced for sea lice reporting and intervention and there would be legislation requiring all marine farms to report a weekly sea lice number.

A Good Food Nation Bill was to be laid before the Parliament, placing responsibilities on Scottish Ministers and selected public bodies to set out statements of policy on food and to have regard to these statements in the exercise of relevant functions.

The second statutory review of seal licences under section 129 of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 would be undertaken by September 2020.

Elsewhere, partnership work continued to reduce the negative impact of fireworks on animals and communities

2020 – 2021 Protecting Scotland, Renewing Scotland

In this Programme for Government the Scottish Government reiterated its intention to publish responses to both the Werritty report on grouse moor management and the Independent Working Group report on deer management.

Following the passage of the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act 2020, protection for mountain hares would be provided, alongside licensing arrangements which will allow proportionate and responsible management of the species where necessary.

Plans for legislation to update the Protection of Wild Mammals Act had been postponed due to COVID‑19. (The 2021 – 2022 Programme for Government contains a commitment to introduce a Bill in Year 1 of the current parliament.)

The Scottish Government expressed its concern over the UK Government's proposals intended to protect the UK's internal market after Brexit, whereby goods and services from one part of the UK would be automatically accepted in another, regardless of the standards applied. There was concern that decisions of the Scottish Parliament on food safety, animal welfare, the environment, public health and other matters could be undermined and that Scotland would have to accept lower standards in matters for which the Scottish Parliament is responsible, regardless of the Parliament's views.



Back to top