NEW laws introducing further restrictions on hunting with dogs have been passed by Holyrood, with animal welfare campaigners hailing it as a “monumental day for Scotland”.

However Borders MSP Rachael Hamilton has warned the legislation – which was due to come before the Scottish Parliament in 2020 but was delayed because of the Covid pandemic – could be “the final nail in the coffin for many of Scotland’s endangered species”.

READ MORE: Scottish Rugby aligns with other home nations on gender participation

The Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill was passed by 90 votes to 30 by the Scottish Parliament, with environment minister Mairi McAllan saying it would have an “immediate effect” by “modernising and strengthening” the existing legislation.

Border Telegraph: Environment minister Mairi McAllan and Borders MSP Rachael HamiltonEnvironment minister Mairi McAllan and Borders MSP Rachael Hamilton

The changes will bring in a two-dog limit for all use of dogs in hunting, and will also ban trail hunting.

But the Bill will bring in a new licensing scheme, which will allow the use of more than two dogs in certain limited circumstance.

It comes more than two decades after Holyrood first passed legislation on hunting, which Ms McAllan said had made Scotland “the first part of the UK to ban fox hunting”.

But she insisted the Wild Mammals Protection (Scotland) Act of 2002 had been “flawed” and did not “have the impact it was intended to”.

Ms McAllan said: “There is no doubt there has been a clear cultural shift in our attitude towards wildlife over the last few decades.

“Practices such as hare coursing, fox hunting, badger baiting and dog fighting , which were once legal activities, and quite unbelievably considered to be spectator sports, they are no longer acceptable.”

READ MORE: Police tackle illegal parking in two Borders towns

The minister insisted: “The chasing and the killing of wild mammals with packs of dogs has no place in modern Scotland.”

And speaking about the new legislation, she added: “I firmly believe it will have an immediate effect by modernising and strengthening the legislation to assist enforcement authorities in dealing with those who would persist in illegal hunting.”

Border Telegraph: Scottish Parliament debating chamber PA WireScottish Parliament debating chamber PA Wire

Robbie Marsland, director of the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, also welcomed the Bill, saying: “As of today, Scotland has the most robust law anywhere in the UK to prevent the cruelty of chasing and killing wild mammals for sport – and this is something to celebrate.

“Despite a persistent campaign from those resolute to keep hunting alive in the Scottish countryside, the Scottish Government has been determined to end the sport of hunting, a sentiment which has today been supported by the Parliament.”

Scottish Conservative rural economy spokeswoman Rachael Hamilton accused the government of having “ignored the views of experts”.

The Borders MSP said: “This Bill should really be able the balance between animal welfare and biodiversity. If there is no hunting with dogs, predators will be left to attack other animals.

READ MORE: Doddie'5 charity backs pioneering new MND research projects

“Those predators will, left unchecked, attack livestock, like lambs and sheep, or ground nesting birds like the curlew, the capercaillie or other vulnerable species.

“This is not a simple Bill that protect animal welfare. It is a Bill that protects some animals welfare at the expense of others.

READ MORE: New book by award winning Borders writer Alistair Moffat

She insisted it would be regarded as having “pinned the final nail in the coffin for many of Scotland’s endangered species”.

Claire Bellamy Master of the Hounds at the Lauderdale Hunt told BBC Scotland: “I just hope that the bill is going to be workable enough to be able to use a pack of hounds to do a job, so that these guys (her dogs) and me are going to have a job at the end of the day.

“Foxes are very clever. They hear the hounds in packs and the noise they make and that makes them get up on their toes and keep going. And that pushes them out of cover to be able to be shot. With two hounds, that’s not going to happen.”