Eight rural organisations have published new guidance for walked-up and rough shooting and field trials, ready for the new Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Act 2023 coming into force in the autumn. 

Once the Act comes into effect, no more than two dogs can be used at the same time to flush a mammal for shooting and rabbits are now included in the definition of mammal for this purpose.  This has implications for all shooting activities where more than two dogs are working in the field and foxes, hares and rabbits are part of the quarry.

There are also implications for deer stalking, field trials, falconry and dog training which are all set out in the guidance.

During the passage of the Bill in 2022 the eight organisations made strong representations to Scottish Government that the impact on shooting of rabbits was unclear and the wording left a legal grey area for those taking part with their dogs.

This was an unintended consequence of a Bill designed to control fox hunting and illegal hare coursing and, unless there was clarification, it left rough shooters open to vexatious allegations from anti-shooting activists.

This point was accepted by the then Minister Mairi McAllan MSP who gave an undertaking to “work with the shooting industry on post-legislative guidance in order to manage down the risk of vexatious claims”.

The guidance published today is not formal legal advice but has been produced in collaboration with Scottish Government officials. Those abiding by it should be confident of not being open to prosecution under the new legislation.

Tim Baynes, Senior Policy Advisor for Scottish Land & Estates said:  “This is yet another example of new rural legislation with unintended consequences leaving people on the ground not only having to work within overly complex new restrictions, but also do the Scottish Government’s work for them – clarifying  a legal grey area.

“There are lessons here for the Scottish Government relating to other rural legislation currently in the programme or due in the next year – the concerns of those who are responsible for managing land and wildlife must be taken into account.”

Peter Clark, BASC Scotland Director said: “The Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Act 2023 has ramifications for the use of two or more dogs when carrying out shooting-related activities, such as rough shooting or gundog field trials.

“BASC, SLE and other RELM partners have compiled a simple guidance document, in response to calls made by the then Minister in charge, Mairi McAllan MSP, which reflects the change in legislation.

“This guidance document also seeks to reduce any vexatious allegations which may be directed at shooters when the legislation is enacted, by clearly setting out the Act’s implications on a variety of activities.”

The guidance has been published jointly by Scottish Land & Estates, BASC Scotland, Scotland’s Regional Moorland Groups, Scottish Gamekeepers Association, Scottish Countryside Alliance, Scottish Association for Country Sports, Association of Deer Management Groups and the British Deer Society to inform their members and the shooting, field trials and deer management community.