A vote to relax the fox-hunting ban in England and Wales has been postponed after the Scottish National Party’s decision to take part in the division made defeat almost certain.
The controversial vote, scheduled for Wednesday, would have brought the law south of the border in line with that in Scotland, where an unlimited number of dogs can be used to “flush out” a fox to be shot, compared to just two in England and Wales.
The SNP’s 56 MPs agreed on Monday to break with their normal practice of not voting on England-only matters and join Labour in opposing the proposal. Together with a number of anti-hunting Conservative MPs, who have been granted a free vote on the issue, this was expected to be enough to block the change.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon directly linked the move to the Government’s plans for “English votes for English laws” (EVEL). And she warned that her party would be prepared to vote on other issues where Scotland is not directly affected in the months ahead.
Downing Street left no doubt that it was the SNP decision which prompted the delay in the hunting vote.
A source said: “This happened because Nicola Sturgeon has done a 180-degree u-turn. Her actions speak for themselves. That’s why we are in the position we are in.”
Number 10 had previously indicated that Prime Minister David Cameron intended to vote in favour of the reform.