July 15: SNP pounce in hunting farce

THE SCOTTISH National Party is guilty of serial opportunism and hypocrisy after deploying its 56 MPs to scupper plans to relax the laws governing fox hunting in England and Wales.

First the opportunism. Due to the Tory party’s slender majority, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and her compatriots were clearly motivated by a desire to draw political blood of their own in response to plans to curtail the influence of Scottish MPs at Westminster.

Now the hypocrisy. The Government’s proposals, which would enable a pack of hounds to flush out foxes rather than just two animals at present, would actually bring the law in England in line with protocols already followed by hunts north of the border.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Why the difference? Holyrood decided that a full pack of dogs is the best means of controlling the fox population effectively. As such, the SNP’s belligerence is nothing to do with a genuine concern for the countryside – and the wider need to protect livestock – but its poisonous anti-English party politics ahead of a potential second referendum on Scottish independence.

Not only does this farce expose the extent to which Scotland’s politicians have far more powers than their English counterparts as a result of devolution, but Ms Sturgeon’s previous promises not to intervene on policy matters exclusive to England are now bankrupt. She has made the case for “English votes for English laws” even more urgent. However it should not have come down to this. Hunting, like those other totemic policy issues of conscience such as abortion laws, should not be a party political matter – it should be left to MPs to vote according to their own beliefs rather than following the orders of party whips. If this was the case, the SNP would not have been able to act so reprehensibly.

Fracking failure

Why public trust must be earned

THE concerns expressed so eloquently, and so passionately, on this page by anti-fracking campaigners in Ryedale echo the conclusions of a special task force set up to explore the risks associated with the extraction with shale gas. Although former Labour minister Chris Smith says fracking “can be done safely”, he says the industry faces “an uphill struggle” because public opinion is so “sceptical”.

Lord Smith, who headed the inquiry, is right – opponents, such as today’s contributors to The Yorkshire Post’s letters page, have two very good reasons to be suspicious. First, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – headed by Leeds-educated Liz Truss – did its credibility no favours whatsoever when it published a heavily-redacted report on shale gas extraction which deliberately omitted all the negative features of fracking. As Lord Smith observed, the Minister’s team could not have been more “foolish”.

Second, public trust in Third Energy’s fracking plan for Kirby Misperton has been eroded by the firm’s failure to complete 13 key sections on its application form to North Yorkshire County Council. Blundering bosses seem oblivious to the need to earn the confidence of local people by being totally transparent and professional at all times.

As Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake said in a recent Parliamentary debate: “We need to take the public with us, consult, provide expert scientific information and ensure that people do not feel they are being pushed or manipulated.” In the wake of Third Energy’s botched case, and today’s report, this advice is even more valid.

Bercow’s blunder

Will he help tragic youngster?

IF THE supercilious John Bercow, the self-centred Speaker of the House of Commons, had actually chosen to listen to the backbencher Greg Mulholland during health questions, rather than cutting short the Leeds North West MP so rudely and abruptly, he might have realised the significance of the heartbreaking case which was being raised.

Because of labyrinthine NHS rules, the angelic six-year-old schoolboy Sam Brown from Otley and other sufferers of the extremely rare Morquio Syndrome which limits growth and mobility are being denied access to the life-enhancing drug Vimizim, which has been proven to make a material difference to their wellbeing. As a fundraising campaign is launched, is it too much to ask Mr Bercow to show some humility and see how he can use his privileged position to enable the necessary questions can be put to Ministers?

If Mr Bercow declines this reasonable request, perhaps he should step aside and be replaced by a compassionate Parliamentary champion who is capable of putting the public interest before their own pomposity.