SCOTTISH CONSERVATIVES have said they will bring forward legislation to increase sentences for animal cruelty if the Scottish Government fails to act.
The party claim Scotland is “lagging badly” on punishment for people convicted of cruelty to animals, with the maximum available jail term of a year, despite it being double the current maximum in England and Wales.
The Scottish Government said Conservatives’ claims are “factually inaccurate” and said it is “leading the UK” in improving animal welfare.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced plans to change the law to increase the maximum sentence to five years in her programme for government in September but so far no progress has been made.
A similar pledge by the UK Government has led to publication of draft legislation for parliamentary scrutiny.
Creating a five-year maximum term would bring legislation into line with that in Northern Ireland, Ireland, Australia and Canada.
Scottish Conservative animal welfare spokesman Finlay Carson said: “Scotland is lagging badly when it comes to the protection of animals.
“The SNP has dragged its feet, and it means those convicted of cruelty against animals like cats and dogs are more or less getting off the hook – there’s very little to deter them at present.
“That’s why we need to at least match the five-year maximum term being legislated for in England, and go further when it comes to education and tackling problems like illegal puppy farming.”
He added that “time is running out” for the Scottish Government to take action on its pledge, saying: “If ministers don’t bring forward plans to address this, we will, and use the opposition majority in parliament to get it through.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “These claims are factually inaccurate. Since 2006, the maximum sentence for cruelty to animals in Scotland has been twelve months and a £20,000 fine. The maximum in England and Wales is only six months and a £5,000 fine.
“Scotland is leading the UK in driving up standards of animal welfare. We have already committed to increase the maximum sentence in cruelty cases, banned the use of wild animals in travelling circuses, and are introducing a licensing scheme for animal sanctuaries and rehoming centres.”