Union Maps Out Key Asks on Livestock Worrying

Scottish Government support for Private Member’s Bill sought

NFU Scotland has written to Scottish Government, asking it to support a proposed Private Member’s Bill to tackle the blight of livestock worrying.

NFU Scotland has met with Emma Harper MSP, who recently announced her intention to bring forward a proposal to the Scottish Parliament to address livestock worrying.  

The Union has written to Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity Fergus Ewing seeking Scottish Government support for the proposed Bill.  In the letter, NFU Scotland has mapped out five areas it believes merit inclusion in any new legislative framework or guidance. Those are:

  • Livestock worrying becomes a recordable crime to allow for accurate measurement and monitoring of the issue and provide easy identification of repeat offenders.
  • An update of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC) is needed to provide clearer guidance on accessing the countryside with dogs. NFUS believes that guidance should state that all dogs (except for working dogs) must be on a lead around sheep. This will send a strong message to both those taking access to the countryside and those who allow their dogs to stray.
  • Police Scotland should be provided with powers to issue Dog Control Notices. Currently, only Local Authority Dog Wardens have the power to issue Dog Control Notices, and as a result this mechanism is often unused. This will increase the use of this as a useful interim step. 
  • Police Scotland should have powers to obtain evidence, seize dogs and have dogs destroyed. These powers will assist in investigations and will prevent dogs from remaining in the custody of irresponsible owners – which experience has shown often results in a repeat offence.
  • Fines levied on offenders must be proportionate and full compensation should be provided for. NFUS considers that sanctions should include powers to disqualify offenders from dog ownership. This will act as a deterrent to dog owners and will also ensure that farmers can redress any resulting cost to their livelihood.

Since March, NFU Scotland has been supporting The Scottish Farmer newspaper’s ‘Take a Lead’ campaign which calls for legislative changes and proper enforcement to drive a change in some dog owners’ attitudes.  The proposed bill marks welcome progress.

NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick said: “Terrible events around Scotland this spring demonstrated the devastation that is caused by out of control dogs. The graphic images of dead and mauled sheep and lambs have highlighted the impact of irresponsible dog ownership on farmers’ livelihoods and action is needed.

“We welcome Emma Harper MSP’s proposed Bill and we have taken the opportunity to meet with her to discuss.   

“Despite a vast amount of awareness raising by many stakeholders, including Police Scotland, livestock worrying remains a blight on Scottish livestock farming.

“There is no such thing as an irresponsible dog, only irresponsible dog owners and this proposed Bill presents a genuine opportunity for Scottish Government to back change that will make a massive difference to livestock keepers across the country.”  


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Author: Bob Carruth

Date Published:

News Article No.: 74/18

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About The Author

Bob Carruth

A dairy farmer’s son, I joined NFU Scotland in 1999 after 13 years as an agricultural journalist. Following spells as a regional manager and policy lead on milk, livestock and animal health and welfare, I became Communications Director in 2008.

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