Emma Harper MSP will officially launch her public consultation on livestock worrying later this month – paving the way for a member’s bill to strengthen legislation and to introduce a range of penalties which will deter dog owners from letting their dog off its lead.

The South of Scotland MSP has spent a busy year gathering the thoughts and experiences of farmers, dog walkers and stakeholders the length and breadth of Scotland, gaining a fuller understanding of the scale of the problem.

She is now ready to move to the next step with this consultation, titled the ‘Proposed Protection of Livestock (Scotland) Bill’ which will aim to give police, courts and other potential agencies more powers to properly tackle offences of dogs attacking livestock.

The consultation is due to take 12 weeks, before all the responses will be examined and fed into the next stage of the process – being brought before the parliament to be considered as a potential Bill.

At the upcoming launch on the 21 February, in the Scottish parliament, there will be representatives from the National Farmers Union Scotland, as well as a wide range of other stakeholder organisations in attendance, including; the National Sheep Association; the Scottish Outdoor Access Forum; the Scottish SPCA and the Law Society of Scotland, plus others.

NFU Scotland’s political affairs manager Clare Slipper will be speaking at the launch, before Ms Harper outlines the work she has undertaken so far, to bring her proposals to this stage.

Ms Harper commented: "After a lot of work in the background I’m now ready to launch the online consultation for my proposals to tackle livestock worrying, an issue which is of the upmost importance to livestock farmers in Scotland.

“The consequences of an off lead dog in a field of livestock can be devastating and traumatic for both the farmer and their animals," she stressed. "My proposals seek to toughen the law and that more dog owners are deterred from letting their dog off a lead in the countryside by introducing a range of penalties."

"I would like to thank all of the organisations and members of the public involved in supporting my proposals to date and I would encourage everyone to have their say when the consultation is launched later this month," she appealed to the wider agricultural industry.

NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick added his enthusiasm regarding the launch: “Despite a vast amount of awareness raising, livestock worrying remains a blight on Scottish livestock farming. Dogs themselves are not to blame, it's their irresponsible owners who need to wake up and understand the devastation this is causing,” he stressed.

“We are delighted to work with Emma Harper MSP on the launch of the consultation for the Members Bill and feel this is a real opportunity to clamp down on the issue once and for all – hopefully saving our members immeasurable heartache and considerable financial losses.

“We urge as many people as possible to fill out the consultation and give their views on an issue that continues to blight Scottish agriculture,” he concluded.