DAVID CAMERON has “sounded the bugle of retreat” over plans to amend the fox-hunting ban in England and Wales, according to the SNP.

Today’s vote on reforming the Hunting Act has been postponed after the SNP group said they would vote against the Government proposals.

Facing opposition from the SNP, Labour and a sizeable number of Tory backbench rebels, it looked likely Cameron would suffer his first Commons defeat of the parliament.

The vote would have brought England and Wales into line with Scottish laws, which allow an unlimited number of dogs to be used to “flush out” foxes to be shot.

Currently in England and Wales only two dogs can be used. Plans to toughen the laws on hunting in Scotland, said the SNP, meant there was a justifiable “Scottish interest” for the 56 SNP MPs to vote on the Bill.

Opponents accused the party of breaking their practice of not voting on legislation only affecting England and Wales.

The SNP’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson said: “It is welcome that this vote has been pulled – which also underlines the shambles of the Tory Government, who have sounded the bugle of retreat.”

Robertson said it was the fourth time the Government had been forced to back down by SNP pressure, along with the decision not to hold the EU referendum on the same day as the Scottish Parliament election, kicking the repeal of the Human Rights Act “into the long grass” and abandoning a planned vote on Evel last week.

“This is another powerful reminder of just how fragile the Tories’ majority is – on these four issues it was non-existent, they were staring defeat in the face, and there will be more such issues,” said Robertson.

He continued: “The SNP group are delivering on our pledge to help deliver progressive politics across the UK. We were fully prepared to vote with Labour to stop harm being done to foxes in England and Wales – Labour should now commit to voting with the SNP next week against harm being done to people by the

Tories’ cruel welfare cuts.”

The Prime Minister denied he had been “outfoxed” by the SNP.

“The position of the SNP has up to now always been clear, which is that they do not vote on matters that are purely of interest to England or England and Wales,” he said.

“I find their position entirely opportunistic and very hard to explain in any other way.”

Reports from the SNP group meeting on Monday night suggested there was substantial debate between the position the party’s MPs should take, with some of the longer-serving members wary about the consequences of taking part in vote.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, addressed the group and apparently encouraged them to vote against the amendments.

Countryside Alliance executive chairman Barney White-Spunner was sceptical of the SNP’s motives but said the Government had done the right thing: “In the face of the SNP’s U-turn the Government has postponed the vote. This was the correct decision. This is now clearly a constitutional issue rather than one about wildlife management or animal welfare and we look forward to the Government bringing the amendments back to Parliament in due course.”

Tom Quinn, director of campaigns at the League Against

Cruel Sports, welcomed the move. “Now, with increasing numbers of MPs joining with MPs of other parties, if the Government does another ploy, another ruse to bring back hunting, we’re confident there’s such a cross-party group of MPs opposed to this that it would be defeated,” he said.

“We had hoped that a vote would go ahead and this issue would be put to bed for good – for all the other issues facing the country it’s disappointing the Government seems to think this is a priority,” Quinn added.

Scottish Government to consider tightening law on fox hunting after noting ‘strength of feeling’