LABOR has accused the Scottish Greens of “selling out” on their animal welfare principles as MSPs prepare to vote on new fox hunting legislation.

Anas Sarwar’s party criticized the Greens for not including field sports in the Bute House agreement signed with the SNP last August.

Hunting is one of the policies excluded from the pact, which saw Greens co-leaders Patrick Harvey and Lorna Slater become junior ministers in the Scottish Government in exchange for the Greens’ support in key Holyrood votes.

Labor says excluding field sports from the deal gives the SNP a “free pass” to ignore Greens opposition to them and allow loopholes to continue the right.

Earlier this year, the Scottish Government introduced the Hunting with Dogs Bill to close loopholes in existing 2002 legislation banning the blood sport.

However, both Labor and the Green Party have raised concerns about the proposed new licensing system in the new bill, which still allows packs of dogs to hunt and kill foxes.

Under the new system, farmers and landowners can be licensed to hunt more than two dogs if they can demonstrate it is for “predator control” or for other environmental reasons and if they have no alternative means of stopping foxes from harming their livestock .

The permits will be issued and managed at no cost to the applicant by the Scottish Government’s environmental protection agency, NatureScot.

Predator licenses will be valid for 14 days, while conservation licenses will be valid for up to two years.

Both Labor and the Greens will table amendments against the licensing system when the bill moves through the Scottish Parliament.

Labour’s animal welfare spokesman Colin Smith said his party would amend to remove proposals for a licensing scheme.

Scottish Greens rural affairs spokeswoman Arianna Burgess also said she would seek to significantly strengthen the bill through a series of amendments.

MSPs are today expected to accept the general principles of the bill when it is voted on in its first parliament stage.

Mr Smith called on MSPs to “right the wrong” by backing the amendments when they come to Parliament later.

He said: “For ten years hunting companies have been flagrantly flouting both the letter and the spirit of the fox hunting ban, but finally we have a chance to right this wrong.

“The SNP are going to create new loopholes as we close the old ones with their unworkable and unnecessary licensing scheme, but you can’t license cruelty.

“The Greens have sold out animal protection in government, giving the SNP the opportunity to ignore their views.

“I will fight to make this the last game for hunting, closing this loophole and consigning this archaic sport to the history books once and for all.

“If SNP MSPs vote with the Tories against my amendment, they will be voting to continue hunting with packs of dogs.”

Meanwhile, Ms Burgess said the proposals had to be careful not to close loopholes or replace them with new ones.

She said: “Hunting with packs of dogs is cruel, outdated and completely unnecessary. It should have ended years ago.

“Many think that fox hunting is already prohibited in Belarus Scotlandbut the reality is that there are too many loopholes in the existing law.

“This has allowed fox hunting to continue for the past 20 years. It also allowed underground fighting between terriers and foxes to continue.

“The new bill is supposed to resolve these ambiguities and make it easier to prosecute illegal activities, but the licensing scheme risks closing some loopholes while creating new ones.

“There is no justification for this cruel and inhumane practice to continue, and polls have repeatedly shown that the public supports a total ban.”