The legislation will replace 2002 legislation by closing loopholes that have allowed fox hunting to continue.
Animal welfare charities have welcomed the introduction of a new law which will truly ban cruel sports such as fox hunting.
Campaigners have hailed the introduction of the Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill as a turning point north of the border 20 years after Scotland’s largely ineffective fox hunting ban.
The new law will replace the old legislation, closing loopholes that allow fox hunting to continue.
The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 prohibits hunting wild mammals with dogs, but has several exceptions that have been exploited over the years by hunting parties across Scotland.
Inconsistent language, a lack of clarity, and an onerous burden of proof have also made enforcement by the authorities difficult. In practice, hunts have continued to meet regularly, under the guise of flushing foxes to guns for supposed population control.
OneKind director, Bob Elliot, said: “We are extremely glad to see this Bill, which is much needed and long overdue. We cannot quite believe that it has taken 20 years to have the prospect of a real fox hunting ban; we should have had one in 2002.
“A real ban on fox hunting is something that the Scottish people overwhelmingly support, and many are surprised that this cruel pastime has not yet been consigned to the history books.
“This new Bill will address the main deficiencies in the current fox hunting legislation, which is something OneKind has long been calling for. It will clarify the language and impose a limit of two dogs for any excepted activities, which should effectively end hunting with a pack of hounds. This is very welcome news indeed.
“However, we do not believe a licensing scheme to allow the use of more than two dogs in certain circumstances is justified. We are also dismayed to see an exception to allow the use of two dogs to ‘provide quarry for falconry, game shooting or deer stalking’.
“There should be no exceptions at all to the ban on hunting wild mammals with dogs, but if exceptions are to continue, then they must be reserved for extraordinary circumstances and only the use of two dogs should be permitted.”
OneKind also welcomed provisions within the Bill to ban trail hunting and expand the definition of wild mammal to include rabbits and some rodents, who are currently excluded.
The draft Bill includes measures to reduce the pack of hounds to just two dogs and includes pre-emptive measures to address the likelihood of trail-hunting becoming established in Scotland.
It will also consider a licensing system which could allow hunts to take out a full pack of hounds in certain circumstances.
Director of the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, Robbie Marsland, said: “20 years ago, almost to the day, parliament tried to introduce a law which would prevent registered mounted fox hunts using packs of hounds to chase and kill foxes in the Scottish countryside.
“Sadly this legislation hasn’t been worth the paper it’s written on and with just one successful prosecution in two decades, it has done nothing to stop the cruelty of hunting, instead creating a series of loopholes which allowed hunters to ride roughshod over the law.
“Evidence filmed by the the League Against Cruel Sports over many years finally convinced the Scottish Government that something had to change and today we wholeheartedly welcome a significant step towards that change.
“The League fully supports the intention behind the new bill and we look forward to it progressing through parliament with detailed scrutiny. After twenty years of flawed legislation it is critical this bill is not simply a way of creating new loopholes for hunters to exploit.
“The desire of a tiny minority to continue this abhorrent and repugnant so called ‘sport’ should not be underestimated and we need to remain vigilant as the Bill moves forward to ensure that this time round, it really bans fox hunting - for good.”
Scotland's Environment Minister, Màiri McAllan, said: “I want to make clear that chasing and killing a mammal with a dog, for sport or otherwise, has no place in modern Scotland – indeed it has been illegal for twenty years.
"I am seeking to close loopholes which have allowed that already illegal activity to persist, and my aim is to do that in a way that ensures the greatest possible animal welfare while facilitating legitimate predator control.
“As well as closing existing loopholes, I am seeking to prevent others opening. We have seen from recent events south of the border, that trail hunting is sometimes being used as a cover for illegal hunting.
"We therefore plan to take pre-emptive action to prevent trail hunting becoming established in Scotland in order to reduce the risk of wild mammals being killed by dogs.
“However, I should like to be clear, that foxes can cause significant harm to livestock, as well as other wildlife such as ground nesting birds – so it is important that farmers and land managers have access to control measures that are efficient and humane. This legislation provides that.
“We consulted widely on our proposals and our public consultation received over 11,000 responses from a range of organisations and groups, as well as members of the public. We carefully considered the views of stakeholders and the public when developing the new legislation which I am confident is both progressive and balanced.”