WHILE the coronavirus pandemic continues to, rightly, dominate the political agenda the Scottish Parliament continues to press ahead with some pieces of vital legislation including the Animals and Wildlife Bill which faces its last legislative hurdle at Holyrood this week.

This Bill contains important laws which will shape the future of animal welfare for years to come and I'll be moving several amendments to try and strengthen these protections.

The SNP have a patchy record when it comes to animal welfare, and their part in partially lifting the ban on tail docking in 2017 is a particularly black mark.

I'll be giving SNP MSPs a chance to correct that mistake when I move an amendment to reintroduce the ban.

For those unfamiliar with the practice, it involves cutting or crushing muscle, nerves and bones, without anaesthetic, in puppies under five days old.

If done badly, it can cause the dog chronic pain throughout its life.

Evidence shows that it inflicts significant pain on puppies and deprives dogs of an important means of expression in adulthood.

Vets and animal welfare experts are clear that there is no scientific basis for tail docking and the British Veterinary Association agree the practice should be banned in all circumstances except for treating an injury.

So, with the experts united in stating that it's a cruel and outdated practice it's reasonable to ask why the SNP overturned the ban in the first place.

It was a capitulation to the country sports lobby who want to continue to mutilate dogs to make them easier to manage when used in hunting.

The evidence the Scottish Government put forward on the necessity of this practice for working dogs was at best weak and downright misleading at worst.

Even members of the country sports community acknowledge that dogs with full tails can still work.

It's legalised barbarism simply to placate a small but apparently very powerful group of people.

I'll be also be moving amendments to enhance protection for some important wild species.

There are good natural habitats for badgers throughout Clackmannanshire but their setts can be destroyed by construction works for example.

It's currently easy for people involved to pass the blame until ultimately no one takes responsibility. My amendment will make it clear that the landowner bears ultimate responsibility.

Beavers are under threat as well. These creatures do wonders for biodiversity in wetlands and can form a natural part of flood defence.

The bulk of the population exists in Tayside but there is evidence that they have now spread into the Forth Valley.

Despite their protected status, beavers continue to be shot by landowners, which is unnecessary as they can be moved to other locations if causing disruption to farming. I'll be moving an amendment to stop the culling.

We have a responsibility to look after the natural environment and that means meaningful protections for wildlife.

It's not just about affection for animals, but also about protecting and enhancing the ecosystem on which we all ultimately rely.