The upcoming fox hunting vote will damn the SNP whether they vote or abstain, but they absolutely must abstain.

It has become an accepted part of SNP rhetoric that the Conservatives have no democratic legitimacy in Scotland because they have very little support up here. But this argument cuts both ways and the SNP’s lack of a popular constituency in England could be a real problem if they vote on English only issues.

The upcoming fox hunting bill will not affect the law in Scotland. The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act will keep fox hunting illegal in Scotland regardless of what happens in England and Wales and, frankly, the psychopathic tendencies of England’s elite are not our business.

Not only do the SNP not have any democratic right to vote on this issue but it would also hand their opponents a huge stick to beat them with. The SNP would be labeled hypocrites and their legitimacy brought into question, the tabloid media would raise the specter of “hordes” of Scottish MPs coming south to impose their will on the English people and the SNP’s ability to foster unity and co-operation with other parties when it comes time to oppose Tory laws that will actually affect Scotland will be fatally undermined.

Under the new English-only Tory regime the SNP has to be discerning and ruthless. Cameron has installed a lord and former Thatcher-era poll tax guru in the Scotland office, making his contempt for Scottish democracy clear, and plans a dismemberment of public services that will directly impact the Scottish budget. The political hit that will come from voting on an issue that will not affect Scotland is more than the SNP can afford.

As morally reprehensible as fox hunting is, it is nothing less than a feudal blood-sport, the deaths of disabled people and the dismemberment of our NHS that will result from Tory cuts are far worse. If the SNP votes on the fox hunting bill it will be a huge mistake.