James GRAY   Conservative MP for North Wiltshire

No matter what you may think about hunting (and opinion is deeply divided even in a rural area such as this), I hope that everyone will share my sense of outrage over yesterday’s events in Parliament.

The Government was proposing a very modest little Statutory Instrument, which would have helped sheep farmers protect their new-born lambs. It was not (as the Labour class-warriors would have you believe), some kind of backdoor route to allowing foxhunting to recommence in England. All it effectively did was correct an anomaly and bring the practice in England more in line with that in Scotland. At all events, English people who were opposed to it perfectly reasonably lobbied their MP to vote against, and had they mustered sufficient English MPs of a like-mind, even that modest little change would have failed. Fair enough. That’s Parliamentary democracy for you.

But that is not what happened at all. A majority of English and Welsh MPs were in favour of the changes. But the Government had to withdraw the SI because Nicola Sturgeon, who is not even an MP, felt no embarrassment whatsoever about declaring on the radio her intention to march her troops through the Labour Lobby to vote down an amendment on this purely English - and rather iconic - matter.

The SNP, bold as brass, decisively interfered in a detailed and local matter in England, the kind of thing over which I can have no possible influence in my own former homeland , openly admitting that it was for purely opportunistic party political motives. She wanted to embarrass the Government, flex her SNP muscles, and demonstrate that this is how the 1.5 million Scots who voted SNP can now wildly disproportionately affect events in England. Talk about the tail wagging the dog!

So no matter what you might think about hunting, I hope that you will join me in recognising that Ms Sturgeon’s intervention is a constitutional outrage; that it truly endangers the Union; and that it wholly justifies our rapidly bringing forward tough measures to prevent this sort of thing happening more widely - English Votes on English Matters as we are calling it. That of course might be precisely what the SNP are covertly trying to trigger - and we must for now curb any upsurge in English Nationalism - which might well be playing directly into her hands.

But if she wants a battle with the English, then we must be ready to engage in it with her and her merry men. It was English hunting this week; it could be electrification of the Great Western line, rebuilding of Lyneham, or one-way systems in Royal Wootton Bassett next week. It is an outrage and it must be stopped.