Holyrood Dog of the Year Show

Holyrood Dog of the Year winner David Torrance and Buster six year old Golden Retriever. Pictures by Alan Simpson

By Bill Heaney

Who let the dogs out? That’s not the usual question MSPs ask at Holyrood where it’s more commonly along the lines of who let the cat out of the bag.

A secret in the Scottish Parliament is something you tell one person at a time, but never to anyone in any of the Opposition parties.

And certainly not to any member of the parliamentary press corps – unless it’s absolutely to your advantage. Or if you don’t have a bone to pick with them, which isn’t often.

Holyrood MSPs voted unanimously for once when it came to having a day out with their dogs.

They were off the leash and away from the whips at last.

Surprisingly, the SNP came out on top, if only just for once when their MSP David Torrance’s “best friend” was crowned Holyrood’s Dog of the Year in the annual competition at the Scottish Parliament.

Golden retriever Buster was placed first in the contest, with Tory MSP Tess White’s flat-coated retriever Kura coming second and a rescue dog called Oakley, which was paired with Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone, finishing third.

Holyrood Dog of the Year Show
Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone and Oakley (Dogtrust)  Picture Alan Simpson

A three-legged greyhound called Joy, which was brought to Edinburgh by the Green MSP Mark Ruskell, won the public vote.

A total of 13 MSPs entered competition, with some bringing their own pets and others being given a rescue dog.

Torrance was delighted: “Buster’s an absolutely fantastic dog – Buster’s the first dog I ever had,” he said. ” When I come home, he’s loving, we go for a walk, we de-stress.  He’s absolutely fantastic for my mental health. He’s definitely man’s best friend.”

And, never slow to make a political point, he added that the UK Government should consider taking VAT off dog food to help pet owners struggling with the cost of living.

Torrance explained:“As an MSP a number of my constituents want to keep their pets but they are struggling to do so because of the cost of living crisis either to pay for their vets bills or buy dog food.”

The author of a biography of Alex Salmond, Torrance said: “It is really important because in many cases that’s the only companionship that they have. It helps their mental health and for folk living on their own a pet really helps them.”

Ash Regan MSP, sheltering from a shower with collie Lexi.

Pictures by Alan Simpson

Torrance added that a large bag of dog biscuits which used to cost around £18, now costs almost £32 or more – “If a dog’s the only companion you have, that’s a lot of money to spend on its keep.”

The Kirkcaldy MSP is supporting SNP colleague Christine Grahame’s campaign to put an end to  puppy farms, and rallying to her call to to put the cash-strapped SSPCA’s finances back into the black.

Mark Ruskell is campaigning for greyhound racing to be brought to an end. He was accompanied by Joy, one of his constituent’s greyhounds, which lost a leg after being used for racing.

The Green MSP said: “There’s a lot of inherent risk in racing dogs at 40mph. That’s where a lot of injuries can take place, that’s how Joy was injured.

“I think it’s time for a phase-out really. Greyhound racing has had its day in Scotland.”

Katie Sibbald, Joy’s owner, added: “I’ve been involved in re-homing greyhounds for 15 years, and I’ve seen so many sad cases, it’s no life for a dog. It’s time that greyhound racing was sent to the history books.”

The contest was organised by the Dogs Trust and the Kennel Club to raise awareness of the issues affecting dogs today.

Group meeting photo call which was taken after the vote, of course. Winner David Torrance and Buster 6 yr old Golden Retriever pictured with all the main players on the day.

All pictures by courtesy of Alan Simpson

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