American XL Bully – why PM Rishi Sunak is making a grave mistake


Blossom, an American XL Bully, trained by Midlothian Dog Trainer Nick McMechan.

This View has been written by Midlothian Dog Trainer Nick McMechan.

I generally try to avoid politics as a Dog Trainer, but in this case, sorry, not sorry. The decision made to ban the American XL Bully recently by the PM caused me a lot of disappointment, anger and frustration. To quote Karl Marx “history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”. Other world leaders have said similarly.

So, yes, this is now a farce.

Breed Specific Legislation was first introduced in 1991, banning breeds including the Pit Bull Terrier amongst others. The American XL Bully is due to join this list by the end of the year. Sir Keir Stammer has encouraged the PM to ‘get on with it and get it done’.

What does history tell us? It tells us the ban didn’t work. It tells us the problem, of dog bites and attacks in the UK, has worsened in the last four decades, since the original legislation was introduced. This has been a tragedy. Not just a tragedy in the failing of the law, but a tragedy that will hit home more to the victims and their families of dog attacks where they have been bitten, causing injury, maiming or even (rarely) death. The American XL Bully is now at the centre of it all, where it was the Pit Bull before.

Why are the government not looking to the All-party Parliamentary Dog Advisory Welfare Group (APDAWG) for the answers? APDAWG have been working hard on this for some time. I follow them and have not seen any outcomes advising a breed ban. Our UK Parliament already knows a breed ban is not the solution.

Banning this type of dog is a quick fix and it is only that. Yes, they are a large powerful breed capable of causing serious harm. However, there are many large powerful breeds of dogs and it will only be a matter of time before we see another breed or type emerging. Badly bred by irresponsible breeders ending up in the wrong homes with irresponsible owners.

No solution is perfect. There are many saying there is no point because irresponsible owners will only avert the law. This is true of any law, however, there are countries in the world that have the ultimate price for the crime of murder, the death penalty, yet those countries still have serious crime problems with murder. The truth is laws reduce crime but don’t eliminate. We do need to reduce the number of dog bites in the UK without question. According to the Scottish Community Safety Network there has been an 80% rise in dog bites and attacks in Scotland in the last 15 years.

To solve any problem, you have to solve the root cause of the problem. When I wrote the article for The Midlothian View back in April this year “Why the American XL Bully should NOT be the next banned breed” I was trying to get the solutions out there. It certainly gained a lot of media attention at the time and I ended up on LBC with Nick Ferrari and Radio 5 Live with Nicky Campbell to share my views.

My opinions may be unpopular but I strongly believe there are far better solutions by paying for a team of Dog Wardens to enforce better legislation. We can pay for this through licensing, so we should start here:

– licence breeders. Put measures in place to ensure dogs are bred for health and temperament. I would want all newborn puppies to be registered and their home visited by a Dog Warden. Register the DNA of every pup born Any aggression can then be traced back and stop breeding the lines with poor temperament. Ensue the breeders comply with processes that make sure pups only go to suitable and appropriate homes

– licence owners. Increasing the number of dog wardens means this again can be enforced. Many countries use the licensing to control who can own what type of dog. We only need to look to Spain who are leading the way on licensing controls which includes completing a training course, insurance and vaccinations amongst others

If we start there we will start to get to the root cause and we will start to solve the dog bite problem in the UK. APDAWG have also stated that Socio-Economic factors are part of the root cause, but that one really is for the politicians.


Nick specialises in Loose Leash Walking and Reactivity as well as everything you would expect from a Dog Trainer. You can find out more here:

Parents concerned about Vogrie Outdoor Early Learning Centre

Vogrie Outdoor Early Learning Centre

Letter to the Editor from parents of children at the Vogrie Outdoor Early Learning Centre

Dear Editor,

We would like to pass on our concerns to you, as a group of parents of children at Vogrie Outdoor Early Learning Centre (ELC). The nursery is a unique and high-quality Midlothian Council outdoor nursery for children aged 3-5 years old. We have been informed that the two teachers who established this world leading site, and manage and teach in the setting, have had their posts reviewed and both will be removed, to be replaced with a (cheaper) Senior Years Practitioner as part of the council’s cost cutting measures, and leaving no teaching staff in the setting.

There has been no consultation with parents, and to date, no official communication to parents from Midlothian Council. As a group of parents we are extremely concerned that this will result in the children who attend Vogrie really suffering. The other staff who work in the setting (Early Years practitioners and Learning Assistants) are excellent, but the fact that Vogrie is not attached to a school means that it doesn’t benefit from a (geographically and professionally) close relationship with teachers, and the Vogrie staff have made full use of the highly-trained teachers there to develop not only Vogrie’s curricular vision, but also the transition support they provide for their primary-aged leavers.

In the few years that it has been active, Vogrie ELC has been flying the flag for Outdoor Learning, including being visited virtually by educators from around the world (Virtual visit to Vogrie Outdoor ELC by educators from across the world | Midlothian Council). Outdoor ELC settings are uncommon despite the benefit of outdoor education and time in nature being clearly evidenced and reported upon, and we were initially delighted that Midlothian Council had embraced an approach to the Early Years curriculum that is so clearly aligned with national priorities. Given all the research and how well the teachers have done to establish this service during a pandemic which only further outlined the need and benefit for amazing outdoor experiences for our young people, we had hoped that an expansion of the service to serve more and older pupils would have been more beneficial than pure cost cutting.

The decision to cut teaching staff therefore seems counterproductive to be removing the very staff that have made Vogrie what it is, proposing it’s idea to the heads of the council, building it from nothing in an unused walled garden space, and supporting it to develop. We are deeply concerned about the effect that the removal of the manager and another valued member of teaching staff will have on the children at the nursery and staff morale.

As a group of parents we have contacted Midlothian Council Executive Director for Children and Young People, Fiona Robertson, and have not had our concerns acknowledged. Not only is this insensitive to the needs of the children attending the setting, and the current anxiety experienced by the proposed change by us as parents, it is unacceptable to not have been more included in this decision from the outset through proper consultation.

We would very much appreciate your support in this matter,

Best wishes,

Emma Martindale, Lauren and Liam McMillan, Chloe and Erik Ravaglia, Sarah and John MacIssac, Kaley Northcott and Dave Law, Zsuzsa and Laszlo Remai, Freyja and Ross Howie, Jordann and Abbygail Wells, Sophie and Alistair Coats.

Emmerdale actor writes letter to the editor about stroke


Letter to editor from Emmerdale’s Mark Charnock

Dear Editor

I was honoured and humbled to be given the opportunity to work on Marlon’s stroke journey. It was a complete eye opener into the world of a stroke survivor and I will always be in debt to the Stroke Association and the two amazing stroke survivors who helped show what having a stroke is really like for the 10,000 people who have a stroke every year in Scotland.

There’s 128,000 stroke survivors in Scotland, and it is still the leading cause of adult disability. Many people don’t realise that the vast majority of strokes – around 80-90% in fact – are preventable.  Stroke is still chronically misunderstood by the public and underfunded in terms of research, which is incredible when you consider those stats.

That’s why I’m asking everyone to get involved in this year’s, Great North Run for the Stroke Association.

This famous event takes place on Sunday 10 September and although the general ballot is closed, the Stroke Association still has charity places available!

Stroke strikes every five minutes in the UK and it changes lives in an instant. However, with our support, the Stroke Association can help more stroke survivors and their families rebuild their lives after stroke.

For more information and to apply for your place, visit

Thank you,

Mark Charnock