Future of Environmental Protection in Scotland
In June 2018 the Scottish Government published a discussion document Developing an Environment Strategy for Scotland: Discussion paper. The paper was in response to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU (Brexit) and was recognition that environmental standards in Scotland have gradually been improved through the protection afforded by EU legislation, including the Habitats, Birds, Water Framework and Marine Strategy Framework Directives. The Scottish Government indicated it wished to make a commitment to see these standards maintained, or exceeded, after withdrawal from Europe which we believe is an absolute ’must-do’. The discussion paper set out to develop a shared vision of the quality of Scotland’s environment in the medium (30 years) to long term (100 years). A draft vision “One planet prosperity – protecting nature and living within the Earth’s sustainable limits, while building a more prosperous, innovative and successful nation” and draft outcomes were set out in the discussion document:
- We are a climate leader and play our full role in limiting global temperature rise to well below 2oC;
- We are a zero waste, resource efficient nation;
- Our biodiversity is protected and enhanced, supporting healthy ecosystems;
- Our air, freshwater, seas and soils are excellent quality;
- Everyone can access, enjoy and connect with nature; and
- The global footprint of our consumption and production is sustainable.
Environmental protection has also been underpinned by 4 EU principles of:
- Polluter pays – the person who causes pollution should bear the costs of the damage caused and any remedy required;
-Preventative action - requires preventive measures be taken to anticipate and avoid environmental damage before it happens;
- Tackling pollution at source - ensures damage or pollution is dealt with where it occurs;
-Precautionary principle - where there is uncertainty about the risk of environmental harm, this principle allows protective measures to be taken without having to wait until harm actually happens.
In February 2019 the Scottish Government issued another consultation document Consultation on Environmental Principles and Governance in Scotland with a closing date for responses of 11th May 2019. This document set out to seek views on how the EU environmental principles should be maintained in Scottish environmental policy and what measures need to be in place to ensure effective compliance with the law (environmental governance) in the future; especially as there’ll no longer be an EU Court of Justice with a role in the UK.
We considered and responded directly to a number of questions in the consultation (see details here). The main thrust of our response is that the EU environmental principles need to be embedded into Scot’s Law to ensure that progress made on environmental protection, and steps to restore the quality of our environment, does not fall behind other countries now or into the future. We highlighted concerns about the loss of independent scrutiny of the implementation of environmental standards, policy and practice, and the powers to prosecute if these are not met, when we lose the European Court of Justice mechanism. We also emphasised that it is important that investment in monitoring and scientific research to improve our understanding of Scotland’s marine and coastal environments needs to be increased and that we need to find ways to continue to benefit from collaborations between experts across countries as these networks bring wider intelligence and opportunities for partnership working.