Planned environmental standards scotland watchdog needs greater accountability to parliament

Press Release

Parliament should have a greater role in the operation of the new governance body Environmental Standards Scotland (ESS), Scottish Land & Estates said today.

Provisions for the creation of the organisation are being examined at Stage 1 of the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Bill. ESS is intended to replace the oversight and enforcement roles of the European Commission, European Court of Justice, and other EU bodies.

Scottish Land & Estates said it welcomed the recommendations by the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee for strengthening parliament’s role – as well as ECCLR’s recommendation on the ‘integration principle’ to be brought forward at Stage 2 of the Bill.

Karen Ramoo, Policy Adviser at Scottish Land & Estates, said: “We fully support the creation of the Environmental Standards Scotland (ESS) watchdog but as we made clear in oral evidence to the committee, it must be fully independent of government and it should be appointed by, and accountable to, the Scottish Parliament.

“Whilst this may appear to be a dry procedural matter, in order to truly replicate the oversight functions of the European Commission and Court, it needs to independent of government of whatever political affiliation - and also be seen to be independent.

“We welcome the ECCLR committee’s recommendation that the ESS is sufficiently resourced to ensure it has the capacity to act as a robust, independent governance body, able to hold the Scottish Government to account. In addition, we also support the recommendation that a five-year indicative budget, is ring fenced – similar to the commitment made by the UK Government for the Office for Environmental Protection.

“The committee’s recommendation that the inclusion principle be added to the Bill, whereby all Scottish Government policies and strategies would require to aligned with environmental objectives, is the correct path for ensuring Scotland’s long-term sustainable development.

“The decision to exclude the integration principle contrasts with the position taken in the UK Environment Bill. Ensuring its adoption into the Bill would ensure an approach is taken where there remains a degree of consistency among the UK jurisdictions.”

SLE also said it was important that alignment with EU Law, as dealt with in part one of the Bill, does not prevent Scotland from showing environmental ambition to move ahead of the EU where appropriate for the nation’s needs.

Ms Ramoo continued: “We feel it would be far more appropriate for Scotland’s ambition to be based on introducing policy which fits Scotland as and when needed rather than waiting for the EU to introduce something which Scotland has not been involved in drafting. This does not prevent Scotland from following the EU in principle, but it ensures any policy is written, first and foremost, with Scotland’s unique situation in mind rather than amended to fit.

“The parliament’s Finance and Constitution Committee has recommended a flexible approach in this regard and it is a view with SLE concurs with.”