Scottish landscape

SLE gives evidence on strengthening Scotland’s environmental governance

Press Release

Scotland’s proposed new environmental watchdog must be fully independent of government and be given the proper resources and budget it requires if we want to ensure Scotland’s world-renowned environment remains protected after Brexit says Scottish Land & Estates (SLE), the organisation which represents landowners and rural businesses.

Following an evidence session with the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee today (25 August 2020) on the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Bill, SLE says that to truly replace the oversight functions of the European Commission and Court, the new body Environmental Standards Scotland must be fully independent of government. 

Karen Ramoo, Policy Adviser at Scottish Land & Estates who gave evidence today at the committee, said:

“We welcome the establishment of Environmental Standards Scotland to replace the oversight and enforcement roles of the European Commission, European Court of Justice and other EU bodies.

“Adequate funding is essential if we want Environmental Standards Scotland to be an effective watchdog, so we would like to see Scottish Ministers commit to multi-year, dedicated funds for the new body, coupled with annual reports and assessment of whether it has been provided with sufficient funds to carry out its purposes.

“We agree with the key environmental principles identified in the Bill which form a fundamental part of environmental law. These have underpinned the development of EU environmental legislation, which in turn has guided the current Scottish environmental legislation, and so will play an important role in the ‘continuity’ purpose of this Bill. 

“One particular principle we would like to see considered for inclusion is the principle of integration which would ensure the environment is taken into account across all policy and decision making, ensuring environmental protection requirements are integrated into the definition and implementation of wider policies and activities. The detail contained within the guidance on principles is going to be key and needs to clearly set out how the principles will sit alongside other principles – existing law and policies.

“We also believe the Bill could go further and ask for Scottish Ministers to ‘act in accordance’ with these principles when developing new policy, rather than simply ‘have regard’ to them as the Bill currently proposes. This would remove the possibility of the principles being undermined while at the same time still providing decision makers with sufficient flexibility to balance different objectives.

“While this Bill applies to Scotland, there are many businesses which operate across borders and so it is important that there is a coordinated approach to environmental governance across the whole of the UK. The needs of the environment are not constrained by geographical or political boundaries, so open dialogue and a constructive approach to environmental governance across the UK is essential.”