Credit: Scottish Environment Link

New laws needed to stop post-Brexit nature loss in Scotland

One in 11 species in Scotland is at risk of extinction – and environmental campaigners fear Brexit could exacerbate nature loss by leading to an unraveling of the critical environmental protections currently locked into Scottish law by way of EU membership. Now the Scottish government is under pressure to ramp up post-Brexit environmental protections with new laws.

Scotland’s natural environment is renowned for not only being stunningly beautiful but also for being home to globally important habitats and wildlife, with 5% of the world’s peatlands, a third of the EU’s breeding seabirds, and 90% of the UK’s surface freshwater.

But with 80% of Scottish environmental protections stemming from EU legislation and Brexit looming, over 5200 people have signed a petition calling for a Scottish Environment Act to embed EU and international environmental principles into Scots law.

The petition is part of the ‘Fight for Scotland’s Nature’ campaign set up by Scottish Environment Link – a coalition of 35 Scottish environmental charities – to encourage participation in the Scottish government’s ongoing consultation on ‘environmental principles and governance’ which runs until 11 May.

The Scottish government has made a commitment “to maintain or exceed EU environmental standards” and to “keep pace” with EU protections.

But Charles Dundas, Chair of Scottish Environment LINK, said there was an urgent need to honour these commitments with “new concrete proposals to protect our right to a healthy environment” that “lock in and build on the full spectrum of EU protections”.

Dundas said:

Through the Scottish Government’s consultation, we have the opportunity to take heed of the dangers affecting our natural environment and to push for a world-class Scottish Environment Act. Only when we have that commitment do we have a fighting chance of preventing further environmental degradation and unprecedented levels of species decline.

The campaign also calls for an independent and well-resourced watchdog to enforce environmental protections – given that if and when Scotland and the rest of the UK leave the EU they will wave goodbye to the oversight and enforcement roles of the European Commission and the European Court of Justice.

Jeremy Wates, Secretary General of the European Environmental Bureau, said:

Environmental issues such as biodiversity loss, climate change and air pollution don’t stop at borders. Whatever the outcome of the Brexit discussions, Europe’s environmental organisations want to see high standards for the environment, and for citizens’ rights on environmental matters, maintained across Scotland, the rest of the UK, and the EU. Scottish Government commitments are welcome but now is time for real action.