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Enforcement the key to environment standards post-Brexit: Society

10 May 2019

Concerns about inadequate enforcement of environmental protections post-Brexit have been raised by the Law Society of Scotland in a response to a Scottish Government consultation. 

The Society supports proposals to maintain a role for the four EU environmental principles in developing future Scottish environmental policy – the precautionary principle, polluter pays principle, prevention principle, and rectification at source principle. However it warns that there may be missing governance mechanisms as a result of the UK leaving the EU, due to losing EU environmental scrutiny mechanisms and assessment of performance. 

In the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, the UK has committed to incorporating a set of environmental principles into UK legislation, and the Scottish Government’s consultation follows commitments previously made in relation to environmental standards and a recent inquiry on the UK Government’s draft Environmental (Principles and Governance) Bill.

Gordon McCreath, convener of the Society’s Environmental Law Sub-Committee, said the Society supported the Scottish Government’s proposal to introduce a duty on Scottish ministers in relation to the EU environmental principles in developing future environmental policy in Scotland – though the response notes more and less strict ways of expressing the duty – but believed the duty should also extend to public authorities, and called for clear guidance as to how the principles were to be treated.

He added: "The absence of the EU mechanisms might negatively impact environmental governance and scrutiny. While it can be challenging to galvanise action by the European bodies, the supranational oversight will be lost, and it is important that individuals are able to raise concerns and have them followed through by an appropriate expert and well-resourced body.

"The loss of EU scrutiny and assessment of performance could be mitigated to some extent by the establishment of a new environmental body or widening the scope of an existing body. Any new or existing body taking on additional duties should be independent from government and able to hold Scottish ministers to account. It is also crucial that any new body is properly resourced and staffed and has the powers to refer the government to judicial review."

The Society further calls for strong collaboration between the UK Government and the devolved administrations on environmental matters post-Brexit.

Click here to read the full response.


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