Brexit trade deals could put iconic Scottish wildlife at risk at a time when 1 in 9 species in Scotland is at risk of extinction, say Scotland’s leading environmental charities. Otters, bottlenose dolphins, puffins, bats, Golden eagle and osprey are among a host of species that will face increased threats after 31 January.
Many of Scotland’s most important wildlife species and habitats benefit from high levels of protection originating from the EU.
The charities, members of Scottish Environment LINK and behind the Fight for Scotland’s Nature campaign, fear that a rush to rapidly agree bilateral trade deals with other countries after 31 January could lead to the slashing of environmental standards, including crucial protections for Scotland’s wildlife. Swiftly agreed trade deals with countries such as the United States and China could lead to weaker regulations on animal welfare standards, food quality and environmental protections.
The US has banned mention of climate change from trade talks with the UK. It also wants the UK to move to a US system where things are assumed safe until harm or damage is proved.
The EU exit deal itself also poses a risk to Scotland’s nature and landscapes, say campaigners. Safeguards contained in Theresa May’s deal, aimed at preventing environmental standards being lowered, have been removed from Boris Johnson’s deal.
The Scottish Government has repeatedly said it will not water down environmental protections after Brexit. But campaigners fear that if standards are slashed in the rest of the UK, there could be huge pressure on Scotland to follow suit.
The charities also warn that without the option for people to raise complaints to the European Commission, existing protections may not be enforced, leaving wildlife vulnerable to further declines and destruction of habitats. Under the banner of Fight for Scotland’s Nature campaign, they are calling for the Scottish Government to create a new, independent environment watchdog for Scotland, and to embed crucial environmental principles, previously applied through European law, into Scots law.
Charles Dundas, Chair of Scottish Environment LINK, said:
Brexit will leave the Scottish wildlife we all love open to a host of new threats if environmental standards are lowered, just when we most need to stop nature’s decline and help it recover. The Brexit deal and the pressure of new bilateral trade deals make it more urgent than ever that the Scottish Government acts to ensure our environmental protections remain intact.”
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