New environment watchdog must have teeth, say charities
Scotland’s leading environment charities have welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement today of a vision and outcomes for an environment strategy, applauding the government’s commitment to restore nature and end Scotland’s contribution to climate change.
They have called on the government to back up this commitment with legally binding targets for nature recovery and an action plan for delivery.
The charities, members of Scottish Environment LINK, also welcomed the announcement of a new environment watchdog to oversee compliance with environmental law, but cautioned that the new body must have real independence and power to protect Scotland’s iconic nature.
More than 30 organisations launched the Fight for Scotland’s Nature campaign in 2018, calling for an independent watchdog to enforce environmental protections after Brexit. The European Commission and Court of Justice previously played a key role in holding government to account on the environment, on issues ranging from air pollution to protections for marine animals.
The charities also welcomed the reiteration of the government’s commitment to embed crucial European environment principles in Scots law – another key demand of their campaign.
The charities believe the new watchdog must be independent of government and must have sufficient resources as well as the ability to investigate complaints from the public, charities and businesses, and to impose sanctions when standards are breached. Public support is strong – a recent opinion poll in Scotland found 81 percent of Leave voters and 91 percent of Remain voters supported a new body to provide continuing environmental oversight.
Charles Dundas, Chair of Scottish Environment LINK, said today:
“It’s fantastic to see such a bold vision for the protection of Scotland’s environment, which, as the Scottish Government says, is fundamental to our future. Now we need to see the strategy backed up with clear, binding targets for the recovery of our amazing nature.
“It’s also great news that the government plans to set up a new environment watchdog. We look forward to seeing the full details, and trust MSPs will scrutinise these closely. It’s essential that citizens are able to hold government to account. We need a watchdog with teeth: real independence, the power to enforce protections, and the people, expertise and funds to do the job.”