Nature and the UK General Election: Key priorities for Scotland

15 Apr 2024

The UK is now one of the most nature-depleted countries on Earth. The most recent State of Nature Report – the UK’s most comprehensive report on biodiversity – has clearly mapped the continued decline of our wildlife over the past decades, following on from the UK’s already extensive historical loss of nature prior to contemporary record-keeping. At present, one in six species is at risk of going extinct in Great Britain. As a signatory to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the UK legally must ensure that we respond to the scale and pace of the nature crisis. 

Whilst many policy matters relating to nature are devolved to the Scottish Government, significant areas affecting Scotland’s natural environment are reserved to the UK Government. 

Scottish Environment LINK calls upon all political parties to ensure that their manifestos for the upcoming UK General Election incorporate clear commitments to the protection and restoration of the UK’s natural environment. For Scotland’s benefit, these commitments should include the follow areas: 

1. Agricultural Funding 

Scottish Environment LINK supports the Nature 2030 campaign’s call for a pay rise for farmers. Farmers, crofters and land managers are central to meeting Scotland’s climate and nature ambitions, and they should be fairly compensated for their efforts. While the Scottish Government is responsible for agriculture policy, the overall budget is dependent on decisions made at a UK level. 

Scottish MPs should push for higher funding for agriculture overall and ensure that Scotland continues to receive at least the current proportion of UK funding. 

2. Reform of the Internal Market Act 

The Internal Market Act poses a key risk to environmental policymaking in the devolved nations of the UK. The rules of the internal market may act as a ceiling to environmental ambitions, rather than a floor, and may dissuade the type of policy innovation which has to date been typical of devolution. There is a very real risk that the Internal Market Act, left unreformed, has a chilling effect on environmental policy. 

There are also structural issues with the Act, with a lack of clarity on the mechanisms for devolved governments to request exemptions. There are clear opportunities to reform the operation of the Act in the interests of better policy making. 

The Internal Market Act should be reformed and environmental measures made exempt from internal market rules. 

 3. Circular Economy  

The next UK Government must commit to keep pace with Europe’s Circular Economy Action Plan on product policy, in particular eco-design standards and right to repair. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes are needed that will incentivise reuse as well as fund collection and recycling, and we need the UK Government to deliver an all-inclusive deposit return system for drinks containers, including glass containers, by 2025.  

The UK urgently needs a comprehensive UK Chemicals Strategy to outline its vision for protecting human health and the environment. UK REACH should at a minimum close the growing gap between the EU and UK in the regulation of harmful chemicals, such as PFAS, and remain aligned to EU REACH. Products should be incentivised to be safe by design and a national materials data hub should be developed to provide comprehensive data of raw and secondary materials including chemicals.  

4. Peatlands 

The UK Peatland Strategy (2018-2040) remains a valuable plan for all countries of the UK to coordinate peatland restoration and protection. The work of the UK’s IUCN Peatland Programme has been instrumental in supporting coordinated action between the countries of the UK. 

However, continuing to allow the extraction and importation of peat for use in horticulture undermines the environmental gains made from restoring peat bogs and makes it more difficult for the UK to meet its net zero targets. The next UK Government should work with the devolved administrations to end the selling of peat for horticulture in all UK countries. It should also ban the importation of peat at the earliest opportunity. 

5. UK [Good] Food Bill 

The UK’s current food system is damaging our health and the environment, and the impacts of the global coronavirus pandemic have highlighted the need for resilient food supply chains. Following the recommendations of the Dimbleby Review, Scottish Environment LINK encourages a strong framework of legal targets to improve the UK’s food system.  

Scottish Environment LINK supports the creation of a UK [Good] Food Bill, in line with Scotland’s Good Food Nation Act, which focuses on long-term measures to deliver a healthier, resilient, just and sustainable food system. A UK [Good] Food Bill would reinforce existing legislation in devolved nations through the ability to better engage with overlapping areas of food policy that are reserved to the UK Government, including trade and industry.

6. Lead Ammunition 

Scottish Environment LINK supports banning the use and sale of lead ammunition for both live quarry shooting and outside use. The international scientific consensus is that lead ammunition poses risks to human health, wildlife and captive animals, including livestock and domestic animals. Partial bans on the use of lead ammunition have been ineffective or only partially effective and alternative ammunition types are both effective and widely available. 

7. Climate and the UK General Election 

Scottish Environment LINK supports and echoes Stop Climate Chaos Scotland’s (SCCS) calls for both the Scottish Government and the next UK Government to take bold action to tackle climate change. You can read more about the importance of addressing the climate crisis for both the Scottish and UK Governments, along with SCCS’ policy proposals for the next UK Government, here.  

8. Global Leadership 

The next government will represent the whole UK on the international stage. As such, it has a key role to play in driving ambitious global action for biodiversity, climate and environmental sustainability in this critical decade to 2030. This government must lead by example in its domestic agenda, including through its compliance with the Aarhus Convention, and support practical action around the world, demonstrating that the UK will play its part in securing a world where people and nature can thrive. 

 Nature underpins so much of our society – from the food we eat, the air we breathe, our medicines and more. The love of nature is shared across the political divide and there has never been greater need for clear political leadership to address both the nature and climate crises. 


For more information please contact: 

Dan Paris 

LINK Advocacy Manager 


Image: Sandra Graham

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