First Minister’s Advisory Group call for a right to a healthy environment fundamental for a Fairer Scotland, say Scottish Environmental NGOs 

1st January 1970

35 Scottish environmental charities, members of Scottish Environment LINK, welcomed recommendations to enshrine the right to a healthy environment in Scots law through a new Act of the Scottish Parliament.

The recommendations were made by the First Minister’s Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership, chaired by Professor Alan Miller. They echo the work of the UN Special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, John Knox, that the international community must recognise the human right to a healthy environment.

Charles Dundas, Chair of Scottish Environment LINK said:

“This is a hugely important recommendation which recognises the fundamental significance of the environment to our health and wellbeing. We cannot get to a fairer Scotland without a healthy environment.

If this recommendation is to meaningful, it must be possible to evidence how a right to a healthy environment can be realised in practice. The way to do that is through a Scottish Environment Act. This is why LINK’s ‘Fight for Scotland’s Nature’ campaign is calling for a Scottish Environment Act that enshrines EU environmental principles in Scots law, creates an independent watchdog to ensure robust implementation of legislation and sets up targets for future environmental ambition. We see those three asks as delivering on the ambition for a human right for a healthy environment”.

Mary Church, Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Head of Campaigns who leads LINK’s Legal Strategy Subgroup said:

“We warmly welcome the recommendation that the right to a healthy environment should be enshrined in Scots law, and trust that the First Minister and the new task force will give this and all the recommendations of the expert advisory group on human rights the priority they require.

“The right to a healthy environment, and the UN framework principles that elaborate it, underpin all other human rights. In the current context of increasingly urgent environmental problems like climate change and biodiversity collapse it is more important than ever that these rights are understood, incorporated into our laws and robustly upheld.

“We note that Scottish Ministers must move to comply with their obligations under the UN Aarhus Convention on access to justice in environmental cases in order to deliver the right to a healthy environment. The Scottish Government has a long history of foot-dragging on fully implementing the rights established by the Convention, which requires that individuals, communities and NGOs have affordable access to the courts to challenge decision making that adversely impacts on the environment.”

As the Advisory Group notes, “this overall right will include the right of everyone to benefit from healthy ecosystems which sustain human well-being as well the rights of access to information, participation in decision-making and access to justice”. More specifically, “the content of this right will be outlined … with reference to international standards, such as the Framework Principles on Human Rights and Environment developed by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, and the Aarhus Convention”.

Enshrining a new right for a healthy environment confirms the importance of fully implementing existing international agreements such as the Aarhus Convention which requires governments to provide access to information, ensure public participation in decision-making and enable access to justice in environmental issues. LINK members have long supported the introduction of environmental courts or tribunals to ensure Scotland’s full compliance with international agreements.

Contact details

Daphne Vlastari, Scottish Environment LINK Advocacy Manager

Email: | Tel: 0757 211 33 79


Editors’ Notes

  1. Scottish Environment LINK is the forum for Scotland’s voluntary environment community, with over 35 member bodies representing a broad spectrum of environmental interests with the common goal of contributing to a more environmentally sustainable society. LINK is a Scottish Charity (SC000296) and a Scottish Company Limited by guarantee (SC250899). LINK is core funded by Membership Subscriptions and by grants from Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Government and Charitable Trusts. /
  2. The report of the First Minister’s Expert Advisory Group on Human Rights can be found at: A debate will be held on the report recommendations in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 13 December.
  3. The First Minister announced the Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership in the 2017 Programme for Government, and subsequently appointed Professor Alan Miller as Chair. Scottish Environment LINK members participated in the work of the Advisory Group by way of its reference group, and a roundtable on environmental rights. For more information:
  4. Scottish Environment LINK launched its campaign ‘Fight for Scotland’s Nature’ on 13 November, calling on Scottish Government to (a) enshrine EU environment principles into Scots law, (b) create an independent watchdog to ensure the robust implementation of legislation, and (c) set clear targets for future environmental ambition. For more information:
  5. In March 2018, the UN special rapporteur for human rights and the environment, John Knox, recommended that the international community recognized the human right to a healthy environment. For more information: Special Rapporteur’s framework principles can be found here:
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