Scotland is in urgent need of laws to protect its natural beauty

1st January 1970

SCOTLAND is known worldwide for its natural environment’s breathtaking beauty and is home to globally important habitats and wildlife. We have 5% of the world’s peatlands and a third of the EU’s breeding seabirds. Our rivers and lochs contain 90% of the UK’s surface freshwater. But with one in 11 species currently at risk of extinction, we are facing very troubling times. The situation is compounded by Brexit. If and when we leave the EU, Scotland will lose the governance mechanisms provided by the European Commission and the European Court of Justice and with it as much as 80% of its environmental protections.

This is why 35 of Scotland’s leading environmental organisations have come together in the Fight for Scotland’s Nature campaign, to push the Scottish Government to act. In March 2018, the Scottish Parliament unanimously backed the coalition’s call for concrete proposals and a public consultation on the future of environmental protections.

Finally, after months of pushing, the government recently released its consultation, Environmental Principles and Governance in Scotland. This is a step in the right direction, but doesn’t go far enough and lacks the sense of urgency required at this late stage.

Scouring the document, there’s no explicit commitment to introducing legislation to give Scotland’s natural assets permanent protection. It also fails to show how the government intends to uphold the commitments it has made publicly around human rights, sustainable development and a healthy environment for all. And there’s nothing on how we’ll maintain international standards in the battle against climate change.

Once again, we must join forces to tell our political representatives just how important our nature is to the people of Scotland. The Government must take heed of the dangers affecting our precious environment and create a world-class environment Act that is able to do justice to our world-class nature. Only when we have that do we have a fighting chance of preventing unprecedented levels of species decline.

By Charles Dundas, Chair of Scottish Environment LINK

Published in The National on 3 March 2018. 

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