Strong support for a new nature watchdog in Scotland

04 Oct 2019

Scottish Government’s consultation receives public support for safeguarding nature from Brexit.
New report from Scottish Environment LINK sets out proposals for ensuring that environmental protections can still be upheld if the UK exits the EU.

Today the 2019 State of Nature Report, a comprehensive assessment from over 70 wildlife organisations and government agencies, showed that there has been no let up in the declines of nature across Scotland and the UK, and that urgent action is needed to reverse these declines.

The Scottish Government’s commendable ambitions to be world leaders on tackling the twin climate and nature crises cannot be achieved without the support of robust legislation and ways to uphold protections. That is why LINK welcomes the results of the Scottish Government’s consultation on Environmental Principles and Governance released today, which show strong support for strong new laws and institutions in Scotland, if the UK exits the EU.

Today’s consultation results show a genuine concern that Brexit may lead to negative impacts on environmental protection and that there is widespread support for the Scottish Government’s proposals to safeguard standards and introduce new arrangements for scrutinising and enforcing these protections. 70% of respondents to the consultation called for four key EU environmental principles to guide future Scottish Government policy, and there was also strong support for the creation of a new body to ensure that environmental protections are properly delivered and scrutinised. Several respondents also supported the introduction of an Environmental Court in Scotland.

LINK would like thank all of the individuals and organisations who participated in our Fight for Scotland’s Nature campaign, which contributed over 12,000 responses to the consultation. This is an overwhelming display of passion and support for Scotland’s nature, and we were particularly pleased to see the wonderful contributions of the young people from Sunnyside Primary School in Glasgow, and the Ullapool Sea Savers mentioned in the Scottish Government’s report.

We are therefore delighted to launch a new report from Professor Campbell Gemmell, commissioned by Scottish Environment LINK, which echoes many of the consultation responses and proposes some practical ways that the Scottish Government could achieve its welcome aims to maintain EU standards.  The report recommends that the Scottish Government:

  • creates an independent Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to act as a watchdog;
  • establishes a dedicated Environmental Court over the long- term to enforce standards;
  • streamlines and strengthens environmental governance in Scotland.

Taking forward these recommendations would ensure environmental protections can still be upheld if the UK exits the EU.  Such a comprehensive response to the risks of EU exit would mean that Scotland’s institutions are as strong as the environmental protections they uphold. It would ensure that government and its agencies are held to account, providing a fundamental democratic safeguard and giving the environment a strong voice at a time when it urgently needs to be heard.  Deborah Long, Chief Officer of Scottish Environment LINK, said:

The results of the Scottish Government’s consultation show that LINK’s concerns about the risks to Scotland’s species and habitats are shared by many. As we rapidly approach the Brexit deadline, we are in danger of losing guiding environmental principles and the ability to enforce high standards at a time when our natural world is already under threat from the twin climate and biodiversity emergencies.  The consultation results show widespread support for their proposals to maintain EU environmental principles and introduce new governance arrangements as a response to EU exit. Scottish Environment LINK is delighted to release this new report from Professor Campbell Gemmell on environmental governance, which we hope proposes a practical way forward on these issues. We look forward to discussing these solutions in more detail with the Scottish Government in the coming months.

LINK supports the Scottish Government’s welcome ambitions to ensure that Brexit does not lead to a downgrading of environmental protections, and we hope that this will be achieved through new legislation that embeds EU environmental principles in Scots law and creates a new environment watchdog to safeguard Scotland’s amazing wildlife and landscapes.


[1] The analysis of the Scottish Government’s consultation on Environmental Principles and Governance can be found at:
[2] Campbell Gemmell’s report on Environmental Governance: effective approaches for Scotland post-Brexit can be accessed at:
[3] A summary of the report’s key findings has been produced by Scottish Environment LINK and can be accessed at:
[4] Professor Campbell Gemmell is a Partner in Canopus Scotland Consulting, Professor of Environment Policy, Regulation and Governance at the University of Glasgow, Honorary Professor in the Faculty of Natural Sciences at the University of Stirling and an Adjunct Professor in the Future Industries Institute at UniSA, Adelaide.
He is former CEO of the South Australian EPA (2012 to 2014) and was CEO of SEPA 2003 to 2012 and SEPA Strategy Director 2001 to 2003.
Campbell was a member of Scottish Government’s Expert Roundtable on Environment and Climate Change and Chair of the independent review of Cleaner Air for Scotland.
[5] The Fight for Scotland’s Nature campaign has been coordinated by Scottish Environment LINK. It is supported by 37 environmental organisations and has called for a Scottish Environment Act that embeds EU environmental principles, establishes a new environmental watchdog and sets new targets for reversing nature decline. More details can be found at:

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