Scottish Environment LINK, a coalition of Scotland’s leading environment charities, has warned the UK government that its plan to create a UK internal market could seriously harm Scotland’s natural environment by dragging down standards.
The plan unveiled by the UK government last month appears to be aimed at both removing regulation and forcing all four nations of the UK to adopt the same standards irrespective of each nation’s environmental context or needs, say members of Scottish Environment LINK. They believe the plan could create a race to the bottom, forcing Scotland to revoke or water down legislation protecting its environment to mirror any lowering of standards in the rest of the UK.
Internationally prized and iconic wildlife including otters, bottlenose dolphins, puffins, bats, Golden eagles and osprey could be at risk along with Scotland’s drinking water, beaches and food standards. At present 80 percent of Scotland’s environmental protections come from EU membership, but the UK will no longer be bound by EU law after 31 December 2020 when the Brexit transition period ends. In response, Scottish Environment LINK launched a campaign, Fight for Scotland’s Nature to help prevent environmental protections for Scotland’s nature from being weakened post-Brexit.
The Scottish government has since committed to ‘maintain or exceed’ current EU environment standards, and published an EU Continuity Bill in June setting out how it plans to replace EU protections.
Scottish Environment LINK is urging the Scottish Parliament to strengthen the Continuity Bill to give greater powers and independence to Scotland’s new environment watchdog, and to enshrine in law the commitment to maintain or exceed standards, requiring Scottish Ministers to keep pace with developments in EU environmental law.
But the charities fear that the UK government’s internal market proposals could instead force Scotland to follow the lowest common denominator, especially where countries negotiating bilateral trade deals with the UK demand lower standards, seriously undermining efforts to combat climate change and biodiversity decline.
Charles Dundas, chair of Scottish Environment LINK, said today:
Scotland’s world-renowned natural environment is central to all our lives, and we must not allow arrangements for a UK internal market to put it in jeopardy by dragging standards down. At the same time, the Scottish government’s commitment to maintain or exceed present EU standards should be enshrined in law and is something we have been pushing for.
High standards of environmental protection are essential if we are to achieve a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and tackle the joint crises of alarming nature loss and climate breakdown, the greatest challenges of our time.
Notes to Editors
- Scottish Environment LINK is the forum for Scotland’s voluntary environment community, with 39 member bodies representing a broad spectrum of environmental interests with the common goal of contributing to a more environmentally sustainable society scotlink.org
- Read Scottish Environment LINK’s response to the UK government’s internal market white paper
- Read the UK government consultation on plans for a UK internal market