Leading environmental charities have welcomed a plan announced this week by Scotland’s Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham to set up an interim advisory panel to safeguard Scotland’s environmental standards in the event of a No Deal Brexit. Although the EU has this week granted an extension to Article 50, avoiding a No Deal exit on 31 October, this does not take No Deal entirely off the table.
The charities, members of Scottish Environment LINK, have been calling through their Fight for Scotland’s Nature campaign for urgent measures to protect Scotland’s environment from severe threats posed by Brexit. Their demands include a new, independent watchdog to enforce environmental protections.
The advisory panel announced this week would be a temporary arrangement, to be set up if the UK leaves the UK without a deal, but the charities say in the short term it could help fill the gap left by loss of access to the European Commission. They are awaiting further details on how the interim panel will operate, including how it will receive and address complaints from members of the public regarding environmental compliance, and whether it will include members with environmental expertise.
Members of Scottish Environment LINK are calling on the Scottish Government to detail what longer term arrangements it will put in place to ensure that Scotland’s environmental protections are upheld after Brexit. The results of the Scottish Government’s own consultation showed strong support for the creation of a new body in Scotland to carry out scrutiny, oversight and enforcement of environmental protections if we leave the EU. Scottish Environment LINK is recommending that there be a Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, based on research recently carried out by Professor Campbell Gemmell and commissioned by LINK.
Charles Dundas, chair of Scottish Environment LINK, said:
“Scotland’s natural environment is central to our society, our economy, and our wellbeing. This announcement shows that the Scottish Government is taking seriously the question of how we will look after our nature if the UK leaves the EU.
“A No Deal Brexit would leave Scotland’s environment extremely vulnerable, and we’re delighted that the Scottish Government has made plans to prevent standards slipping.
“We believe that in the longer term it is essential that Scotland has an independent, well-resourced environmental watchdog to uphold environmental protections and hold future governments to account.”