Vote secures some key post-Brexit nature protections, but major gaps remain

The Fight for Scotland’s Nature campaign reports here on the recent vote that took place at Holyrood on the EU Continuity Bill. As part of this Bill a new environment watchdog is being set up to safeguard vital environmental protections after the Brexit transition. In last month’s Voice for Arran we highlighted that a significant part of the work of the watchdog – to be able to take enforcement action – was not guaranteed, leaving citizens without the ability to to hold government to account in instances of harm to nature.

22 December 2020

Today MSPs at Holyrood voted to pass the EU Continuity Bill, setting out how Scotland will protect its natural environment from 1 January 2021, when the crucial environmental safeguards that come with EU membership cease to apply.

The Fight for Scotland’s Nature campaign has called since 2018 for strong new laws to protect and restore our amazing nature, and many thousands of people have added their voices to the campaign.

We’re really pleased that the bill embeds key EU environment principles in Scots law. These have underpinned Scotland’s ambitious climate change targets, and action against fracking and genetically modified crops. It’s a great achievement that they’ll continue to guide environmental policy.

The bill also sets up a new Scottish environment watchdog, Environmental Standards Scotland. Pressure from members of the public has helped give the watchdog greater independence, strengthening its ability to hold government to account.

But we’re disappointed that despite thousands of us writing to our MSPs on the issue, the new watchdog won’t be able to take enforcement action when people raise complaints about individual cases of harm to their environment. This deprives Scotland’s people of a vital means of seeking justice on environmental matters. And it means that determined campaigning by people and communities will be more important than ever in defending Scotland’s unique nature.

Scottish Environment will continue to raise this issue with the Scottish government, pushing for the watchdog to have the power to act on citizens’ concerns.

Next, Fight for Scotland’s Nature is calling on the Scottish government to set clear, legally binding targets to halt and reverse the loss of our species and habitats. Look out for more on that in the new year. A huge thank you goes to everyone who has supported the campaign so far.

For more information see Fight for Scotland’s Nature
As part of Scottish Environment Link, 38 environmental charities from across Scotland have come together to ‘Fight for Scotland’s Nature’ and gather support for a Scottish Environment Act