The majority of the UK’s environmental protection laws were derived in Brussels and have ensured the UK’s environment has improved dramatically from once being known as the “dirty man of Europe”.
These warnings come after the publication of a report by the Scottish Universities Legal Network on Europe (SULNE), which has pointed to a complex series of challenges for Scotland’s environment post Brexit and, in the worst case, could lead to the loss of the EU’s enforcement protection of environmental law.
I sit on the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee, so I’m keen to highlight the fact Brexit presents us with these complex challenges.
However, the importance of Scotland’s clean air, land and habitats for our wildlife and marine life cannot be understated. Indeed, they are some of our most important and valuable assets and these should be protected at all costs.
It would be utterly regrettable – contemptible even – if the UK Government, appearing to lean towards the hardest of hard Brexits, fails to realise this importance and chooses, instead, to continue down a pathway towards the environmental protection of the 1970’s.
And there was little or nothing protecting Scotland’s environment then.
The UK Government should be telling us exactly how they plan to strengthen the protection our natural environment after Brexit.
However, it would not surprise me in the slightest to find that, like the majority of Brexit planning so far, they are still staring at blank pages in Whitehall.
My SNP colleague John McNally commented: “A recent Environmental Audit Committee report suggests that protections for wildlife and habitats could be weaker after the UK leaves the EU if the Government doesn’t take action before, or in the early stages of the Article 50.
“The findings show the need for the Government to allow full parliamentary scrutiny of its plans for the future of environmental legislation. It’s disturbing enough to hear economists predicting that a hard Brexit on Scotland could cost 80,000 jobs and cut wages by £2000 a year.
“Now on top of that there is the threat to our environment. Scotland depends on the worldwide reputation it has for clean air and pure water.
“It is vital to the future of our homegrown produce that Scotland should be banking these environmental laws. They must not be diluted.”
The SULNE report maps out the possible implications of Brexit for environmental protection in Scotland, identifying core questions as well as solutions.
Visit sulne.ac.uk to view the report.