Scottish Environment LINK, a coalition of Scotland’s leading environmental charities, will today launch an urgent campaign, ‘Fight for Scotland’s Nature‘, at the Scottish Parliament. Together they will call for Scotland to have its own environment act.

Fears sparked by Brexit as well as mounting evidence of the global ecological crisis also heavily impacting Scotland has prompted the charities to join forces and urge the Scottish Government to commit to a dedicated Environment Act for Scotland that protects and enhances Scotland’s nature, now and in the future.

80% of all Scotland’s environmental laws come from the EU. The combination of strong legislation and support for effective implementation has made these laws among the most effective on Earth. Further, Scotland’s nature has been a net beneficiary of the EU’s LIFE Nature fund which alone has supported conservation projects worth well over 25 million Euros to date.

If and when Brexit happens, Scotland (along with the rest of the UK) will lose the unrivalled support and enforcement roles of the European Commission, European Court of Justice and other EU bodies. Alarmingly, with only four and a half months to go, there is uncertainty about what will replace this.

This is why Scottish Environment LINK is pushing the Scottish Government to fight for Scotland’s nature and commit to a world-class environment act before it’s too late. Ahead of global 2020 targets on halting biodiversity loss, it is important that Scotland sends a clear message to the world that our environmental protections are not up for grab.

Joined-up legislation in the form of a Scottish Environment Act – that is fit for purpose and caters to Scotland’s unique environmental needs – is required for this to be meaningful.

“Every day brings new evidence of the global ecological crisis that is underway.  Even here in Scotland, with 1 in 11 species currently at risk of extinction, the effects of climate change and ecosystem collapse are apparent”

Scotland may be small but its natural environment is of world importance. It has 60% of the UK’s seas and 10% of Europe’s coastline. It is home to a staggering one third of all of Europe’s breeding seabirds and 29% of Europe’s seals. Its coral reefs, thought to be around 4,000 years old, support an incredible array of life, including fish, sharks and invertebrates. As for peatlands, Scotland has 5% of the world’s share, which stores 25 times more carbon than all the vegetation of the UK.

Jess Dolan, director of Ramblers Scotland, said: “With 80% of our environmental protections coming from the EU, we strongly support LINK’s timely call for a new Scottish Environment Act to safeguard our nature and landscapes for future generations.

“Our world-famous environments offer the perfect backdrop for outdoor recreation. The number of people walking in their free time here is booming, up 13% in six years, and VisitScotland estimates that walking contributes £1.26 billion annually.

“So by fighting for nature and thriving environments, we’re not only protecting precious wildlife and habitats, but also Scotland’s future economy, health and wellbeing.”

Dangers of inadequate support

Charles Dundas of Woodland Trust Scotland and Chair of Scottish Environment LINK said: “Our environment is important not just in terms of its natural and cultural wealth. It is our life support system and we rely on it for food, clean water and air, and jobs – 14% of which exist as a result of our nature.

“But this is all under threat. Every day brings new evidence of the global ecological crisis that is underway.  Even here in Scotland, with 1 in 11 species currently at risk of extinction, the effects of climate change and ecosystem collapse are apparent. The legal framework of protections and associated funding that we currently receive from the EU have been pivotal in holding back the tide of further biodiversity declines.”

Scottish Environment LINK is stressing the importance of Scotland continuing to develop protections in line with internationally recognised EU environmental principles that have been crucial in safeguarding Scotland’s nature and enabling it to thrive. It also warns of the dangers of inadequate support and funding to effectively implement laws. Further, it is pushing for clear environmental targets supported by long-term actions and funding to mitigate climate change, create robust ecosystems and ensure sustainable use of our natural resources that is good for us and our land and seas.

Joyce McMillan, President of Scottish Environment LINK said: “As guardians of our amazing environment, we have a duty to ensure future environmental legislation is not tokenistic. It must be upheld through an independent and well-resourced watchdog.

“Now more than ever, we need a Scottish Environment Act that builds on existing Scottish Government commitments to retain EU protections. This would send a clear message to UK and EU partners as well as the rest of the world that we are serious about protecting and enhancing our natural environment. We live in a time of increasing environmental crisis and degradation, and it is vital that Scotland remains a dynamic part of the movement towards a more sustainable future, both for our own sakes, and as a reflection of our commitment to wider international efforts to protect and cherish the natural world on which we all depend.”