A CALL has been made for the Scottish Government to appoint an environment czar and set up a dedicated environmental court in an urgent response to exit from the EU.

A special report also stresses that environment laws should be strengthened and streamlined in Scotland – even if Brexit does not go through.

Scottish Environment Link, the voice of Scotland’s voluntary environment organisations, has drawn up the report because of fears of Brexit’s impact on the environment.

It points out that crucial EU environmental protections will no longer apply if Brexit goes ahead and says they must be replaced by “a robust model of future governance arrangements”, stating: “What we stand to lose is serious and must be addressed … serious reform of our governance arrangements is necessary with or without the UK’s EU withdrawal and its consequences for Scotland.”

Earlier this year, members of the public and 37 environmental NGOs backed Link’s Fight For Scotland’s Nature campaign, with more than 22,000 people writing to the First Minister in May 2019 calling for strong environmental laws to be put in place.

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Its new report welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to maintaining environmental standards but says the forthcoming Continuity Bill must make sure environment laws are strong enough.

It states: “Regardless of the outcomes of Brexit, the strength of our environmental governance system in Scotland is more important than ever if we are to tackle the twin climate and nature emergencies and meet the Scottish Government’s ambitions in this regard.”

It says there is a need to ensure the Government and its agencies are held to account, “providing a fundamental democratic safeguard and giving the environment a strong voice at a time when it urgently needs to be heard”.

The report goes on to call for the creation of a Scottish Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment as an urgent response to EU exit. This environment czar would ensure that environmental protections were being implemented and enforced correctly, investigate public complaints about potential law breaches and refer serious cases to the courts.

He or she would be appointed by, and accountable to, Parliament and in the event of a No-Deal Brexit, interim measures would be put in place until the Environment Commissioner is operational.

In addition, it says a dedicated Scottish Environment Court should be established over the longer-term to work alongside the Environment Commissioner. The report states: “Scotland is starting from a place of relative strength, with a strong foundation to build upon and achieve the Scottish Government’s stated and commendable environmental ambitions. However, it must be recognised that much of this merit has arisen from EU membership.”

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “We are committed to maintaining or exceeding EU environmental standards despite the uncertainty posed by Brexit. We have just published the analysis report on our consultation for future principles and governance and will carefully consider these as we work to put in place alternative governance procedures for the environment, as outlined in the Programme for Government.

“While our choice would be to remain fully within EU governance systems, our approach will ensure we remain true to the EU environmental principles and ensure governance that fit Scottish needs, circumstances and ambitions.”