A LORDS plot to unilaterally scrap Scottish environmental rules “must be fought tooth and nail”, the SNP’s president has said.

The party has insisted the “foundations of Scottish democracy are under attack” after an amendment to the Government’s Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill was passed in the House of Lords that would give UK ministers the power to overturn laws surrounding environmental issues passed by the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Government – which is in “urgent” talks over the matter - has said it is “deeply concerned” about the changes to the bill, which would also see Scotland treated less favourably than Wales or Northern Ireland.

The amendment put forward would require the “consent” of the Welsh and Northern Irish governments to overturn their laws, while merely requiring for the Scottish Government to be consulted on such changes.

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Mike Russell, president of the SNP, said the Tories have been intent on demolishing environmental protections since Brexit and this latest move shows they want to “attack the last bastion of support” for such rules.

He told The National: "I have long feared for Scottish environmental protections, given that many Brexiteers saw EU environment rules as being an obstacle to their pursuit of profit at any cost.  

“All the assurances about standards made since the Brexit referendum by people like [Michael] Gove have been merely deceitful window dressing to disguise the intention of demolishing environmental protections as soon as possible.  

“They are now intending to attack the last bastion of support for such rules which is Scotland given that we have put a power in our statute books that allows us to keep pace with EU environment laws and refuse to have our standards undermined by Westminster.  

“This must be fought tooth and nail because if we lose then we are surrendering to those who are killing the planet by their greed.”

The National:

Tory life peer Baroness Scott of Bybrook (above) tabled the concerning amendment which was passed by the Lords last week. It relates to a new environmental regulation system the UK Government hopes to introduce.

Environmental outcome reports would regulate the environmental impact of construction, but the new regime would also give UK ministers the powers to “change or scrap aspects of environmental law which should be within the remit of the Scottish Parliament” according to the charity Scottish Environment LINK.

In a briefing paper produced on the bill in August last year, the charity warned about the so-called “Henry VIII powers”.

Crucially it said: “UK ministers will be able to amend, repeal or revoke legislation, including Acts of the Scottish Parliament and other devolved assemblies, placing requirements on public bodies to comply and cooperate with the new system of [environmental outcome reports].

“Neither the Scottish Government nor the Scottish Parliament will have the ability to reject these regulations.

“The bill does not expressly require consent, instead it only requires the UK Government ‘consult’ with Scottish ministers.”

This last provision is now at odds with how the rules would operate in Wales and Northern Ireland because of the amendment.

Arguing for the amendment last week, the Tory deputy leader of the House of Lords Earl Howe blamed the Scottish Government for the discrepancy between the treatment of Wales and Northern Ireland against Scotland.

He said it was “vital” for the UK Government to preserve, in limited circumstances, the ability to legislate UK-wide “to ensure assessments can continue to work across different regimes”.

He added: “Unfortunately, the Scottish Government currently do not wish to support the necessary legislative framework for this to function.”

The National: Tommy Sheppard has insisted the foundations of Scottish democracy are under attackTommy Sheppard has insisted the foundations of Scottish democracy are under attack (Image: NQ)

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard (above) said the amendment to the bill could put Scotland’s transition to net zero under threat.

He said: “This is an alarming development which confirms that the foundations of Scottish democracy are under attack from Westminster. 

“The SNP has repeatedly warned that since Brexit, Westminster has been overstepping its boundaries and involving itself in devolved issues. This latest amendment underlines that point. 

“However, with global warming being the biggest issue facing our planet, the Scottish Parliament having full control over environmental issues has never been so important.

“Unlike the UK Government, Scotland’s transition to a more prosperous, net zero emissions economy is well underway – with a target date of 2045 set for net zero emissions of all greenhouse gasses.

“However, with the UK Government seemingly committed to involving itself in this reserved matter, our progress could be under threat.  

“At the next election, only the SNP are offering voters a real alternative through independence –meaning all decisions and policies will be made by a democratically elected Scottish Parliament, and not by unelected Lords in London.”

Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell said the move should send "shivers down the spine" of anyone who believes in democracy. 

He told The National: “The prospect of Downing Street having veto powers over our environmental policy should send shivers down the spine of anyone who cares about Scotland and our precious environment. It must be resisted by all parties who believe in devolution, democracy and the future of our planet.

"With Scottish Greens in government we are investing in our nature and biodiversity and a just transition away from fossil fuels. We cannot let the Tories jeopardise our progress."

The National approached the Scottish Conservatives for comment, but has received no response.