THE Scottish Government has been accused of an “unlawful failure” to consider the establishment of an environmental court.

Ministers were obliged to consult on the effectiveness of governance arrangements relating to the environment to ensure continuity in the wake of Brexit.

Part of this involved considering whether current access to justice on environmental issues was effective and if the establishment of an environmental court could improve outcomes.

According to the Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland (ERCS) – a charitable organisation campaigning for a Scottish Environment Court – the loss of access to the Court of Justice for the EU and the European Commission has resulted in less recourse to justice for environmental failures.

The ERCS has also pointed to a lack of a parliamentary commissioner or connected court process to fine the government or other parties.

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However, the Scottish Government’s report concluded that it did “not see any strong argument for a change in the balance of parliamentary, administrative and judicial roles in decision making on environmental matters, or for the creation of a specialist court”.

It added: "Our objective must be to protect environmental standards and rights without individuals and communities having to go to court, a process that can be daunting and stressful." 

A statement issued by the ERCS expressed “deep disappointment with the poor quality of the report and the unlawful failure to consider the establishment of an environmental court”.

They accuse the report’s authors of superficial analysis and of approaching the exercise with “pre-determined” conclusions.

A spokesperson for the ERCS told The National: “Although the Scottish Government claims to be committed to addressing the climate and biodiversity crisis, its review of environmental governance provides no analysis of the entrenched environmental governance problems that plague Scotland - from a lack of legal enforcement against polluters to the limited implementation of environmental laws - and offers little in the way of constructive solutions.

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“In refusing to consider the establishment a dedicated environmental court, the Scottish Government has missed an open goal.

“There is abundant evidence from more than 2000 environmental courts and tribunals operating around the world that this system works - increasing access to justice, addressing fragmented routes to remedy, and developing judicial expertise on the environment.

“Yet in rejecting the proposal out of hand, the government has demonstrated an unlawful failure to meet its statutory duties, and left Scotland's environment unprotected.

“We urge the Scottish Government to rethink its approach before another opportunity is wasted." 

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is determined to protect and enhance our environment, and to uphold and improve environmental standards.

"We recognise that there are a range of ways in which that can be achieved, and we encourage everyone who has an interest in this area to respond to our consultation, which closes on October 13.”