Loss of EU environmental governance post-Brexit an issue, warns Law Society of Scotland
There will be missing environmental governance mechanisms as a result of the UK leaving the EU, according to the Law Society of Scotland.
Without the governance functions of the European Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Environment Agency, individuals may lose the means to raise environmental concerns and have them investigated.
In its response to a Scottish government consultation, the Law Society has supported proposals to maintain a role for the EU environmental principles in developing future Scottish environmental policy but warns that there may be missing environmental governance mechanisms as a result of Brexit.
In the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, the UK has committed to incorporating a set of environmental principles into UK legislation, and the Scottish Government’s consultation follows commitments previously made in relation to environmental standards and a recent inquiry on the UK government’s draft Environmental (Principles and Governance) Bill.
Gordon McCreath, convener of the Law Society of Scotland’s Environmental Law Sub-Committee, said: “We support the Scottish Government’s proposal to introduce a duty on Scottish Ministers in relation to the EU environmental principles in developing future environmental policy in Scotland. We believe that this duty should also extend to public authorities and have called for clear guidance as to how the principles are to be treated.”
The Law Society has also warned of governance issues arising as a result of the loss of EU environmental scrutiny mechanisms and assessment of performance.
Mr McCreath added: “The absence of the EU mechanisms might negatively impact environmental governance and scrutiny. While it can be challenging to galvanise action by the European bodies, the supranational oversight will be lost, and it is important that individuals are able to raise concerns and have them followed through by an appropriate expert and well-resourced body.
“The loss of EU scrutiny and assessment of performance could be mitigated to some extent by the establishment of a new environmental body or widening the scope of an existing body. Any new or existing body taking on additional duties should be independent from government and able to hold Scottish Ministers to account. It is also crucial that any new body is properly resourced and staffed and has the powers to refer the government to judicial review.”
The Law Society has also called for strong collaboration between the UK Government and the devolved administrations on environmental matters post-Brexit.
To read the full response please visit the Law Society of Scotland’s website.