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Environmental protections

A view of Loch Lomond from Ben Lomond. The sun shines through dark clouds and shimmers on the water. The main mountain path can also be seen snaking across the open hillside.

The accountability gap: Scottish environmental protections post-Brexit (2019)

Following the exit of the UK from the European Union, domestic bodies must now take responsibility for overseeing compliance with environmental legislation, replacing the role of the European Commission and the European Court of Justice. In Scotland, the new agency – Environmental Standards Scotland – will take on these responsibilities.

Research by the National Trust for Scotland has found that the public overwhelmingly agrees that a new, independent environmental watchdog is needed to ensure that existing EU environmental protections remain in place after Brexit, and that government actions are properly scrutinised.

The Trust surveyed a representative sample of 1,000 Scots and found that 81% of respondents said they would support or strongly support the creation of an environmental protection body, to ensure that Scotland upholds similar levels of environmental protections as currently. 67% of those polled thought that this body should be independent of government.

Support for a new body was high, regardless of whether respondents had voted Leave or Remain in 2016 (at 81% and 91% respectively). Support was also strong across party-political boundaries, with majority support among previous SNP (90%), Labour (87%), Conservative (79%), and Liberal Democrat (88%) voters.

The polling also found that the public wanted the watchdog to be able to effectively hold government to account. In addition to being independent of government (67% of respondents), those polled also supported the new body having the power to require the Scottish Government to report on progress (69%), to be able to accept complaints from the public (71%), to be able to initiate investigations (70%), and where necessary to be able to take enforcement actions against the Scottish Government (60%).

[An edited excerpt from the report]

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