SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT GREEN credentials are being called to question by a regional MSP who pressed the case for an ‘environmental court’ this week.
John Finnie, the Green MSP for the Highlands and Islands (including Moray) quizzed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon over the government position on creating a specialised environmental court or tribunal when the UK leaves the European Union.
Mr Finnie said that a replacement court or tribunal would go some way to patching a regulatory framework which he claims is about to be “torn apart” by Brexit – a decision that is being described as a missed opportunity by Friends of the Earth in Scotland.
Mr Finnie explained: “Last week, the Scottish Government announced that it will not establish an environmental court or tribunal. When we leave the European Union we will lose the oversight of the European Court of Justice, a court that has played a key role monitoring and enforcing environmental obligations.
“The legal system of the UK does not allow us to fully replace the ECJ, yet an environmental court here in Scotland would go a long way to patching the regulatory framework about to be torn apart by Brexit, particularly in providing for legal expertise on environmental issues.
“Scotland must establish a new Environmental Court to replace the functions currently fulfilled by the European Court of Justice, along with a new Environment Commissioner with powers to hold the government to account on its environmental commitments. It’s puzzling why the First Minister does not agree.”
The Scottish Government response to consultation on the issue was published last month under the title ‘Developments in Environmental Justice in Scotland’.
Friends of the Earth Scotland slammed the Scottish Government last week over the paper, saying: “This is yet another missed opportunity by the Scottish Government to bring the Scottish legal system into the 21st century on environmental rights.
“By closing the door on a specialist environmental court or tribunal the Scottish Government demonstrates it is in continued denial of the critical important of environmental law, and the environmental rights established in international law.
“In a half-hearted consultation last year, the Scottish Government asked whether a specialist environmental court should be set up. It has now chosen to ignore the vast majority of stakeholders who adamantly said yes, and who criticised the narrow approach to environmental justice taken by the Government to date.”