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Rural Affairs, Environment and Climate Change - Taking Forward our National Conversation

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Foreword by the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment and the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth

Since devolution in 1999 Scotland has taken significant steps to protect the environment and support rural and coastal communities. For example, action has been taken to promote the recovery of fish stocks, enable community land ownership and tackle flooding. The Scottish Government has recently set world-leading emissions reduction targets which make clear our commitment to playing our part in the global challenge of tackling climate change. In addition, in many respects, Scotland has chosen to take a different approach from the one taken elsewhere in the UK when that is best for Scottish circumstances. Much has been done and more can be achieved.

Policy responsibility for the environment, rural and marine issues and climate change is largely, but not entirely, devolved to Scotland. In all we do, we aim to work constructively with the other countries of the UK and EU, and believe that this can be done more effectively through a new partnership on these Isles with independence. Scottish Ministers consider that many aspects of the current constitutional arrangements place unhelpful limits on Scotland's ambitions and actions. They constrain us in our efforts to build a country that truly flourishes. This paper identifies examples of these limitations and focuses particularly on the case for giving Scotland a more effective voice in Europe and on the case for fiscal autonomy.

Scotland has already demonstrated that it can work well within the existing constitutional arrangements to deliver imaginative and successful policies to improve the quality of life for the people of Scotland. The Scottish Ministers consider that, by addressing the issues identified in this paper, we would be able to make an even greater impact - to create the prosperous country and rich society we all seek. The paper seeks to encourage discussion of the opportunities available around rural, marine, environmental and climate change issues and to enable them to be considered in the context of the wider National Conversation debate.

Richard Lochhead MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs
and the Environment

John Swinney MSP
Cabinet Secretary for
Finance and Sustainable Growth