5.1 Many individuals and organisations that represent, live, operate from and work in Scotland took part in the online discussion. They were typically highly-engaged and knowledgeable about issues relating to the environment, sharing expertise, examples and reflections on ways to achieve change and address challenges. These responses provide a useful source of opinions and information for the Scottish Government to draw upon in the development of the Environment Strategy.
5.2 The profile of respondents - a group who in the main are already focused on environmental issues - is also testament to a crucial difficulty that almost all respondents highlighted. That issue is the challenge of engaging the public in matters to do with the environment and achieving behavioural change. Across responses, online discussion participants frequently praised the decision to include consideration of the environment in relation to people within the strategy. This was manifest through comments on the inclusive ‘one planet prosperity’ approach and responses to specific outcomes such as access to the environment. However, individuals only accounted for 22% of responses, and it is noticeable that resistance to some of the key changes advocated in the strategy often came from this small group.
5.3 Another important reflection is that the voices of young people are rarely heard in this discussion. While many of the charities and environmental organisations that took part include young people within their membership, the public sector organisations that participated are responsible for young people in their care, and one participating organisation is wholly focused on, and run/managed by young people, there was no explicit response from a respondent who identified as a young person. Given the vital importance of this strategy to future generations this is a gap in participation that the Scottish Government should continue to address.
5.4 The overriding message from respondents was of support for the general approach put forward. Some urged the Scottish Government to go further; others perceived the draft strategy as bold. Almost all highlighted the challenges of achieving the far-reaching changes embodied in the discussion document.
5.5 Cross cutting themes in the responses include:
- Calls for more detail about how the vision and outcomes will be achieved.
- Praise for the far-reaching scope of the strategy which extends across sectors and arms of government.
- Identification of connections between outcomes and in some cases, overlaps.
- Suggestions that some outcomes be given greater priority.
- Gaps in outcomes and/or calls for the separation of issues grouped under one outcome, particularly landscape and marine issues.
- Perceptions of conflict, in some cases, between outcomes.
- Suggested changes to language to bring more clarity.
- Consideration of implications under various themes, for example impacts for those in rural/urban areas, different socio-economic groups, and sectors of the economy.
- Appeals for the government to consider the scope for changes to procurement, legislation and ways of working in the public sector to support the achievement of Scotland’s vision and outcomes.
5.6 The list below summarises key aspects of the discussion about outcomes highlighted in this report:
- Calls for greater specificity in Outcome 1 and a change to the global temperature ambition to no more than 1.5 degrees.
- Repeat mention of a wish to incorporate circular economy approaches within Outcome 2.
- A call to embed the principle of restoration within Outcome 3 and commit to the establishment of a National Ecological Network.
- Within Outcome 4, a definition of quality and broader reference to water than implied by ‘sea’.
- More clarity within Outcome 5 about how to achieve access with particular consideration of social inequalities, plus greater reference to beneficial health and wellbeing implications.
- More detail about what is envisaged by Outcome 6.
5.7 Another key message from respondents was their sense of urgency about the change needed. Several stressed the importance of action and clarification, expressing demand for a strong national response to key challenges highlighted in the document, such as Brexit and climate adaptation.
5.8 Linked to this, there was a strand of commentary about the unique nature of environmental policy, recognising that Scotland’s ambitions cannot be achieved in isolation. The interdependent global nature of environmental issues was highlighted. Recognition of this within the strategy was frequently praised; some called for the Scottish Government to do more in using the strategy as a positioning document, particularly with regard to the United Nations and European Union.
5.9 Respondents highlighted the shifts incumbent on government and public sector agencies, businesses, the third sector and individuals to achieve better outcomes for the environment and the health and wellbeing of citizens in the short, medium and long term. The examples and evidence shared in responses reveal a multitude of existing assets for policy makers to build upon, and many suggested additional opportunities to stimulate changed behaviours.
5.10 The observation that some material within the discussion document had been overlooked by some participants points to the challenges of communicating and delivering a complex, far reaching strategy that meets the needs of everyone. Readers of the final strategy might benefit from signposting as to what a vision statement or outcome include and why some aspects sit elsewhere, if relevant.