Environment, Climate Change
and Land Reform
The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform portfolio is responsible for protecting and enhancing Scotland’s environment, responding to the challenges of climate change, driving forward land reform and investing in relevant policy research.
A significant part of the portfolio’s budget goes towards funding public bodies and other organisations that invest in our natural resources, manage our land and seas, or deliver other priority work.  The pressing demands for the portfolio are reducing emissions; developing a low carbon economy; improving the way that land is owned, used and managed; managing the marine environment; investing in Scottish Water; reducing waste and tackling flood risk.
Climate change affects different people and places unevenly, leading to inequality within and across countries. Lower-income and other disadvantaged groups generally contribute least to causing climate change, but are likely to be more negatively affected by its impacts. They may also benefit least from policies to address it.
We also know that some groups in society suffer more from the effects of air pollution and flooding than others. In addition, green spaces can help people live active lives and have a positive impact on mental health, yet some people are less likely to visit the outdoors and face multiple barriers to doing so. Overall, certain groups – including older people, disabled people, those with existing health problems and households on lower incomes – face more disadvantage and may be less likely to have their voices heard in decision making.
Key Strategic Priorities
Two of the Scottish Government’s key strategic priorities are tackling climate change and growing the low carbon economy. This portfolio supports climate change policy development and delivery, and provides funding for local communities to take action on climate change. It is responsible for the Climate Change Bill and Climate Change Plan which will increase our statutory target and outline how we will reduce emissions over the coming years. On the circular economy, we are developing a deposit return scheme for drinks containers and will establish an advisory group to consider fiscal measures to reduce waste. In the last year, we have collaborated with an academic partner on a project about domestic climate justice which considered the potential implications of selected policies in the draft Climate Change Plan on different groups. The Scottish Government is also establishing a Just Transition Commission to advise Ministers on adjusting to a more resource-efficient and sustainable economic model in a fair and inclusive way.
Another priority is creating a cleaner, greener Scotland. The portfolio protects and enhances Scotland’s natural environment and resources, as well as improving drinking water and air quality, and addressing flood risk. This portfolio is important for improving the health, wellbeing and quality of life of people in Scotland. It also supports sustainable economic growth and brings benefits to wildlife, ecosystems and biodiversity.
Land reform, in both the urban and rural context, and managing the Crown Estate are other priority areas. We want to encourage responsible and diverse land ownership and management which supports sustainable development. We also want communities to have a say in how land and other assets in their area are used. This work has the potential to address social and economic needs.
Equality Implications Of The Draft Budget 2018-19
Spending on Natural Assets and Flooding will increase from £11.1 million in 2017-18 to £14.5 million in 2018-19. This covers activities to tackle air and noise pollution, including an increase in funding for certain local authorities to monitor air quality and to support actions such as Low Emission Zones. The budget also supports flood risk management activities and improvements to the water environment. These have benefits for health and wellbeing at population level, but also for certain groups in society:
- Actions to tackle air quality and environmental disturbance will benefit those who suffer most from the ill effects on their health and wellbeing. This includes children, older people, those with existing health problems and people living in urban areas close to busy roads.
- We know that certain groups of people – including older adults, disabled people, people whose first language is not English and those on lower incomes – can find it more difficult to prepare for, respond to, and recover from flooding.
Spending on Land Reform will increase from £13.4 million in 2017-18 to £17.1 million in 2018-19. This budget is used to implement measures in the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016, to encourage community land ownership through the Scottish Land Fund, and to fund the activities of the Scottish Land Commission. Although we are uncertain if there are specific equality implications, there are positive impacts in terms of community empowerment and social justice for people in Scotland overall.
There is no change to the budget for climate change policy development and implementation. This supports the portfolio’s climate change coordination work which is needed to take forward our responsibilities under Scotland’s climate change legislation. The Land Managers’ Renewables Fund has been maintained while there is an increase for the Sustainable Action Fund (which covers the Climate Justice Fund and Climate Challenge Fund). The Climate Challenge Fund is currently supporting 112 projects in Scotland to take action on climate change. This includes projects with young people, minority ethnic communities and people living in more deprived areas.
The budget for the Hydro Nation programme is being maintained at 2017-18 levels. This includes funding for the Climate Justice Fund which supports projects in Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania and Rwanda to address water quality and scarcity, and to increase communities’ resilience to the impacts of climate change. This work has a positive equality impact on a global scale as the poorest and most vulnerable people, including women and children, are often the most affected by climate change.
The budgetary reduction for the Water and Sewerage Exemption Scheme reflects the transfer of responsibility for the scheme to Scottish Water (where it is funded by business customers). The scheme provides support to eligible small charities and community amateur sports clubs for the payment of their water and sewerage charges. The groups funded by the scheme make an important contribution to the wellbeing of communities across Scotland. The exemption means that more of their resources can be used to support the valuable services that they provide. The reduction in budget for Private Water reflects demand for the private water supplies grant. Around 3.6 per cent of Scotland’s population rely on private water supplies. The reduction does not reduce service provision and is not expected to have any impact on those who use private water supplies, the majority of whom live in remote rural areas.
There is a small increase to the Natural Resources budget. This incorporates funding for Special Protection Area restoration at an opencast coal mine in East Ayrshire, core funding for the Central Scotland Green Network ( CSGN) Trust and a range of other activities. The CSGN aims to improve the quality of publicly-owned green spaces for recreation and community use, and will target improvements in the most disadvantaged areas.
There is also no change to the Zero Waste budget which funds the activities of Zero Waste Scotland and the Scottish Government’s Zero Waste policy team. This includes actions to improve recycling, reduce emissions from waste, tackle litter and deliver our circular economy strategy. In the coming year, Zero Waste Scotland will consider equality impacts for a deposit return scheme for drinks containers.
There are increases for the National Park Authorities and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Monies for Marine Scotland include the Coastal Communities Fund, previously funded by the Treasury. In the past, funding has supported projects including improvements to access routes, coastal paths, visitor attractions and other facilities. These have benefits for local communities and visitors, including disabled people, older people and children.
Lifting the public sector pay cap will result in an increased pay bill for all public bodies which will require reprioritisation of activity. All public bodies will continue to deliver their statutory equality duties and are required to assess equality impacts where there are significant changes to policy interventions, service delivery or staffing.
There are not thought to be any equality impacts of a reduction in funding for research programmes or the Contract Research Fund.
Increasing spending on air quality, flood risk management and land reform, and prioritising funding for climate change should have benefits for health, wellbeing and community engagement for people in Scotland as a whole, as well as for some more disadvantaged groups. Equality assessments indicate that any decrease in spend across the portfolio is likely to have little or no equality impact. Although public bodies funded by this portfolio are facing an increased wage pressure as a result of lifting the public sector pay cap, their budget should not significantly impact on delivery of policy or equality outcomes.