Guiding principles on the environment: draft statutory guidance

Draft statutory guidance on the guiding principles on the environment and the duties set out in Part 2 of the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Act 2021.

Ministerial Foreword

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament on the Programme for Government 2021 to 2022, the First Minister made clear that, "tackling the climate emergency is both a moral and economic imperative… The climate crisis is inseparable from the nature and biodiversity crisis. Scotland has a duty to show leadership on both."[1] There is a determination across Scotland to address the twin crises of climate change and nature loss and to capture the opportunities that the transition to net zero presents.

We must rise to the challenges that face us here in Scotland, and the world, and tackle climate change, restore our natural environment and support a green economic recovery. The Scottish Government is determined to do all that in a way that promotes greater resilience, especially for climate-vulnerable communities. I welcome the focus that the UN Climate Change conference in Glasgow, COP26, and the Biodiversity COP15 in Kunming are bringing to the urgency of these issues.

It is our responsibility to ensure our natural environment is protected and enjoyed for future generations. Once fully in force, the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Act 2021 will introduce new duties on Ministers and other public authorities to have due regard to the five guiding principles on the environment when making decisions.

This consultation seeks your views and support on the delivery of these duties. I believe it marks a significant step forward in the realisation of our ambitions, and will ensure Scotland's environmental needs are fully considered when developing policies and legislation. This legal obligation will play an important role in meeting our objective to maintain and improve environmental standards and will help to ensure environmental protection is delivered in a clear and proportionate manner. It will also help to ensure that the value and opportunities of natural capital are recognised in decision-making.

The guiding principles will sit alongside Scotland's arrangements for environmental governance and our Environment Strategy. The Environment Strategy document published in 2020 sets out our vision that by restoring nature and ending Scotland's contribution to climate change, our country is transformed for the better. It describes how policies and programmes from across government join to enable the transformation that is needed. The five guiding principles will form a part of this strategic approach, contributing to Scotland's response to the twin crises in climate and nature and keeping aligned as far as possible with EU law.

Our natural environment and the impacts we have on it must be 'in focus' in everything we do. It is easy when considering our environment to think of our highland glens with the heather and iconic wildlife, as it is our seas with birdlife and beautiful sea mammals. The impacts of human activity, however, go far and wide, into every plant, animal, particle and cell, including the food we eat and the air we breathe. Therefore, this guidance and the duties which will come into effect, will apply across all sectors of government. Delivering policies that recognise the intrinsic importance of the environment to our quality of life is integral to the work we are doing and therefore the onus is on us, right now, to do everything in our gift to protect nature and with it, our future.

Mairi McAllan MSP Minister for Environment and Land Reform

November 2021



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