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Environment and Climate Change (European Union Referendum)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 27th October 2016.

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Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I am glad to be corrected.

I move on to the specific issue of the research institutes.

My portfolio directly supports a number of world-leading research institutes in Scotland that provide cutting-edge advances in agriculture, food and environmental research that have helped to boost our rural economy’s performance and enhance our environment. Their research helps to inform policy decisions in Scotland and in the EU—indeed, the EU is a major funder of those institutes and it accounts for around £6 million in funding every year. The funding uncertainty is now considerable.

However, the uncertainty is about more than just funding. EU nationals make up around one in six employees of the research institutes, and their skills and experience are integral to the institutes’ success. It is an absolute disgrace that the UK Government has not guaranteed the position of EU citizens in our country—by not doing so, it directly damages Scotland’s research future. I plan to meet EU nationals from the research institutes next month, and I reiterate that the 181,000 non-British EU nationals who have chosen to make their home here continue to be welcome.

What are the next steps? The Scottish Government is actively engaged in discussions to protect our natural environment and to progress action to tackle climate change. In July, I convened a stakeholder event at which we explored the potential implications—all of them; I hope that Mr Findlay is listening—of leaving the EU for Scotland’s environment. That event was an opportunity to promote collaborative working and to share experiences and concerns about those difficult challenges. I also welcome the establishment of the environment and climate change round table, which is chaired by Professor Dame Anne Glover. The panel draws on different areas of expertise in academic and environmental organisations to advise the Scottish Government’s standing council on Europe.

Those actions, along with the establishment of the standing council on Europe, demonstrate how serious we are about exploring all options to protect Scotland’s interests. Given how much we will be affected by leaving the EU, it is essential that Scotland has meaningful discussions with the UK Government in the development of the UK position for the negotiations that are ahead.

The environment has been a key competence of the EU for good reason. Progress on environmental and social goals has developed hand in hand with a single trading market. A level playing field allows higher standards for all, and we have been able to work together to tackle global problems, including climate change.

If we end up in a hard Brexit, our ambitions for Scotland’s environment will remain high. We continue to commit to maintaining, protecting and enhancing our environment, and it is crucial that the environment and climate change are part of the consideration of future trade arrangements. The Scottish Government will maintain efforts to secure Scotland’s place in the EU, not least to protect our environment, but we will continue to seek to protect the environment regardless of what the outcomes may be.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees that membership of the EU has ensured progress on a wide range of environmental issues in Scotland and continues to underpin vital environmental protection; recognises the importance of the EU in securing collective action and progress on climate change; further recognises that a healthy environment supports prosperity and allows the promotion of Scottish produce and tourism around the world; notes that the value of the natural environment to the people of Scotland must be recognised by the UK Government in any future trade negotiations; welcomes that the Scottish Ministers will pass on in full the EU funding guaranteed by the UK Government so far, which is vital to protecting, maintaining and enhancing the natural environment; believes that Scotland must protect its position as a climate change leader, and calls on the UK Government to ensure that Scotland has a role in the decision-making, as well as full involvement, in all UK negotiations.