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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

It is now four months since the European referendum. The passage of time has not lessened our dismay at the outcome or—so far—provided much clarity about the future.

Today, I will make clear where my priorities lie. I want to maintain the Government’s commitment to our environment and to our natural assets; I want to continue to seek the Parliament’s support for our ambitions and aims; I want to ensure that our environment is healthy and supports our prosperity; and, above all else, I want to protect Scotland’s position as a climate change leader.

We are recognised as a leader in climate change, but we know that there is more to do, which is why setting even more ambitious targets through a new climate change bill and working hard to achieve them is at the heart of the Government’s overarching priorities. Where do we seek common cause to achieve those priorities? In aligning ourselves with our European neighbours across the water.

Our membership of the EU has ensured progress on a range of important issues. It has enabled us to apply high standards in vital environmental protections, to the benefit of our most precious natural assets. We cannot afford to take our chances by jumping on to the United Kingdom Brexit bandwagon and turning our back on the EU and all that a continuing relationship offers for our environmental priorities.

We cannot trust the Tories to protect the interests of Scotland’s environment. They are the same Tories who have, for example, cut subsidies for renewable energy projects, which has put our low-carbon future at risk. In one grand symbolic gesture that highlights how low climate change sits in the UK Government’s list of priorities, one of Theresa May’s first actions as Prime Minister was to abolish the previously clear ministerial lead on climate change.

I am happy to say that we can make common cause today with the Labour Party and the Green Party. The Labour amendment highlights one key area on which we must continue to focus: our marine environment. I thank the Labour Party for raising that issue.

Although I have some issues with the wording of the Green amendment, the Government shares its intent. We agree that the EU and Canada have their own highly developed legal systems and domestic courts that are capable of dealing with any issues that might arise from a trade agreement. We are also mindful that such international trade agreements must be carefully calibrated not only to enhance trade opportunities—especially for Scotland’s produce and tourism—but to not undermine our public services or our environment.