Environmental Court

– in the Scottish Parliament on 5th October 2017.

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Photo of John Finnie John Finnie Green

Last week, the Scottish Government announced that it will not establish a specialist environmental court or tribunal. When the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, we will lose the oversight of the European Court of Justice, which has played a key role in overseeing and enforcing environmental obligations. The UK legal system does not allow us to fully replace the ECJ.

Will the First Minister outline what actions the Scottish Government is taking to replace the environmental protections that will be lost as a result of Brexit and will she reconsider her decision not to establish an environmental court?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

This Government is determined that the—in our view, wrongheaded—decision to leave the European Union will not lead to any dilution or weakening of environmental protections, employment protections, consumer protections or any of the other protections that people feel are so important. We will do that where we can through our devolved responsibilities. One of the reasons why we are so concerned about the terms of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is that some of the powers that currently rest in Brussels would end up being centralised at Westminster, rather than coming here to allow us to take that action. We will act in whatever way we can, and where we do not have the power to act we will make the case for the UK Government to do so. There is no doubt that the weakening of regulation and protection is one thing that people have the right to be concerned about in the Brexit process.

I recognise that John Finnie and I have a difference of opinion on a specialist court. However, it is important—whether we are talking about environmental crime or regulation or any other matter—that we do not somehow suggest that just because we do not have a specialist court these issues are not taken seriously in our wider justice and court system. They very much are taken seriously, and they absolutely will continue to be.