On 16 February, the Scottish Government published a consultation paper on future environmental principles and governance in Scotland. We are currently engaging with stakeholders, and the consultation will close on 11 May. We will publish an analysis of the consultation responses and develop proposals to bring before Parliament. As the consultation paper makes clear, any proposals for the future must reflect ministers’ accountability to the Scottish Parliament and the role of the courts.
The expert report highlighted the risks and identified potential options and solutions. The Government has not provided its view on its preferred option for addressing the environmental governance gap in its recently launched consultation on environmental principles and governance. On what basis will it do so once the consultation closes?
Fundamentally, we will do it on the basis of what the consultation reveals. In considering how to design the consultation, we decided to proceed not by consulting on a Government-preferred scheme but by inviting real consultation on where people genuinely think the governance gaps are. I note that Wales has followed the same route. We take the view that that approach can deliver the most appropriately designed response to the governance gaps that may or may not occur, depending on what may or may not happen in the House of Commons in the next few days.
As I said briefly at the end of my previous answer, it is hard to make plans in the face of the uncertainty at Westminster. However, it is vital that effective and appropriate governance remains in place to monitor and enforce environmental standards in Scotland. For obvious reasons, and as everybody would expect me to say, my choice would be to remain fully within the European Union’s governance systems, but we are trying to prepare for whatever the future brings. At the moment, we do not know what governance system might or might not apply even if there were to be a deal—and we do not know whether that will be the case either.