Solicitors call for improved environmental governance, monitoring, and enforcement
The Law Society of Scotland has called for enhancements to environmental governance in Scotland, including the monitoring and enforcement of environmental laws, to improve public confidence and ensure more consistent outcomes.
The suggestions are included in a submission to the Scottish Government’s Review of the Effectiveness of Environmental Governance, drawing on expertise from the Law Society’s Environmental Law Sub-committee, Planning Law Sub-committee, and Access to Justice Committee.
The review was launched to consider how environmental governance has performed following the UK’s exit from the European Union, access to justice on environmental matters, and whether a dedicated environment court would improve the situation.
The submission notes that the current situation in relation to routes of appeal against regulatory decisions on environmental matters is fragmented and inconsistent, and questions whether the range of existing thinking around establishing an environmental court had been fully engaged with.
The Law Society believes that improvements needed for access to justice on environmental matters include the provision of early information and education on legal rights and processes, and the availability of a properly resourced legal aid system.
Gordon McCreath, the Convener of the Law Society’s Environment Law Sub-committee, said: “There are significant strengths to our current system, but we support the need for this review and believe there is scope for significant improvements to enhance public confidence and reduce inconsistency in regulatory decisions and enforcement, that also harms individuals and business.
"Environmental governance must include effective monitoring and enforcement against those who breach planning, pollution, and other environmental laws. A lack of public confidence is suggestive of shortcomings in environmental governance that need to be addressed.
"We believe there’s a clear need for greater consideration of the issues in this area, so environmental governance mechanisms are more effective, better understood, and more easily accessed.”