Proposals for an independent, written Scottish constitution – following a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum by the SNP-led Scottish government – which would give higher protection to the environment than the current matrix of acts of parliaments from Holyrood, Westminster and Brussels have been welcomed by Friends of the Earth Scotland.
The draft Scottish Independence Bill – published by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – is now open for public consultation and includes details on how an independent Scotland could prepare a permanent written constitution in a fully participative process led by the people.
On the environment ,the draft Bill proposes: Every person is entitled to live in a healthy environment.
Accordingly, and in recognition of the importance of the environment to the people of Scotland, the Scottish Government and public authorities must, in carrying out their functions, seek to protect and enhance the quality of the environment. In particular, they must seek to promote:
- the conservation of biodiversity,
- measures to tackle climate change.
On Natural Resources the draft bill says that ‘Scotland’s natural resources are to be used in a manner which is: best calculated to be sustainable, and of economic, social, environmental or other benefit to the people of Scotland.’
The consultation proposes that, following a vote for independence, the Scottish Independence Bill would be introduced to the Scottish Parliament. It would form the interim written constitution for Scotland until the Constitutional Convention, which would be established by the Scottish Parliament elected in May 2016, prepared a permanent constitution for Scotland. The consultation will close on 20 October.
The Scottish Independence Bill would be accompanied by a re-written and refreshed Scotland Act. It would be legislated for post-referendum after competence to make preparations for independence had been transferred from Westminster. It would be introduced to the Scottish Parliament in early 2015.
Commenting on publication of the draft Scottish Independence Bill, Dr Richard Dixon, Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “This Bill proposes a written constitution which gives the highest possible legal status to protecting and enhancing the environment and acting on climate change.
“This goes beyond existing duties to protect nature and deliver on climate change targets. The proposal to enshrine the right to a clean environment in the constitution is a huge step forward. Any future government which proposed to trash the environment or ignore our climate obligations would find itself in court in short order.
“In the case of a Yes vote, we will be one of many organisations taking part in the full consultative process to produce a final written constitution for Scotland but the interim proposals in this draft Bill are a great start on the environment.
“They will help keep Scotland on the straight and narrow during the process of becoming independent.
“A written constitution enshrining the importance of the environment is probably the single most powerful arguments in favour of a yes vote. Those opposed to the independence need to show us how they would deliver something as powerful if Scotland stays in the UK.”
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