Environment sector plunged into uncertaint after the UK's anti-EU vote
Britain’s Brexit vote must not be seen as an opportunity to reduce protection for wildlife and habitats or to cut funding for the natural environment.
That’s the warning being made by a charity which said leaving the European Union could put environmental projects in peril.
The Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) provided evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s European and external relations committee in response to a consultation on Scotland’s relationship with the European Union.
The submission focuses on several issues that need to be addressed to achieve the best outcome for Scotland’s natural environment after leaving the EU, including making fisheries and land management more sustainable, and maintaining the protection for the environment that stems from European legislation.
The impacts of Brexit are far-reaching and uncertain – there are clear risks to our natural environment
Susan Davies, director of conservation at the SWT, said: “The impacts of Brexit are far-reaching and uncertain. There are clear risks to our natural environment but there are also many opportunities for improvement.
“Scotland’s future prosperity is inextricably linked to a healthy natural environment. Nature-based tourism alone generates an estimated £1.4 billion and supports around 39,000 jobs, but this is also about our wellbeing and quality of life. More than ever, we need public money to deliver public benefits, including cleaner air and better flood protection, as well as more sustainable management of land and fisheries.
“Brexit is an opportunity to change our approach to agricultural subsidies, removing perverse incentives that damage the health of our natural environment and providing a system of support that rewards land managers for delivering multiple outcomes that benefit the whole of society and not just a few.”
The risks highlighted by the SWT include potential cuts to funding for environmental schemes provided through the Common Agricultural Policy and weakened protection of key species and habitats currently provided by the European directives.
Opportunities include reshaping rural funding so that public money no longer subsidises damaging activities such as removal of hedgerows and draining of wetlands, and reforming fisheries policy to create sustainable seas.