SCOTLAND is known worldwide for its natural environment’s breathtaking beauty and is home to globally important habitats and wildlife. We have 5% of the world’s peatlands and a third of the EU’s breeding seabirds. Our rivers and lochs contain 90% of the UK’s surface freshwater. But with one in 11 species currently at risk of extinction, we are facing very troubling times.

The situation is compounded by Brexit. If and when we leave the EU, Scotland will lose the governance mechanisms provided by the European Commission and the European Court of Justice and with it as much as 80% of its environmental protections.

What’s more, there is currently no Scottish Environment Act to underpin how we treat our environment. This may come as a surprise to many people who know and love Scotland’s nature. But Scotland has until now relied on EU protections and with less than a month to go until the Brexit leaving date, losing these safeguards is a real cause for concern.

This is why 35 of Scotland’s leading environmental organisations have come together in the Fight for Scotland’s Nature campaign, to push the Scottish Government to act. In March 2018, the Scottish Parliament unanimously backed the coalition’s call for concrete proposals and a public consultation on the future of environmental protections.

Finally, after months of pushing, the government recently released its consultation, Environmental Principles and Governance in Scotland. This is a step in the right direction, but doesn’t go far enough and lacks the sense of urgency required at this late stage.

Scouring the document, there’s no explicit commitment to introducing legislation to give Scotland’s natural assets permanent protection. It also fails to show how the government intends to uphold the commitments it has made publicly around human rights, sustainable development and a healthy environment for all. And there’s nothing on how we’ll maintain international standards in the battle against climate change.

But all is not lost in our fight. Throughout history, people in Scotland have stood up and demanded to put things right.

Once again, we must join forces to tell our political representatives just how important our nature is to the people of Scotland. The Government must take heed of the dangers affecting our precious environment and create a world-class environment Act that is able to do justice to our world-class nature. Only when we have that do we have a fighting chance of preventing unprecedented levels of species decline.

The charities behind Fight for Scotland’s Nature are urging members of the public to respond to the Scottish Government’s consultation through an online petition. The results of the consultation and our efforts to push for a strong Scottish Environment Act will determine the worth of our environmental protections during the vital decade ahead and will help shape the future of Scotland’s natural environment.

What we do now will also define our role in efforts to protect our planet from climate breakdown. Brexit or not, we cannot afford any reduction in environmental standards.

Now is also a good opportunity to review and work towards a future based on greater good for all. A Scottish Environment Act would send a clear signal in favour of investment in sustainable industries that create jobs while ensuring the welfare of our nature, rather than extractive and fossil fuel industries that promote short-term gain. We can lead the way against the devastating decline of our natural world. Scotland has a unique and amazing environment. We must prove we have what it takes to look after it.

Charles Dundas is chairman of Scottish Environment LINK