MSPS are objecting to a proposed “power grab” by Westminster as a result of Brexit. They claim the new UK Environment Bill represents a “very real and significant change” to the devolution settlement.

In a hard-hitting critique of the Bill, Holyrood’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee is calling for powers which fall within devolved competence, including environment policy, to return to the Scottish Parliament on EU exit day.

In advance of a debate on the motion to be held in the Scottish Parliament, the committee is now writing to both the UK and Scottish Governments asking for a full explanation of the rationale for sharing powers.

In its report, the committee asks why environmental powers in devolved competence should be made via UK, as opposed to Scottish, primary legislation.

It believes that the Bill as it stands would allow the Scottish Parliament limited scope to influence decisions on devolved policy, to scrutinise relevant legislation and its implementation and therefore effectively hold Scottish Ministers to account.

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“There is an urgent need for new laws to be put in place to safeguard frameworks previously provided for by EU law – but legislation which is not at the expense of the devolved powers of the Scottish Parliament,” said committee convener Gillian Martin. “To pass this Bill would represent a very real and significant change to the devolution settlement.

“Of course there will be policy areas where it makes sense to legislate to establish a joint scheme with the rest of the UK, but decisions about environmental policy in Scotland should be made in the Scottish Parliament, by members of the Scottish Parliament, to whom Scottish Ministers are accountable.

“Our committee has one voice on this issue – that only Scottish primary legislation will enable full Scottish parliamentary scrutiny and accountability of these legislative proposals and therefore respect the devolution settlement. Our report speaks for itself and lays bare why we are unable to make recommendations in relation to this Legislative Consent Memorandum.”

The UK Environment Bill was introduced by the UK Government in the House of Commons in January. Much of environmental policy is currently devolved to the Scottish Parliament but the UK Government is asking the Scottish Parliament to delegate its legislative powers to UK ministers, at Scottish Ministers’ discretion, for provisions relating to producer responsibility, resource efficiency, electronic tracking of relevant waste, air and water quality, chemicals and consequential provisions.

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The new Bill, which had its second reading in Parliament in February, has been criticised by environmental groups for lacking ambition and for failing to include legal requirements to prevent backsliding on environmental regulation.

Both opposition and Tory MPs were critical of what they said was a lack of ambition in the improvement of air quality. They also said the proposed new environmental watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), would be insufficiently independent from the Government and would not be able to hold it to account. It is feared standards will fall due to the problems caused by Brexit and the need to obtain trade deals with countries which have lower environmental standards, such as the US.