The Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland (ERCS) and Good Law Project have forced the Scottish Government to accept it has breached climate commitments and to start “urgent work” on a “remedy”.
More than two years after the Government announced its £26bn Infrastructure Investment Plan, it still hasn’t published an assessment of the plan’s climate impact. This is a clear breach of its statutory duty under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.
Earlier this month, we wrote to the Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Net Zero and Just Transition, Màiri McAllan MSP, saying we would launch a legal challenge unless she took urgent action to publish this assessment.
The Government has now accepted that its efforts to date fall short of its duties, and says it is working urgently to “ensure that the duty is discharged in full and as soon as possible.”
We have now asked for further details by 12 October, making clear both what it intends to publish and when it will be published.
Dr Shivali Fifield, Chief Officer at ERCS, said:
“While it is promising that the Scottish Government has finally admitted their failure, it is extremely concerning that they are still needing time to publish a climate impact assessment for a plan that is already in progress.
“This breach only came to light because a concerned citizen contacted us. It shouldn’t be left to individuals to suss out whether Ministers are acting lawfully or adding fuel to the fire when confronting the climate crisis.
“It is now down to the Government to regain credibility and show that their spending decisions will deliver a just transition towards net zero.”
Emma Dearnaley, Legal Director at Good Law Project, said:
“Governments can try to duck and weave around their duties when their law breaking is revealed, so it’s heartening that the Scottish Government has owned up to its mistake and committed to correcting it quickly. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this to make sure the Government follows through.
“With floods and fires sweeping across the world, there’s no time to lose in the fight against the climate emergency. The Scottish Government must now act with the urgency the crisis requires.”
Notes to editors:
- To arrange an interview with Dr Shivali Fifield, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org / 07395 652434. To arrange an interview with Emma Dearnaley, please contact email@example.com / 07907 296156.
- Our letter to Màiri McAllan MSP, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Net Zero and Just Transition.
- The response from the Scottish Government Legal Directorate.
- The Infrastructure Investment Plan for Scotland 2021-22 to 2025-26 (PDF)
- Infrastructure Plan Progress Report – 2021-2022
- The relevant legislation is the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 as amended by the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019.
- About the Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland: The Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland (ERCS) was established in 2020. We assist the public and civil society to understand and exercise their rights in environmental law and to protect the environment. We carry out advocacy in policy and law reform to improve environmental rights, and ensure full compliance with the Aarhus Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making, and access to justice on environmental matters.
- About Good Law Project: Good Law Project is a non-profit that uses the law for a better world. We hold the Government and public bodies to account and protect the interests of the public. We had a primary role in overturning the prorogation of Parliament in 2019 and, more recently, have been shining a spotlight on the Government’s award of PPE contracts to their friends and associates. This is Good Law Project’s first legal campaign in Scotland since they announced their expansion into the country last year.