Scotland’s legal system has been found to be in breach of the international human rights and environmental treaty known as the Aarhus Convention on ten separate occasions. This is because the costs of legal action to protect and uphold environmental laws in Scotland are prohibitively expensive. We are advocating for reforms to Scotland’s civil justice system so that it becomes affordable for everyone to uphold environmental laws in a court or trbunal.
The Aarhus Convention upholds the following human rights for every person:
- the right to be informed and have access to information about the environment;
- the right to participate in environmental decision-making; and
- the right of easy and effective access to justice.
The right of access to justice allows citizens to challenge the legality of environmental decision, acts or omissions. This is crucial because the environment has no legal voice of its own, and also because we all have a right to a healthy environment.
But in practice, it can costs tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds to go to court to try to defend the environment in Scotland. This is in breach of Article 9(4) of the Convention which requires access to justice to be ‘not prohibitively expensive.’ The Aarhus Convention’s governing institutions have called for reform ‘as a matter of urgency’ and an action plan by July 2022.
To find out more, read our Recommendations for a plan of action on judicial expenses and our response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the court fee regime for 2022 to 2025 – March 2022.