ERCS was established by Scottish Environment LINK in January 2019, following a feasibility study commissioned by LINK’s Legal Strategy Subgroup. LINK is the forum and national intermediary for the citizen-led environmental sector.
ERCS received independent charitable status as a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SC050257) on 3 July 2020. We aim to provide accessible public education and advice on environmental and related planning law. We also advocate for policy and law reform and will pursue public interest litigation to ensure environmental rights are upheld.
Why we need an Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland
The reasons why ERCS is needed in Scotland:
1. To address major environmental problems
As well as tackling the global climate and nature emergencies, Scotland has a number of its own major environmental problems. Many people, particularly living in areas of highest deprivation, are suffering from air pollution, poor environmental quality, and living in close proximity to derelict land with poor access to multi-functional greenspace. Socially disadvantaged groups are also less resilient to the impacts of climate change, such as severe weather events, because they have fewer resources to adapt and recover.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put important aspects of environmental rights in the spotlight: from global biodiversity loss to the sharp inequalities in accessing nature and greenspace for play, health and wellbeing.
Through our public education and advice work, ERCS supports individuals and organisations to exercise our environmental rights and use the law to hold public bodies and polluters to account.
2. To address problems with the legal system
Scotland’s has a distinct legal system from the rest of the UK.
Environmental governance issues include limited public participation in the planning system, poor enforcement of planning and nature conservation law, and lack of access to justice in environmental matters. Most of the UK and Scotland’s environmental laws come from the EU, therefore Brexit risks both the deterioration of existing environmental laws and a loss of alignment with EU standards.
Through our advocacy work, ERCS argues for the policy and legal reforms needed to ensure we have the democratic processes for access to environmental information, meaningful participation in environmental decision-making and the ability to go to court as a last resort.
In whatever shape the ‘new normal’ develops, the need for an environmental legal service and watchdog like ERCS is greater than ever – so that we can protect the environment and uphold our human right to a healthy environment.