Friends of the Earth Scotland today (18 March 2016) welcomed the Scottish Government's launch of a consultation on options for an environmental court or tribunal for Scotland. Friends of the Earth Scotland have been campaigning for an environmental court or tribunal for Scotland for some years as a means to improve access to justice for communities and groups acting to protect the environment. 

Friends of the Earth Scotland Head of Campaigns Mary Church said:

“This consultation is a very welcome first step to establishing a much needed specialist environmental court or tribunal in Scotland. International law recognises the importance of individuals, communities and environmental groups going to court to protect the environment since it cannot speak for itself, and requires that states provide affordable access to do so. Legal action is an essential last resort to resolving critical environmental disputes.  We'll be looking to all parties to spell out how they will make sure Scotland complies with international law on the environment in their election manifestos.

“The Scottish Government has an opportunity to create a world class environmental court or tribunal that provides for affordable access to justice, reduces costs to the public, speeds up decisions and provides a more level playing field for developers. 

“Learning from the experience of established environmental courts and tribunals around the world we can create a system that works for the environment within Scotland’s unique legal system. Environmental justice must be at the heart of thinking around what a specialist court or tribunal for Scotland should look like in order to ensure we build a system fit to respond to the increasing importance of environmental issues.”

ENDS

Notes to editors 

1. The consultation is available at: https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/courts-judicial-appointments-policy-unit…

2. The consultation was promised in the 2011 SNP manifesto. 

3. Scotland is currently in breach of its international and European obligations under the UN Aarhus Convention and the EU Public Participation Directive for the high cost of going to court in environmental cases. Despite recent improvements to the cost regime in Scotland, the cost of a complex judicial review can still leave individuals, communities and eNGOs acting in the public interest exposed to tens of thousands of pounds in costs. The Aarhus Convention and the Public Participation Directive require that the cost of acting to defend the environment should not be prohibitively expensive. 

4. Friends of the Earth Scotland is:
* Scotland's leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 75 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups.
www.foe-scotland.org.uk