By a Newsnet reporter
Protection for the environment could be enshrined in the written constitution of an independent Scotland.
The move is one of five green gains of independence that Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead has tonight set out in a major speech at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
Mr Lochhead highlighted how an independent Scotland can build on the environmental successes of devolution, including setting world-leading climate change targets, the biggest fall in emissions in Western Europe and meeting over 40 per cent of our electricity demand from renewable sources.
The five big green gains of independence are:
1. Enshrining environmental protection in a written constitution
2. Creating a nuclear-free nation
3. A fairer share of EU funding to target at environmental schemes
4. Direct representation in Europe, with the opportunity to drive the policy agenda and help Europe meet its own challenges
5. A seat at the global top table to show international leadership in tackling climate change and championing climate justice.
Following the speech, members of the public had the opportunity to question the Cabinet Secretary and Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for the Environment and Climate Change.
Mr Lochhead said:
“Scotland is a nation of stunning scenery and vast natural resources – including a significant share of Europe’s green energy potential. Independence offers the opportunity to create a greener, cleaner, nuclear-free Scotland which is a world leader in tackling climate change and championing climate justice.
“The latest evidence from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is that human activity is changing the global climate. We are seeing more extreme weather here in Scotland and across the world. But it is not too late to make the right choices.
“We have already achieved much under devolution but are being held back by the current constitutional settlement. In contrast, independence offers five big green gains.
“An independent Scotland will not waste billions of pounds on nuclear weapons and can be free from new nuclear power. Our vision for Scotland is to make the most of Scotland’s extraordinary green energy assets to deliver a secure, sustainable energy future.
“With independence, we can seize the opportunity to place the environment at the heart of our nation by enshrining environmental protection in a written constitution.
“In the EU, independence gives Scotland the opportunity to drive the policy agenda, help Europe meet its own challenges – which include producing enough clean and secure energy – and negotiate a fairer share of rural development funding to target at environmental schemes.
“And an independent Scotland will show international leadership in tackling climate change, with a seat at the global top table enabling us to inspire and influence others to follow our ambition.
“The opportunity of independence, for Scotland and the environment, is clear.”
The move by the Scottish Government contrasts with news that the UK coalition may be planning to cut the support mechanisms for solar power.
Greg Barker, the UK climate minister, was reported by the Daily Mail as wanting to cut the payments. Barker said: “I do not want solar farms to become the new onshore wind. I do not want to see unrestricted growth of solar farms in the British countryside.”
Commenting, Friends of the Earth Energy Campaigner Alasdair Cameron said:
“Yet another badly handled review could spook investors and bring uncertainty to Britain’s solar sector.
“Solar power is hugely popular and is on course to be one of our cheapest forms of energy, but it needs robust and predictable support to enable it to thrive and further reduce its costs.
“While the benefits of rooftop solar are clear – particularly on schools and other public buildings – large-scale ground-mounted panels have an important role to play and present excellent value for money.
“In the right place, and with the right measures, solar farms can benefit nature, as well as providing cheap, low-carbon energy.”