The environment is a complex system that provides natural resources and essential services for all life on Earth. Our society and economy rely on these services, making it crucial to protect and enhance our environment, including both land and marine environments.
Devolution in Scotland grants wide authority over the environment to the Scottish Parliament and Government, but recent UK Government actions pose a threat. Despite challenges, the SNP government pursues ambitious climate action with support from SEPA and other stakeholders like Councils’ Environmental Health departments, Forestry & Land Scotland, NatureScot, and local organisations.
Graeme was also convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee.
Powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament:
These include the power to legislate in the following policy areas:
Environmental protection: authority to formulate and implement environmental policies specific to Scotland’s needs and priorities. This allows the Parliament to address specific environmental challenges faced by the country, taking into account its unique geographical, ecological, and socio-economic factors.
Natural resources management: jurisdiction over the management of natural resources, such as forests, water bodies, and wildlife habitats. The Parliament can enact legislation to protect and conserve these resources, promote sustainable use, and regulate activities that may impact them.
Pollution: enacting legislation on air and water pollution, waste management, contaminated land, noise pollution, and implementing measures to control and mitigate pollution sources. It also has authority over environmental impact assessments and establishing regulatory frameworks for pollution control and enforcement.
Renewable energy: powers to support and promote the development of renewable energy sources. This includes setting targets for renewable energy generation, facilitating the deployment of renewable energy projects, and providing incentives and support for renewable energy technologies.
Waste management: powers to regulate and manage waste, including measures to prevent pollution from improper waste disposal and promote recycling and sustainable waste management practices.
Water supplies and sewerage: regulating the discharge of pollutants into water bodies, setting water quality standards, and implementing measures to protect and improve the quality of rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.
Climate change: powers to enact legislation and implement measures to address climate change. This includes setting emissions reduction targets, promoting renewable energy, improving energy efficiency, supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy, and enhancing resilience to climate impacts.
Flood and coastal protection: responsible for assessing risks, developing risk management plans, and promoting collaboration among stakeholders to mitigate the impacts of flooding and coastal erosion in Scotland.
Agriculture, forestry and fisheries: enact legislation, develop policies, allocate funding, and regulate these sectors. This includes setting agricultural policies, promoting sustainable forestry practices, supporting rural development, managing fisheries, and implementing conservation measures to ensure the sustainable use and protection of natural resources.
National parks: power to establish and govern national parks in Scotland, including setting their purposes, boundaries, and management. The Parliament is responsible for enacting legislation, allocating funding, and appointing park authorities to ensure their effective functioning.
Powers reserved by the UK Parliament:
While the legislation concerning the environment generally is considered devolved, aspects of how we harness our environment for the benefit of the population are reserved matters.
These would include most aspects of energy policy and regulation of the sector – namely the generation and supply of electricity, oil and gas; and where agriculture and fisheries are concerned, most aspects of animal welfare are devolved but not the matter of animal testing and research.
Upon Graeme’s initial election in 2011 he joined the Rural Affairs Climate Change and Environment Committee. He later became the Deputy Convener until the 2016 election.
After the election Graeme became Convener of the Environment Climate Change and Land Reform Committee until 2018 when he was appointed a Ministerial role in Government.
What Graeme can do:
- Raise issues experienced by individual constituents with the relevant bodies to pursue resolution.
- Take up wider local concerns in the same way, or by raising them with the appropriate Scottish Government Minister.
- Engage on a continuous basis with the various environmental agencies on such points of importance locally in Angus South, using his solid grounding in environmental matters as former Chair of the Parliament’s Environment Committee to advance local interests.
- Support and promote local projects and initiatives focussed on environmental protection, such as beach clean-ups.
Graeme is also Species Champion for both the Woolly Willow and Alpine Sow Thistle as part of efforts to ensure the conservation of native Scottish flora.
What Graeme cannot do:
- Instruct environmental agencies or other regulating bodies to make particular decisions or to overturn decisions.
- Influence local planning applications: where there may be environmental concerns – planning is a matter for local councillors, not MSPs.