Environment Secretary affirms commitment following referendum result.
Scotland will continue to play its full part in contributing to EU-wide environmental policies, Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change, Environment and Land Reform Roseanna Cunningham has said.
Ms Cunningham gave the commitment in a letter to environmental organisations ahead of a meeting on Thursday to discuss the implications of the EU referendum result.
The Cabinet Secretary said:
"The EU referendum result has created considerable uncertainty – but what remains certain is the position of the Scottish Government. We resolutely believe that membership of the European Union delivers considerable social, economic, environmental and cultural benefits for individuals, businesses and communities across Scotland. Our priority is to protect Scotland's interests.
"Scotland is still firmly in the EU and, as the First Minister has already stated, we are considering all possible options to ensure Scotland's continuing relationship with the EU. Since the referendum result, Scottish Minsters have been actively engaged in discussions with key stakeholders to emphasise this point.
"We will be doing our absolute utmost to protect our position as climate change leaders, to continue to play the role that we have been playing in contributing to EU-wide environmental policies, and to make sure that we maintain, protect and advance our own environment.
"For example, the current consultation on the scientific case to classify 10 sites as marine Special Protection Areas (SPAs) is required by the EU Wild Birds Directive. I am very clear that Scotland, as a responsible EU citizen, has a continuing moral and legal obligation to protect our country's magnificent natural environment."
Dr Richard Dixon, Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland:
"This is a very welcome initiative. There is certainly plenty to talk about, with decades' worth of environmental progress to be maintained. One of the strongest benefits of being in the EU has been the chance to work together on the big environmental problems that affect us all, from acid rain to climate change, and Scotland must work out how to continue to make a strong contribution. A vital issue will be how we keep climate change ambitions high in Scotland in any new constitutional arrangement."
Stuart Housden, Director, RSPB Scotland said:
"RSPB Scotland warmly welcomes the Cabinet Secretary's initiative in seeking engagement with stakeholders. Whatever the outcome of discussions between the Scottish Government, the UK Government and the EU, it is vital that the environment is treated as a priority.
"Over the years, the EU and its members have collectively delivered improved environmental standards, critical regulation applied across all member states, and significant funding for Scotland's biodiversity. This has included the Nature Directives, Environmental Assessment, agri-environment schemes and LIFE funding to support practical action. Scotland as a country with an enviable wealth of wildlife has benefitted significantly."
The meeting with environmental organisations will take place on Thursday 28 July near Perth.