Chapter 10 Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform
The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform ( ECCLR) portfolio is responsible for responding to the challenges of climate change, driving forward land reform, protecting and enhancing Scotland's environment, and investing in policy relevant research. It also includes financial responsibility for Scottish Water and Marine Scotland's operations. The portfolio's overarching aim is to protect and promote Scotland's environment and to build a strong and sustainable low carbon economy.
Key Strategic Priorities
A prominent theme in the coming years is the Government's commitment to addressing climate change. This portfolio supports climate change policy development and delivery, including the new Climate Change Plan and forthcoming Climate Change Bill. We also provide funding for communities (via the Climate Justice and Climate Challenge Funds) to take action on climate change and for rural businesses to develop renewable energy projects (through the Land Managers' Renewables Fund).
Two further priorities in this parliamentary session are land reform and the Crown Estate in Scotland. We will enable local communities to acquire land, with financial support through the Scottish Land Fund, establish the Scottish Land Commission and implement further reform measures. We are also working to encourage and support responsible and diverse land ownership, and to ensure that communities have a say in how land in their area is used.
Many of the strategic priorities for the portfolio are around protecting and enhancing Scotland's natural environment and natural resources, as well as improving drinking water and air quality. This work supports sustainable economic growth and brings benefits to wildlife, ecosystems and biodiversity. It is also important for improving the health, wellbeing and quality of life of people in Scotland.
A significant part of the portfolio's budget goes towards funding public bodies that invest in our natural resources and ensure good stewardship of our land and seas ( e.g. Marine Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the two National Park Authorities and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh). We also provide funding for Zero Waste Scotland to help deliver work around the circular economy and reducing waste.
The portfolio will also continue to fund strategic research and analysis in support of policy through its five-year programme of research.
Equality Implications of the Draft Budget 2017-18
Spending on Natural Assets and Flooding will increase from £9.1 million to £11.1 million from 2016-17 into 2017-18. This covers activities to tackle flooding, air and noise pollution, and improvements to the water environment. These have benefits for health and wellbeing at population level, but also for certain groups in society. For example:
- We know that some people - including older people, disabled people, people whose first language is not English and those on lower incomes - can find it more difficult to prepare for, respond to, and recover from, flooding  .
- Activities to tackle air quality and noise disturbance will have particular benefits to those who suffer most from the ill effects of pollution on their health and wellbeing. This includes children, older people, those with pre-existing health problems, people living in dense, urban areas close to busy roads and the less affluent (who may also have poorer quality housing).
- Funding for water environment restoration projects will make a real difference for our communities by reducing flood risk, remediating contaminated land and creating good quality, accessible green space (which brings health and wellbeing benefits).
Spending on Land Reform will increase from £10 million in 2016-17 to £13.5 million in 2017-18. This will be used to encourage community land ownership through the Scottish Land Fund, and to establish the Scottish Land Commission. While there may not be specific impacts of this spend on equality groups, there are positive implications in terms of community empowerment and social justice for people in Scotland overall.
There will also be an increase in the Marine Scotland budget, from £45.8 million in 2016-17 to £52.3 million in 2017-18. This increase reflects funding pressures in Marine Scotland and requirements for the Ellis Building (an international centre of excellence for fisheries and aquaculture science). Although there are minimal equality impacts for most of this, Marine Scotland has done some work around migrant labour in the fishing industry (which has implications for race and low income) and new entrants into the fishing industry (which has implications for younger people and those living in rural coastal areas). This is unlikely to be impacted by any change in budget. Marine Scotland would be expected do an equality impact assessment should there be any significant policy changes going forward.
Scottish Water will invest up to £3.6 billion over the period 2015-2021 to improve and protect drinking water quality, and protect and enhance Scotland's environment. This will benefit everyone in Scotland.
Funding for the Water and Sewerage Exemption Service is being maintained (albeit with responsibility for funding passing from the Scottish Government to Scottish Water). This scheme provides support to small charities and community amateur sports clubs (subject to eligibility criteria) for the payment of their water and sewerage charges. The charities and sports clubs funded by the scheme make an important contribution to the wellbeing of communities across Scotland. The exemption from water and sewerage charges means more of their money can be used to support the valuable services that they provide.
The budget for the Hydro Nation programme, which includes the Climate Justice Fund, is also being maintained at the same level as 2016-17. The Climate Justice Fund supports projects abroad (currently in Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania and Rwanda) to address water scarcity and quality, and to increase communities' resilience to the impacts of climate change. This work has a positive impact on inequalities on a global scale, as the poorest and most vulnerable people, including women and children, are often the most affected by climate change.
There will be no change to the overall budget for Climate Change. Within this, the Sustainable Action Fund will increase, supporting communities to take action on climate change both at home and in some of our African partner countries. The Land Managers' Renewables Fund (which is part of the Community and Renewable Energy Scheme) will reduce, reflecting the current demand for the fund. This fund supports farmers, land managers and rural businesses to develop renewable energy projects, and the budget reduction is not considered to have any equality impacts.
Work is underway to develop an Equality Charter for the Community and Renewable Energy Scheme. The aims of the Charter are to provide a framework to advance equality through the scheme and an action plan to achieve the desired equality outcomes. This should be completed by the end of the 2016-17 financial year and updated annually.
There will be a reduction in spending on Programmes of Research for the portfolio, from £49.8 million to £48.1 million. Through this, we will continue to support the strategic research theme on 'Food, Health and Wellbeing'. This includes projects to help us understand more about some of the equality issues that are pertinent to the portfolio (for example, on different population groups' engagement with the natural environment). It is not possible to say if reductions made elsewhere within the multidisciplinary programme will have an effect on equality-relevant research, although this seems unlikely. A £1 million reduction in the Contract Research Fund (money for funding policy relevant science and research on rural and environmental issues) is not expected to have any equality impacts.
A reduction in budget (£0.1 million) for Private Water is based on forecasts for the coming year's expenditure and does not reflect a reduction in grant funding or service provision. It is not expected to have any impacts on the three per cent of Scotland's population, the majority of whom live in remote rural areas, that rely on a private water supply.
There will be no budget change for Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, but a reduction (of £0.2 million) for Natural Resources. This is not thought to have any equality impacts. The key equality issue for both areas of spend is accessibility. For example, we know that older people and disabled people are less likely to visit the outdoors  and face multiple barriers to doing so  .
There will be a reduction in resource budgets of up to five per cent for two of the public bodies funded by the portfolio (Scottish Natural Heritage and Scottish Environment Protection Agency). Whilst the National Park Authorities resource budget will be unchanged, their capital budget will be reducing by £0.08 million in line with capital spending commitments in 2017-18. Savings will be delivered through efficiencies and prioritisation. It is difficult to fully assess any equality impacts at this point. Public bodies are required to do their own assessment of any equality impacts where funding change may affect policy interventions, project spend or staffing. We expect the National Park Authorities and Scottish Natural Heritage would take into account the equality impacts of spending decisions on access to, and use of, the outdoors.
Increasing spend on natural assets, flooding and land reform, and maintaining spend on funding for climate change projects should have benefits for health, wellbeing and community engagement for people in Scotland as a whole, as well as for some more disadvantaged groups.
The equality assessment of the draft budget has found that any decreases in spend across the portfolio generally have little or no equality impact. However, we cannot be certain how public bodies will choose to make savings as a result of reduced resource budgets, and expect them to undertake their own equality impact assessments where appropriate.
Email: Paul Tyrer