The Scottish Government has been accused of breaching climate commitments by two environmental organisations.
In February 2021, the Government published its Infrastructure Investment Plan (IIP) for the next five financial years, with £26 billion of major projects and national programmes proposed.
But it has been accused of a “clear breach of its statutory duty under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009”, because no assessment of the plan’s impact on the environment was also published.
The Good Law Project and the Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland (ERCS) has written to Net Zero and Just Transition Secretary Mairi McAllan threatening a legal challenge unless urgent action is taken to publish it.
The letter, sent earlier this month, calls for the publication of emissions reductions targets, and an assessment of the emissions expected to be produced as a result of the IIP.
It also demands an assessment as to whether the implementation of the IIP makes it more or less likely that the current emissions reduction targets will be met.
The Government said threats of legal action are “premature”, and it is working urgently to “ensure that the duty is discharged in full and as soon as possible”.
It admitted current publications “fall short of the statutory requirement”.
A deadline of October 12 was given by the two lobby groups for more information to be provided.
A statement from the Good Law Project and the ERCS said: “We have now asked for further details by October 12, making clear both what it intends to publish and when it will be published.”
Emma Dearnaley, legal director at the Good Law Project, said: “Governments can try to duck and weave around their duties when their law breaking is revealed, so it’s heartening that the Scottish Government has owned up to its mistake and committed to correcting it quickly.
“We’ll be keeping a close eye on this to make sure it follows through.
“With floods and fires sweeping across the world, there’s no time to lose in the fight against the climate emergency.
“The Scottish Government must now act with the urgency the crisis requires.”
Shivali Fifield, chief officer at the ERCS, said: “While it is promising that the Scottish Government has finally admitted their failure, it is extremely concerning that they are still needing time to publish a climate impact assessment for a plan that is already in progress.
“This breach only came to light because a concerned citizen contacted us.
“It shouldn’t be left to individuals to suss out whether ministers are acting lawfully or adding fuel to the fire when confronting the climate crisis.
“It is now down to the Government to regain credibility and show that their spending decisions will deliver a just transition towards net zero.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scottish ministers have accepted that the Infrastructure Investment Plan material published to date falls short of the statutory requirement to also publish an assessment of how the plan is expected to contribute to emissions reduction targets.
“Urgent work is under way to ensure that the duty is discharged in full and as soon as possible.
“The Scottish Government is also working with Environmental Standards Scotland to resolve this issue.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat climate emergency spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP said: “Convincing the Scottish Government to acknowledge an error is no small thing so I am grateful to the Good Law Project and the ESRC for their intervention.
“The impact of the climate emergency is becoming more visible in Scotland year on year.
“Every decision our governments take must recognise the seriousness of the climate and biodiversity emergencies and be tailored to meeting our climate goals.
“Now that ministers have acknowledged that their infrastructure plans fall short of the challenge ahead of us, they need to come up with a comprehensive plan for moving forward.”
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