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Case update 21 September 2023

Scottish Government admits climate law breach and says it will fix it

Andrew Dawes/Unsplash

Good Law Project and the Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland (ERCS) have forced the Scottish Government to accept it has breached climate commitments and to start “urgent work” on a “remedy”.

More than two years after the Government announced its £26bn Infrastructure Investment Plan, it still hasn’t published an assessment of the plan’s climate impact. This is a clear breach of its statutory duty under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.

Earlier this month, we wrote to the Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Net Zero and Just Transition, Màiri McAllan MSP, saying we would launch a legal challenge unless she took urgent action to publish this assessment.

The Government has now accepted  that its efforts to date fall short of its duties, and says it is working urgently to “ensure that the duty is discharged in full and as soon as possible.”

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“Governments can try to duck and weave around their duties when their law breaking is revealed,” said Emma Dearnaley, Legal Director at Good Law Project, “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.”

Dr Shivali Fifield, Chief Officer at ERCS, agreed that the Government’s admission of failure was “promising”, but added that “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,” Fifield said. “It should not 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.”

We have now asked for further details by 12 October, making clear both what the Government intends to publish and when it will be published.

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