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Scotland is at the crossroads for its environment.
Waymarker Campsie Glen
Waterfall at Campsie Glen
Waterfall at Campsie Glen, Scotland

The UK has reserved for itself policy related to nuclear energy, oil, coal, gas, electricity, defence, trade and industry, and immigration policy, among others. These can and do clearly enter into conflict with protection of the environment, which is supposed to be a devolved matter, belonging to Scotland. The related agriculture, forestry and fisheries are supposed to be devolved but are also impacted by UK “reserved” matters. http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/visitandlearn/25488.aspx

If the UK government wants fracking and Scotland does not, who wins? If the UK Ministry of Defence wants to leak radiation into Scottish Lochs, can they be stopped? Can Scotland stop the UK from placing nuclear waste dumps, high or low level, in Scotland? Can Scotland stop the UK from leaking radiation into its air, soil, and water, short of independence?

Nuclear submarine HMS Vanguard arrives back at HM Naval Base Clyde, Faslane, Scotland following a patrol. Date	29 November 2010, 16:00:21 SourceDefence CPOA(Phot) Tam McDonald This file is licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.
“Nuclear submarine HMS Vanguard arrives back at HM Naval Base Clyde, Faslane, Scotland following a patrol, Defence Imagery, CPOA(Phot) Tam McDonald, Open Government Licence v1.0.” (via Wikipedia) https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/

The top reason for an independent Scotland is to be nuclear free. Almost no one is speaking of the fact that the UK MoD with its nuclear submarine fleet is legally allowed to leak billions of becquerels (radioactive disintegrations-emissions per second) of radionuclides into Gare Loch and into the air from Faslane, and into the air at Coulport, on an annual basis. This includes an annual “limit” of between 50 and 200 million becquerels of dangerous alpha emitters (e.g. plutonium; americium). UK MoD Nuclear subs in Scotland are set to increase from 5 or 6 up to 14, if Scotland does not vote its independence. Some will be new and some are to be moved up from Devonport in England. In Gare Loch dilution will be very slow and take many years to work its way to open water.
Gare Loch Public Domain via wikimedia
Gare Loch location, via Wikipedia

Even by the dilute to deceive standards of the nuclear industry it is a poor location. In a trickster way, a consultation was made last autumn saying that the limits would be reduced (for instance to 50 million Bq of alpha) all while the actual emissions are increased due to additional fleet and maintenance! See: http://www.sepa.org.uk/about_us/consultations/closed_consultations.aspx
and “Devonport will no longer be used as a base for attack submarines after these move to Faslane by 2017http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMNB_Devonport
See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMNB_Clyde

Five key green gains that seizing the opportunity of independence can bring for the people of Scotland and Scotland’s environment
1. The environment can be placed at the heart of a written constitution:
the entitlement to live in a healthy environment and a duty on Government to ensure that Scotland’s natural resources are used sustainably“.
2. Scotland can be nuclear free
3. Scotland can have access to the support and funding needed to protect and enhance the natural environment.
4. Scotland will be represented in the EU and will have the opportunity to drive the agenda
5. Scotland will have a stronger voice on the global stage
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0045/00457321.pdf (Full document below)
For Scotland to have an international voice to help promote nuclear free and environmentally sustainable policies is also good for the world. Some believe that the UK will give up its nuclear weapons if Scotland declares independence. If the UK gives up the weapons they will probably give up their nuclear reactors, as well.

2. A Nuclear Free Scotland:
The themes of environmental protection are fundamental principles underpinning our commitment that Scotland should be free from any new nuclear power stations and weapons of mass destruction. This government will reject any proposals for new nuclear power stations and we will secure the speediest safe withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Scotland.

Our vision is of a future powered by clean, green energy that harnesses the renewable resources that we have been blessed with. Scotland already generates the equivalent of 46% of our electricity demand from renewables, up from just 14% a decade ago and we are on track to meet our target to produce the equivalent of 100% of electricity demand from renewables by 2020.

In the long-term, renewable energy represents a safer, more cost-effective means of electricity generation than the expensive new nuclear plants that the UK Government favours. The subsidy that the new Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset, alone, will receive from taxpayers could be as much as £35 billion. That nuclear subsidy commitment is so large that it is over four times the cost of support to all renewable development projects across the UK over the last ten years.

Similarly, the Westminster Government’s proposed replacement for Trident nuclear missiles and their warheads is expected to cost up to £100 billion over its operational lifetime. An independent Scotland will be free to ensure that Scottish taxpayers do not waste their vital funds on hugely expensive weapons of mass destruction that the people of Scotland don’t want and don’t need.” (Emphasis added) http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0045/00457321.pdf

From “SCOTLAND’S FUTURE AND THE ENVIRONMENT (Images added by us)

Campsie Glen
Scotland’s Future and the Environment

Scotland has a spectacular natural environment, diverse range of beautiful landscapes and rich biodiversity of which we can all be proud. Scotland’s much loved natural assets underpin our economy, our quality of life and the health and wellbeing of our citizens and visitors. Through the powers of independence we can ensure we build a cleaner, greener and nuclear-free nation, and Scotland can fulfil its potential to be a beacon of environmentalism and sustainability.

Scotland already has detailed and progressive environmental legislation. Our statutory climate change targets are the most stretching anywhere in the world and we have legislated to strengthen laws on both environmental regulation and tackling wildlife crime. We have ambitious plans to move to a resource efficient, zero waste economy and we are implementing our Land Use and Biodiversity Strategies to embed protection of Scotland’s wildlife and habitats, or natural capital, in the way government and the economy operates.

Through regaining Scotland’s independence, and the sovereignty and direct voice that delivers for Scotland’s people, we can do much more for our environment. On 18 September 2014, those of us living and working in Scotland have the opportunity to determine the future of our country. This paper identifies five key green gains that seizing the opportunity of independence can bring for the people of Scotland and Scotland’s environment. Scotland, it could be said, is powered by nature, and we derive great economic benefit from that, but now we have the opportunity to empower Scotland’s nature, through independence.

Paul Wheelhouse Minister for Environment and Climate Change” (p.1, Emphasis added)

Morning Energy - Ardrossan Wind Farm From Portencross Taken just after Sunrise By Gordon Proven, CC-By-SA-2.0, geograph.org.uk
Morning Energy – Ardrossan Wind Farm From Portencross Taken just after Sunrise, ” Photo by Gordon Proven, CC-By-SA-2.0, geograph.org.uk, via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_Scotland

Five Key Gains for the Environment

Gain 1. We can place the environment at the heart of a written constitution.

A written constitution is the highest and strongest of laws. It is a statement of the fundamental principles by which a country chooses to live regardless of the leanings of those in power. With independence, Scotland will join the vast majority of countries around the world by creating and committing to a written constitution.

The Scottish Government has published a draft Scottish Independence Bill which contains its proposals for an interim constitution, including the entitlement to live in a healthy environment and a duty on Government to ensure that Scotland’s natural resources are used sustainably.

Including an entitlement to live in a healthy environment in the constitution will mean that all people in Scotland have the right to benefit from that environment. The draft Bill also contains requirements that the Scottish Government and public authorities must promote the conservation of biodiversity and measures to tackle climate change. These requirements will ensure that the environment is not only protected but enhanced.

In 1976 Portugal was the first country to include provision about a healthy environment in their constitution. Now, over 90 countries have granted similar status to the environment. In nearly all of these countries there is evidence that environmental laws have been strengthened, enforcement improved and public participation increased. These countries are also more likely to have smaller ecological footprints, ratify international agreements and make faster progress in tackling pollution.

Taking a long-term and sustainable view of our natural resources is already at the heart of our approach to land use in Scotland. Committing to use our natural resources sustainably – including for economic, social and environmental benefit – is a key responsibility of the state towards the people and future generations.

The proposed interim constitution is intended to pave the way to a permanent constitution which would be set up by a Convention that is independent of both the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament and open to all groups and individual citizens of an independent Scotland.

More information about the Scottish Independence Bill and interim constitution, including details of how to take part in the consultation, is available online at the following address: https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/elections-and-constitutional-development-division/scottish-independence-bill” (p. 2)

Gain 2. We can have a nuclear free Scotland.

The themes of environmental protection are fundamental principles underpinning our commitment that Scotland should be free from any new nuclear power stations and weapons of mass destruction. This government will reject any proposals for new nuclear power stations and we will secure the speediest safe withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Scotland.

Our vision is of a future powered by clean, green energy that harnesses the renewable resources that we have been blessed with. Scotland already generates the equivalent of 46% of our electricity demand from renewables, up from just 14% a decade ago and we are on track to meet our target to produce the equivalent of 100% of electricity demand from renewables by 2020.

In the long-term, renewable energy represents a safer, more cost-effective means of electricity generation than the expensive new nuclear plants that the UK Government favours. The subsidy that the new Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset, alone, will receive from taxpayers could be as much as £35 billion. That nuclear subsidy commitment is so large that it is over four times the cost of support to all renewable development projects across the UK over the last ten years.

Similarly, the Westminster Government’s proposed replacement for Trident nuclear missiles and their warheads is expected to cost up to £100 billion over its operational lifetime. An independent Scotland will be free to ensure that Scottish taxpayers do not waste their vital funds on hugely expensive weapons of mass destruction that the people of Scotland don’t want and don’t need.

Gain 3. We will have access to the support and funding we need to protect and enhance our natural environment.

Independence means that we have control of our own revenues and can choose to invest in things that really matter to the people of Scotland. We would be able, for the first time, to play a direct part in the negotiations over EU funding for agriculture and rural development. This funding is vital to protect and enhance our biodiversity and to maintain the green credentials that our reputation for high quality food and drink is partly based upon.

Without the ability of a Scottish Government to argue directly for its own priorities, we face a continuation of the current position where the Westminster Government has negotiated Scotland to the bottom of the EU rural development funding league table“. (p.3)

We only need to look at our neighbours, the Republic of Ireland, to see the difference that independence can make. Despite Ireland having around 25% of the agricultural land of the UK, it has successfully managed to secure a budget of €2.19 billion for rural development (Common Agriculture Policy Pillar 2) for 2014-2020. That is almost 85% of the total allocation for the UK and more than four times the size of Scotland’s allocation of €478 million. If Scotland had been able to secure a deal on a similar basis to Ireland, we would have received an allocation of approximately €3 billion.” (p. 4, Emphasis added) See graph at the original on p. 4: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0045/00457321.pdf and more information here: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0044/00441902.pdf

A rural development budget of greater scale would offer all kinds of possibilities, allowing us to support truly ambitious landscape-scale projects to restore natural ecosystems, strengthen ecological networks, manage flood risk and enhance water quality through coordinated action over entire river catchments. With funding on that scale, we could more effectively overcome the causes of degradation on protected nature sites and provide a lifeline for declining farmland and upland birds and imperilled species like the red squirrel. We could also further increase the pace in delivering our climate change targets through new woodland planting, to protect and enhance our forests, and through an enhanced programme of peatland restoration.

Gain 4. We will be represented in the EU and have the opportunity to drive the agenda.

Scotland would be a welcome and enthusiastic member of the European Union and we would show leadership on environmental issues.

We would seek to use our influence and experience to promote environmental agendas such as the drive for clean energy production. Scotland’s offshore” (p. 4)

renewable resources are among the largest in the EU. In fact, our collective renewable energy resources – including hydro, wind, wave and tidal – are capable of powering the country several times over. Scotland also has a strategic interest in areas such as stewardship of the marine environment and on forestry and wetlands.

Other similar sized countries have led the way in setting and delivering progressive agendas in the EU. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that the “smaller” EU Member States (Finland, Sweden, Denmark) are relatively more successful in achieving outcomes closer to their preferred position in European Council negotiations than are the large Member States (e.g. France, Germany, Spain).

Holding the rotating six-monthly Presidency of the Council of the EU is one way in which smaller member states can wield significant influence. Ireland and Lithuania held the Presidency last year, and Latvia and Luxembourg will be taking the chair in 2015. With independence, Scotland could join the ranks of these countries, prioritising EU-wide discussion on matters that it regards as of particular importance.

An independent Scotland would also nominate a European Commissioner and could expect to increase – possibly double – its representation in the European Parliament (EP). Presently, the UK Government assigns six European Parliamentary seats to Scotland. This compares unfavourably to Member States of comparable size to Scotland, such as Denmark, Slovakia and Finland with 13 seats in the EP, or Ireland with 12 seats.

Gain 5. We will have a stronger voice on the global stage.

An independent Scotland with its own place in institutions such as the EU and the UN will have a louder voice and greater influence on environmental policy all around the world, not just among our neighbours.

Our world leading climate change legislation stands as an example of the high ambition that developed nations need to show as they strive to decarbonise their economies and keep global temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius or less. Climate change threatens to roll back global gains on human rights and Scotland is committed to making a real difference for some of the poorest people in the world. We were the first national government in the world to launch a Climate Justice Fund and we doubled it to £6 million last year. In Malawi and Zambia this is supporting communities affected by climate change to access clean water and it is educating and empowering women to play a leading role in their communities.” (p. 5)

Last year Scotland also staged the inaugural World Natural Capital Forum. Hosted by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and supported by the Scottish Government this attracted delegates from over 30 countries keen to explore new thinking which aims to enable businesses and policy makers to make informed decisions about their impact on the environment, to assess the financial and other benefits they obtain from natural capital, and to make a concerted effort to protect it.

We have made a good start, but with independence we could build on these foundations. Scotland has always been an outward facing country but our global impact will be limited until we are an equal partner among the family of nations and can give voice to our experience and values. Independence will raise Scotland’s international profile, giving us a stronger platform from which to inspire and influence others and to represent Scotland’s interests.

If we are the first government of an independent Scotland, our priorities for action in our first year will include:

To propose to the Constitutional Convention, which will develop a permanent written constitution for Scotland, that the right to live in a healthy environment and a duty on government to use Scotland’s natural resources sustainably are included amongst the fundamental principles on which an independent Scotland is built.

Securing early agreement on the speediest safe removal of nuclear weapons is a priority. This would be with a view to the removal of Trident within the first term of the Scottish Parliament following independence.

To assume Scotland’s seat at the EU Environment Council, taking a direct part in the European debate with our own voice for the first time and ensuring that we are always represented by those with Scotland’s interests and the interests of our environment at heart.

Making the case in Europe for the Common Agricultural Policy to deliver improved environmental outcomes, and, at the same time, for sufficient flexibility to tailor the policy measures to Scotland’s specific needs and circumstances.

Championing tackling climate change in international forums as a member of the UN and EU to: call for higher ambition; set out Scotland’s positive case study as a country planning for and making the transition to a low carbon economy; and to promote climate justice.

KEEP IN TOUCH WITH THE DEBATE

You can access Scotland’s Future – Your Guide to an Independent Scotland and keep up to date with the Scottish Independence Referendum and all the latest news through our Referendum website at http://www.scotreferendum.com” (p. 6)

Published by the Scottish Government, August 2014
© Crown copyright 2014
Open Government Licence http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence
” Original is here: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0045/00457321.pdf

Who clears the land of its people only to destroy it? The UK government is one. Have they changed? More and more it appears not. Other parts of the UK may be well-served to leave along with Scotland, and perhaps to constitute a new, more democratic, environmentally friendly, nuclear-free, union.
Highland Clearances Monument
Highland Clearances Monument