New Scottish environment watchdog in contact with EU chiefs

Scotland's new environmental watchdog has already made contact with EU chiefs about post-Brexit co-operation on standards, it has emerged.

The head of Environmental Standards Scotland (ESS) said that monitoring the "level playing field" on standards set out in the recent Brexit trade deal would be among the areas the body is looking to focus on.

Jim Martin, chair of ESS, said the organisation was in its "very early" stages of development, having only received Royal Assent this month, after legislation was passed in December to see it established.

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The Brexit trade deal's "level playing field" provision will be monitored by Scotland's new watchdogThe Brexit trade deal's "level playing field" provision will be monitored by Scotland's new watchdog
The Brexit trade deal's "level playing field" provision will be monitored by Scotland's new watchdog
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"We've made very early contact informally with the EU Commission to try and get some understanding from them of their expectations going forward," he told Holyrood's environment committee.

"I've a meeting scheduled next week with the chair of the OEP (Office for Environment Protection) on the same thing.

"We're beginning to analyse our obligations under our legislation to keep under review the impact of international agreements on the Scottish Government, public bodies and the environment Scotland."

Mr Martin said it may take several weeks or months for the impact of the Brexit trade deal on environmental standards to become clear in Scotland.

The Brexit trade deal struck at the end of last year includes provisions for "level playing field" measures, which commit both the UK and the EU to maintain broadly common standards on environmental regulations.

The agreement has thrown up a number of issues, according to Mr Martin, which were not anticipated when ESS was created.

"We do have an obligation to monitor international obligations and I think the level playing field provision falls within that, so one of the areas we will be wanting to look at in future is the implications of that and the impact of that," he said.

The trade deal also includes a commitment for the EU and UK to co-operate in effective monitoring and enforcement of the law with regard to the climate, but also to regular meetings between the EU and relevant supervisory bodies in the UK.

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"We need to understand how ESS will fit into that," Mr Martin said.

"I regard ESS as a significant supervisory body. I would expect the organisation to have a role there."

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