The Scottish government has “no intention” of relaxing European environmental standards after Brexit, the Scottish environment secretary has insisted.
Speaking at WWT’s Water Scotland conference in Glasgow, Roseanna Cunningham said: “I want to clarify our position as regards compliance with European Union directives and the issue of Brexit.
“This government has no intention of relaxing standards. Anybody out there that thinks that, from the perspective of that kind of compliance, that leaving the EU will mean a relaxation is dead wrong.
“We do not believe that is the right way to go. Those standards are in Scotland’s best interest, providing safe, clean drinking water and protecting the environment, all of which we see as essential to Scotland’s prosperity.”
She added that climate change will present challenges to the resilience of Scottish Water’s infrastructure, and pointed out that the floods in early 2016 were “a perfect example”.
“We need to understand the likely impacts and plan accordingly,” she said, adding that Scottish Water “can’t plan or deliver improvements on its own”. The company will need the help of the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, land managers and local authorities and local community groups, she said.
She also told delegates that, although customer engagement has improved “markedly” over the years, they must “work even harder” to explain the water industry to customers, particularly given the challenges, such as climate change, that it faces.
“To put it another way, the days of the silent service need to come to an end,” she said.
“I know that Scottish Water is working with customers and has had considerable success from its advertising campaign – Keep the Cycle Working Smoothly. A 10 per cent reduction in sewer blockages, as a consequence of this campaign, is a pretty good result.
“However, I do want to encourage you all to continue to work in partnership with Scottish Water to engage with customers on a range of issues, such as improvements at bathing waters and environmental compliance, for example.”
WWT’s Water Scotland conference was held at the Crowne Plaza in Glasgow on Wednesday 5 October 2016