East Lothian Council leader pledges to declare nature emergency

Monday September 4th 2023


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

East Lothian Council’s leader has promised his local authority will declare a nature emergency within weeks after his initial bid was blocked by opposition councillors.

The Labour group administration were left ‘extremely disappointed’ after a motion making the declaration was unable to be heard at the first full council meeting follow summer recess last week.

East Lothia’s only Greens councillor and SNP members voted against suspending standing orders to allow the ‘urgent motion’ to be heard after objecting to being given less than 24 hours notice of it.

In a joint statement issued after the meeting the SNP group and Greens Councillor Shona McIntosh dismissed the Labour motion for simply ‘paying lip service’ to the current crisis.

And they said that while they agreed with the call for the local authority to make the declaration, they believed it required cross party debate which had not been allowed ahead of the motion being drawn up.

Councillor Norman Hampshire, council leader, said the motion was submitted late due to ‘detailed discussions with council officers”.

He said: “The Labour administration were extremely disappointed that the SNP Group and the Green Councillor refused to support the Labour Group Motion to declare a Nature Emergency.

“We decided it was a very important issue for East Lothian so we brought it forward as an emergency motion.

“The nature emergency has been declared by national and international conservation organisations like WWF, The Wildlife Trust, RSPB and many other councils.

“Local Authorities across the UK have an important role in shaping our future communities and our environment. We have a duty to continually consider ways we can protect and improve our natural environment when future development takes place so that our nature can survive and flourish.”

Councillor Hampshire said the motion would now be brought to the next meeting of the full council next month.

He said: “Despite the delay in declaring the nature emergency the Labour administration is committed to working with our officers on our new nature strategies that will protect our natural environment and we will bring forward our motion at the next council meeting and declare a nature emergency in East Lothian.”

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