Big polluters could see 10% of their turnover seized while climate criminals could face up to 20 years in prison for wrecking the environment under plans tabled by a Labour MSP.

Monica Lennon has tabled proposals for an ecocide prevention law that could see lengthy jail sentences and company profits handed over to act as a tough deterrent to those willfully harming the environment.

Ecocide is defined as the mass damage and destruction of the natural living world and essentially means killing the environment.

Scotland would not be the first country to bring forward plans to make ecocide a criminal offence, but Ms Lennon’s proposals would make it the first part of the UK to do so.

Ms Lennon, who will today launch a consultation on her members’ bill at Holyrood, told The Herald that “the real aim of this is to prevent ecocide from happening”.

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The Herald: Labour MSP Monica Lennon has launched plans for an ecocide lawShe added: “The philosophy is if you have a really strong deterrent with really serious consequences, you could be going to jail for up to 20 years, then it’s going to change behaviours.

“Obviously any law that is passed wouldn’t come into effect straight away so there’s time for a bit of public education around this and get corporate actors behaving differently.”

Ms Lennon pointed the finger at the big polluters, warning that “we do have some serious bad actors who need to be dealt with”.

She said: “The proposed question of the financial sanctions worth up to 10% of worldwide turnover over a three-year period.

“That’s about attributing liability to responsible officers, company directors and so on.”

Several countries around the world including Brazil and the Netherlands are developing ecocide legislation in a bid to tackle the climate and nature emergency.

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The ecocide law movement was the passion project of late Scottish barrister, Polly Higgins, who died in 2019.

The proposed new laws are a response to ineffective existing environmental regulation which does little to deter the worst polluters.

A new standalone crime of ecocide would target the most harmful acts against the environment and for the first time allow the courts to pursue individual decision makers at the highest level of government and business.

Ms Lennon added: “Protecting Scotland’s nature from destruction must be at the top of everyone’s agenda but right now we don’t have a strong enough deterrent to stop the big polluters.

“We must stop eco-criminals in their tracks, and ecocide law is the crime deterrent that our planet urgently needs.

"Under my proposals, Scotland will be the first country in the UK to make ecocide a crime and the tough sanctions in the consultation could see those who threaten our planet put in jail for between 10 and 20 years.

“The aim is to prevent the worst harm to our planet from happening in the first place and to do so we need much tougher laws and enforcement. I’m pleased to be launching this public consultation today and welcome views from people from all communities, sectors and perspectives.”

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JoJo Mehta, executive director of Stop Ecocide International, said: “This is a pioneering step from Scotland and one that will be noticed across the globe.

“We currently lack national and international legal mechanisms to shield us from the most severe harms to nature.

“Today, Scotland has emerged as a global leader in addressing this legal gap by embarking on the journey to establish criminal laws that genuinely protect both people and the planet.

“In recent months, ecocide bills have been proposed or advanced in the EU, Brazil, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain (Catalunya), and Mexico. Today, Scotland is joining these forward-thinking nations in taking meaningful, practical steps to address the very real threats we face as a species."

Chairman of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, Mike Robinson, said: "It is vital we have legal protection to prohibit severe or long-term damage to the environment – for too long it has been overlooked or dismissed in wider decision making because we haven’t seen any real consequences for its destruction.

“A consultation on a Scottish law on ecocide is very welcome and is a critical step to addressing the climate and nature crises, by underlining our responsibility to look after the planet we depend on."