The MSP behind a proposed Ecocide law for Scotland has said she hopes it is never used.

Monica Lennon said she wanted the legislation to prevent widespread and irreversible damage as part of international efforts to halt the destruction of the environment

However she said companies who polluted Scotland’s rivers and seas and fishermen who recklessly dredged scallop beds could potentially be prosecuted under it.

The Central Scotland Labour MSP was speaking at the launch of a three-month public consultation on her proposed Ecocide (Prevention) (Scotland) Bill in Edinburgh.

If passed by Holyrood, the Bill could see major polluters jailed for between 10 and 20 years for deliberate or reckless severe, long-lasting and widespread environmental damage.

As well as the senior individuals responsible for key decisions facing jail time, firms could be fined 10% of their turnover.

READ MORE: Ecocide law - Polluters could see turnover seized and 20 years in jail

If the proposal is backed by MSPs on a cross-party basis, Scotland would be the first part of the UK to have such a law.

Brazil and the Netherlands are considering similar legislation.

With a high bar on defining ecocide and a raft of existing environmental legislation, Ms Lennon was asked whether she expected anyone ever to be prosecuted under her law.

She said: “I actually hope we would never need to go there. The clue is in the title. It’s about prevention. This [20 year sentences] should be quite scary. It should be putting people off. 

“It is about putting people on notice and giving big corporations, bad actors out there, notice that things are changing.

“Not that it’s a waste of time, but I hope we’d never actually have to take people to court for this, because hopefully when it passes that really changes behaviour.”

Jojo Mehta, co-founder of Stop Ecocide International, said the law was not a “silver bullet” but criminalization was “cheap, quick and a really good deterrent”.

She also predicted there would be prosecutions under an Ecocide law somewhere in future, driving a change in corporate behaviour.

As well as the threat of people going to prison, companies guilty of ecocide would suffer damage to their reputations and share price, she said.

“The idea is to move to those people in controlling positions.

“There is a level of deterrence and prevention that comes with that individual criminal responsibility that is conspicuously absent in the current environmental law landscape.

“Big polluting companies may be paying expensive lawyers to work out how they can just approach a particular red line without crossing it, or balance out compensation claims against profit.

“Once you bring that responsibility down to the individual, you're looking at somebody's personal freedom and personal reputation being on the line, which is a far greater concentrater of the mind. It creates a guardrail.”

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After the consultation phase, Members’ Bills must gain the support of at least 18 MSPs before they can progress further at Holyrood.

The proposed Bill is supported by Stop Ecocide International, a campaign which is backed by Greta Thunberg, Pope Francis and Sir Paul McCartney.

Ms Lennon is due to meet Green minister Lorna Slater today to discuss the Bill.