The Scottish Government could back a Labour MSP’s attempt to outlaw ecocide after the European Union pledged to criminalise wide-scale environmental damage amid a vow by SNP ministers to "keep pace" with Brussels.

Monica Lennon is aiming to make ecocide a specific crime in Scotland – with proposed penalties including up to 20 years in prison and up to 10% of worldwide turnover seized over a three-year period for the biggest polluters.

Under the plans, tough penalties for committing a specific crime of ecocide could act as a tough deterrent to those willfully harming the environment.

The Scottish Government is yet to set out its position on the proposals, despite promising initial discussions with Ms Lennon.

But the Scottish Government is set to be more likely to back the plans after the EU became the first international body to criminalise environmental damage “comparable to ecocide”.

Read more: Ecocide law: Polluters could see turnover seized and 20 years in jail

Under the Scottish Government’s EU Continuity Act, ministers aim to “keep pace” with EU law over the environment and other devolved sectors as much as possible.

One reason for keeping pace is to help Scotland’s case for quickly joining the bloc if the country votes for independence.

The Scottish Government’s chapter on Europe in its renewed case for independence, published on Friday, points to keeping pace with EU regulations.

It states that the Scottish Government “will continue to align with EU law and keep pace with future EU developments, where possible and appropriate”.

It adds: “Scottish ministers will use their powers, which include a discretionary power to align Scots law with EU law in the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Act 2021, to keep Scotland close to our European partners, to uphold the EU’s core values, and to protect and advance high standards across a range of policy areas. Doing so should also facilitate the process of Scotland’s future return to the EU.”

Read more: Scotland would try to join EU with the pound after independence

Last week, EU lawmakers agreed an update to the bloc’s directive on environmental crime, which will levy harsher penalties for ecosystem destruction.

French MEP Marie Toussaint, who is leading EU efforts to criminalise ecocide, insisted the move “marks the end of impunity for environmental criminals”.

The environmental crime directive will be formally passed in the spring, and member states will then have two years to put it into national law.

Ms Lennon told The Herald that “there's been a lot happening in the EU” on ecocide, which was “really significant”.

She added that it would hopefully set “a minimum floor in terms of ecocide law for the EU member states”.

The Herald: Labour MSP Monica Lennon is hoping to introduce an offence of ecocide in ScotlandLabour MSP Monica Lennon is hoping to introduce an offence of ecocide in Scotland (Image: Contributed)

Ms Lennon added: “Obviously, the UK is no longer a member.

“But under the Continuity Act, the political mood music is that the Scottish Government very much wants to keep pace with the EU in terms of environmental protection.”

She said: “My argument is why not be even stronger than that.

“So there’s an opportunity for Scotland to be a leader on this.

Read more: SNP's lack of climate adaptation 'putting economy at greater risk'

“What we are trying to do here is hopefully put Scotland at the forefront of the ecocide law movement.”

Ms Lennon has previously been successful with members bills, having won international praise for her period poverty legislation.

She acknowledged that “members bills can be a long, hard process”.

Ms Lennon said that initial discussions with ministers “have been really positive and encouraging so far”, while the Scottish Greens have already confirmed their public support for the proposals.

Ms Lennon has pointed to the Braer oil spill in Shetland in 1993, radioactive contamination, unsustainable fishing practices, and the proliferation of plastics in our seas to the danger of marine ecosystems as examples of potential ecocide in Scotland.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is committed to protecting Scotland's environment and we will consider Monica Lennon’s consultation on introducing an offence of ecocide.

“We will also consider the final revised EU environmental crime directive against our policy to maintain alignment where appropriate with EU law, taking account of our existing actions to strengthen the legal protection of nature.”