I share your concern regarding neonicotinoid pesticides and the potentially detrimental effects which could be caused to bees, if the current restrictions on these pesticides are lifted.
At present in Scotland, significant restrictions are currently in place regarding the use of three neonicotinoids on plants which are attractive to bees; clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. These restrictions derive from EU legislation which came into force on 1 December 2013. Although in 2015 the UK Government temporarily lifted the ban on the use of these pesticides in certain counties, none of these counties were in Scotland.
As previously mentioned, legislation pertaining to the use of neonicotinoid insecticides has its basis in EU regulations, which has one of the strictest regulatory systems in the world with regards to the approval of pesticides. In fact, following an opinion issued by the EFSA late last year which confirmed that neonicotinoids pose a significant threat to pollinators such as bees and bumblebees, the European Commission is currently considering a total ban on neonicotinoids. The UK Government, however, while it has implemented the current restrictions, have it made it clear that they do not support them. Therefore, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU may not only result in the current restrictions lapsing, but the UK would also not be obliged to act on future EU legislation banning neonicotinoids. My SNP colleagues and I are concerned about a great number of sectors and issues which will be impacted negatively by Brexit, and the future of environmental legislation is one such issue. However, as the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said, we will do all that we can to protect Scotland’s place in the EU and the benefits of EU membership that the people of Scotland enjoy.
I am of the view that we must take a precautionary approach to neonicotinoids, something which is shared by my SNP colleagues. Therefore, allow me to reassure you that the SNP Scottish Government will not support any relaxation of the restrictions which are currently in place unless there is clear scientific evidence that neonicotinoids do not pose a threat to insect pollinators.