Nicola Sturgeon’s programme for government announced last week rightly received many plaudits, particularly on the environment. Friends of the Earth Scotland called it “the greenest in the history of the Scottish Parliament”.

The programme certainly contained a host of welcome policies: phasing out diesel and petrol vehicles, city low pollution zones, a deposit return scheme for bottles and cans and a “Transition Commission” to move to a low-carbon economy.

These are much-needed responses to problems that the Sunday Herald has often highlighted. But there was another little-noticed promise to set up an expert group to advise on how Scotland can continue to “lead by example” on environmental rights.

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Unfortunately, as we report today, Scotland is not leading the way on environmental rights. In fact, the Scottish Government is facing a reprimand from the UN for prolonged breaches of the Aarhus Convention on access to environmental justice.

This is not just dry process. It matters. It’s about communities - faced with major industrial developments that will degrade their lives - being deprived of any real rights to challenge them.

It’s about the pensioner, Molly Forbes, who challenged Donald Trump to protect her home from his golf resort. It’s about the birdwatcher, Marco McGinty, trying to stop plans for a coal-burning power station.

They faced intimidating demands for massive legal costs enough to frighten off anyone. This is not fair, and the UN is right to chastise Scotland.

Why do Scottish Ministers seem to side with Goliath, rather than David? They take comfort from the fact that they have made progress, and are doing better than England and Wales. Fair enough. But ministers need to do more. Communities should be properly protected from prohibitive legal costs when they appeal against developments.

Crucially, communities should be given equal rights of appeal, so that they have the same recourse as property developers. The system needs to be changed to make it fairer - so Level playing field.