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Inside Track Special report


Appetite for change


George Thomson Feature Writer


A recent consultation points the way forward for Scotland’s environmental regulation


Scotland’s environmental regulation is set


for change. Te results of a major consultation by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), published last week, give a strong indication of the direction of travel. With the stated aim of delivering “an effective, proportionate and risk-based approach to environmental regulation in Scotland”, it is hoped that the consultation will flesh out


specific improvements to streamline and simplify SEPA’s core regulatory work on inspections, permitting, monitoring and enforcement. While streamlining and increasing efficiency is always a top priority for public agencies, the consultation reflects the spending squeeze that will provide the backdrop to the coming years. Te proposals are “based on us doing better with less,” said SEPA chairman David Sigsworth. “It sets out what we consider will provide a significantly improved, simplified and better integrated environmental protection and improvement service for Scotland.” Te consultation, which began in December


of last year, sought the views of a wide range of organisations and industry bodies. Stakeholders were asked to indicate whether they supported 17 general proposals made by SEPA and offer supplementary feedback. Directing inspection and enforcement activity at the highest risk and poorest performing operations, providing better environmental


advice and guidance, and ensuring effective penalties for breaking environmental laws were central themes. Te questions put to stakeholders also contained some fresh ideas, including the possibility of charging for fast- tracking applications and for specialist or technical services that are currently covered by Grant-in-Aid. A total of 105 responses had been


received when the consultation ended in February. Feedback was received from across the spectrum of SEPA’s activities, with contributions from business, rural and environmental bodies. While some felt customers should be the main focus of any changes, others maintained environmental outcomes must be prioritised. In order to reflect the nuances of opinion


across the board, endorsements of a particular proposal could be qualified or have conditions attached. SEPA made clear that a general receptiveness would not be assumed to be outright agreement, stating, “if a response said ‘yes’ and then went on to qualify this, we


27 June 2011 Holyrood 25


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