SEPA has a strong track record of improving Scotland’s environment through regulation, and we are proud of what we have achieved since we were established in 1996.
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However, more than 20 years on, the world is now a different place, and the way in which we have regulated in the past is not sufficient to enable us to make the transformational changes needed to tackle the environmental problems of today.
We recognise that as a society, we are over-using our planet’s resources. If everyone lived as we do in Scotland, we would need three planets to sustain ourselves. As we progress through the 21st century and beyond, only those businesses, societies and nations that have developed ways to reduce their water, materials and carbon-based energy consumption, as well as creating little waste, will thrive.
Everyday SEPA works to protect and enhance Scotland's environment, helping communities and businesses thrive within the resources of our planet. We call this One Planet Prosperity.
You can read about the following on this page:
- Integrated Authorisation Framework (IAF)
The Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Act,passed by the Scottish Parliament in January 2014, gave SEPA its statutory purpose, to protect and improve the environment (environmental success) in ways that, as far as possible, create health and well-being benefits (social success) and sustainable economic growth (economic success).
One Planet Prosperity - Our Regulatory Strategy
One Planet Prosperity is our strategy for tackling the challenges of the 21st century facing Scotland's environment. It outlines our approach to delivering environmental protection and improvement in ways which will also create health benefits and sustainable economic growth.
We have a specific role to play to deliver full compliance and help as many business as possible to innovate and go beyond compliance. The strategy sets out how we will regulate for maximum benefit, using an integrated framework and other tools.
Sectoral approach to regulation
We are transforming the way we regulate, moving from a single site approach to sector based solutions. Sector plans are at the heart of delivering our one planet living aspirations, and aim to shape our interactions with every industry sector we regulate and the businesses within them.
For every sector we regulate, we will have two simple aims. These are to ensure that:
- every regulated business fully meets their compliance obligations;
- as many regulated businesses as possible will go beyond the compliance standards.
Our approach is ambitious. It spells out how we will use traditional regulatory tools, such as permits and enforcement, in clearer and more powerful ways, and also sets out some completely new ways, such as novel partnerships that we will develop and use to support innovation in the sectors.
Sector plans will identify the compliance issues that need to be tackled by the sector and where the biggest opportunities are for us to help the sector to go beyond compliance. This will help regulated businesses operate successfully within the means of one planet.
We are preparing sector plans for every sector that we regulate. Our published plans are available from a dedicated online hub and plans open for consultation can be found on our Consultation Hub.
Sustainable Growth Agreements
Sustainable Growth Agreements (SGAs) are voluntary formal agreements between SEPA and an organisation (or organisations) that focus on practical action to deliver environmental outcomes and help achieve One Planet Prosperity. Most SGAs will be signed with individual businesses, but some will also be with groups of businesses, trade bodies, local authorities, Non-Governmental Organisations and others. Through an SGA, SEPA can help organisations collaborate with experts, innovators and stakeholders on different approaches that could improve environmental performance and also help create commercial and social success. An SGA in no way adversely affects or prejudices our ability to act in our capacity as a regulator.
Our SGAs are with:
Guiding Principles for entering into a SGA with SEPA are also available.
Climate Change Commitment Statement
The scale of environmental challenge facing humanity is enormous, with a real urgency to act and climate change is one of the biggest challenges we face. In Scotland we already have some of the most ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets in the world. SEPA wants to play as powerful a role as possible to help Scotland deliver this world leading climate change action and stretch this ambition further so that we make the biggest difference possible to Scottish efforts on climate change and achieving One Planet Prosperity. Our Climate Change Commitment Statement sets out this ambition and the targets we are setting ourselves.
Integrated Authorisation Framework (IAF)
The framework aims to integrate, as far as possible, the authorisation, procedural and enforcement arrangements relating to water, waste management, radioactive substances and pollution prevention and control, and will enable us to work in a more integrated way focusing on the environmental risks that matter the most. It will be delivered through the Environmental Authorisation (Scotland) Regulations 2018. It will help us to bring all those that we regulate into compliance quickly, easily and cost effectively and also enable us to help as many businesses as possible to go beyond compliance.
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Reform of charging
In 2017, we undertook a public consultation on proposed changes to the Environmental Regulation (Scotland) Charging Scheme, as well as holding a number of stakeholder meetings to discuss proposals and gain feedback.
As a result of the feedback received, we intend to implement changes to the scheme on 1 April 2018. More information can be found on the charging scheme pages of the website.
Consultation documents are still available to view on our Consultation Hub, however the opportunity to respond has now ended.
Environmental enforcement framework
The Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 (RR(S) Act) enabled Scottish Ministers to give SEPA the power to impose fixed and variable monetary penalties and to accept enforcement undertakings (the new enforcement measures).
The overall aim of the new enforcement measures is to deter and discourage offending by punishing those who damage the environment and undermine legitimate businesses in Scotland. Being able to tackle non-compliance at an earlier stage - before it becomes entrenched –is viewed as a major benefit.
The new enforcement measures now available to us, include:
- Fixed Monetary Penalties – there are currently four specific areas where these penalties are being considered as an enforcement option:
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- Diffuse pollution priority catchments
- Landfill data returns
- Waste segregation
- Waste carrier
Fixed monetary penalties allow us to issue fines for non-compliance. We publish details of the penalties on our website.
- Enforcement Undertakings – we can receive offers of such undertakings. These go beyond simply preventing / restoring harms arising from a breach of environmental legislation, to more longer term gains through more sustainable operating practices and by bringing about benefits to communities. (related item to AWPR)
- Variable Monetary Penalties (VMPs) - VMP’s will be phased during 2018.
- VMP Undertakings – this measure will be introduced when the VMPs are available.
Waste to Resources Framework
Our Waste to Resources Framework recognises waste and resource management as a cross-sectoral issue and, for the first time, brings together all the work we do in this area into one place – from supporting waste prevention through to tackling waste crime.
We are willing and able to support innovation which drives efficiency in material use, reduces waste or makes high quality use of waste. We will always facilitate the productive use of waste while ensuring the environment is protected.
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Basic compliance with waste regulation and the eradication of waste crime are fundamental to protecting communities from harm and achieving the resilient, resource efficient society we all want.
We will use all our influences to cut waste production, keep materials circulating for as long as possible, prevent the harms from waste management and tackle waste crime. These guiding principles, as set out in the Waste to Resources Framework, provide the direction for our work.
If you have any questions or require further information or advice regarding any aspect of One Planet Prosperity – Regulatory Strategy, please contact us.
On Ne’erday, Politico published an excellent article by Nicola Sturgeon, explaining why Scotland is a European country that needs independence to meet its aspirations. I have been critical of the lack of progress on achieving independence, but this was very good, and I think it will have been well received in the capitals of Europe.
I have only one real issue with the article. It’s when she boldly asserts that the “U.K. is a voluntary union of countries”. I’m well aware that this is almost certainly the majority view in Scotland, rooted in the belief that the people of Scotland are sovereign and thus ultimately in charge of their own future, and furthered by the fact that the 1707 Acts of Union formed a new country – the Kingdom of Great Britain – out of two formally equal countries, Scotland and England (that happened to have the same monarch).
It does not, however, seem to be a consensus shared by most people in England. South of the border, sovereignty is traditionally deemed to rest with the Houses of Parliament, which for all practical purposes means the House of Commons, or (except for very exceptional times, like 2017–19) the UK Government.
Because of the lack of a codified constitution, nobody actually knows whether Scotland still has a constitutional right to cancel the Acts of Union and become a sovereign country once more, or whether it’s entirely up to Westminster. (This is, of course, what Martin Keating’s court case (PDF) is aiming to find out. Strangely, the Scottish Government is resisting this; I wonder whether this is because they expect him to lose.)
The problem with Nicola Sturgeon’s assertion is that all other EU countries have codified constitutions, which means it’s easy to figure out whether a part of the sovereign state has the right to declare independence or not. So when she writes that the UK is a voluntary union, they’ll assume there must be something in the constitution stating this. They’ll also assume that this was the reason why David Cameron agreed to a referendum so readily last time – they’ll basically think he had no choice.
When the First Minister then adds that “[w]e are committed to a legal, constitutional route to becoming an independent state”, they’ll read that as confirming this interpretation. In other words, what they’ll take from this article is the following: Scotland has a constitutional right to independence, which is why it was allowed to hold a referendum on this topic in 2014; it will now hold another one, and Westminster won’t be able to do a thing about it, so expect an EU membership application from us soon.
I think what Nicola is trying to do is to frame the narrative. She’s hoping that if she acts as if the UK Parliament has a duty to issue a Section 30 order, they’ll simply give in. If most of the UK media were sympathetic to the cause of independence, this might even have been a good strategy. I fear, however, that they won’t pay much attention to this and simply rely on the good old sovereignty of Parliament, which is what they know and trust.
If Martin Keating is successful, there won’t be a problem. If Nicola Sturgeon manages to convince the Tories simply to give in (especially without attaching all sorts of dodgy constraints to the Section 30 order), everything will be fine, too.
But what if the court case fails and Westminster just keeps refusing another Section 30 order? Then Scotland will have two choices: (1) Give up, or (2) find a Plan B.
There are many possible Plan Bs, and some of them are rather good. Most of them, however, depend on doing something first and then getting Westminster’s approval afterwards. That’s not a big deal, and it’s indeed how most countries on this planet have won their independence. It will, however, create a lot of head-scratching in the capitals of the EU; basically, they’ll be asking why Scotland is doing this if the UK is a voluntary union of countries.
I think it’s a strategic error. I think Nicola Sturgeon would be much better off in the longer term if she started explaining the problems that the uncodified constitution is causing, and preparing other countries for the fact that things might not be quite as easy as simply repeating the process leading up to the 2014 referendum.
After all, if she asserts that Scotland has a constitutional right to independence, but the whole world can see that a new referendum isn’t happening, won’t they think it’s because Scotland deep down doesn’t really want to be a sovereign country again?