Enforcement: our policy and guidance

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Regulatory compliance in Scotland

Environmental compliance is non-negotiable. Every Scottish business will comply with the law, and we’ll work to ensure as many as possible will go even further. We call this One Planet Prosperity.

Our role, as Scotland’s principal environmental regulator, is to protect and improve the environment, and contribute to improving the health and the wellbeing of people in Scotland. Regulation is about changing behaviour in a way that generates positive outcomes for the environment, communities and the economy.

Enforcement policy and enforcement guidance

As a regulator, enforcement is an essential part of our toolkit, and we take the responsibility that comes with having enforcement powers and the use of new enforcement tools very seriously. We recognise the need to be proportionate, consistent, accountable and transparent in all our enforcement activities.

Our Enforcement policy and Guidance on the use of enforcement action underpin our decision-making in relation to enforcement action.

The Lord Advocate’s guidance to SEPA also supports enforcement decision making. It sets out circumstances and criteria for using enforcement measures and makes it clear when we should be consulting the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service so that prosecution can be considered.

Enforcement measures

The Environmental Regulation (Enforcement Measures) (Scotland) Order 2015 provides SEPA with the power to issue penalties and accept undertakings for relevant environmental offences. The enforcement measures available to us include:

Fixed Monetary Penalties (FMP)

An FMP is a financial penalty that we may impose for a relevant offence. There are three levels of penalty which are prescribed in legislation: £300; £600 and £1000. Therefore, the amount of the FMP is set in law. FMPs allow us to issue fines for non-compliance and are normally appropriate where an offence involves no direct harm, with no lasting effects or impact on communities, and when little (if any) financial benefit arises from the offence.

For further information on FMPs please refer to the relevant section within the Guidance on the use of enforcement action.

 

Enforcement Undertakings (EU)

An EU is an offer, made voluntarily to make amends for non-compliance and its effects and to prevent recurrence. In addition, an offer needs to include appropriate beneficial action e.g. by offering longer term gains through more sustainable operating practices and by bringing about benefits to communities. An EU can be offered at any time before we have decided what enforcement action we will take, even before we are aware of the non-compliance.  

If you are intending to offer an EU, you should contact us as soon as possible rather than waiting until the offer is ready to submit. This will allow for an appropriate investigation to be completed and we can advise you if an EU is appropriate in the circumstances before you invest time in preparing a detailed offer. Please read the relevant section in the Guidance on the use of enforcement action before completing and submitting your offer form (form also available in Word format).

 

Variable Monetary Penalties (VMP)

VMPs are discretionary financial penalties which SEPA can impose for a relevant offence. They are likely to be used for offences at the upper end of the scale of offending, but which do not require to be reported to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) for consideration of prosecution. We will refer to our guide How SEPA will determine a VMP when calculating the level of VMP.

For further information on VMPs please refer to the relevant section in the Guidance on the use of enforcement action.

 

 

Variable Monetary Penalty Undertakings (VMPU)

A VMPU offer can only be made following receipt of a VMP notice of intent. A VMPU may be offered to make amends for non-compliance and its effects and to prevent recurrence. This is a limited opportunity for a person to make an offer which brings benefits to the environment or the local community instead of paying the VMP.

If you have received a VMP notice of intent and are considering submitting a VMPU offer, please read the relevant section in the Guidance on the use of enforcement action before completing and submitting your Offer of variable monetary penalty undertaking form.

Civil Sanctions - Penalties

We publish penalties for the following climate change regimes on our website:

Published information on our enforcement actions

We have committed to publishing a range of enforcement activities in our Policy for Communicating Penalties and Undertakings. This includes:

Heading: Further information