Better environmental regulation

We are working with Scottish Government to take forward the better environmental regulation programme. It provides a framework to help us reform how we regulate, supported by new legislation.

We want to:

  • do more to secure compliance;
  • recognise and promote the business benefits of good environmental performance;
  • support existing and emerging business sectors;
  • deliver efficiencies.

You can read about the following on this page:


The Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Act , passed by the Scottish Parliament in January 2014, gave SEPA a new statutory purpose. In short, our statutory purpose is 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. SEPA has 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.

Sustainable Growth Agreements

Sustainable Growth Agreements 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.

We have now published three SGAs along with a set of Guiding Principles. The SGA documents can be found below:

 You can read more about SGAs in SEPA View.

Consultation on draft regulations and guidance for an integrated authorisation framework (IAF)

Two consultations that will help implement the integrated authorisation framework are available on the SEPA consultation hub.

The consultations are:

This follows the consultation launched in January 2017 on proposals for an integrated authorisation framework, the responses of which are available on the Scottish Government consultation hub .

The aim of integrated authorisation framework is to integrate, as far as possible, the authorisation, procedural and enforcement arrangements relating to water, waste management, radioactive substances and pollution prevention and control. The integrated authorisation framework will be developed in a phased manner, starting with radioactive substances.

We are consulting jointly with the Scottish Government because we believe that it is important that stakeholders can consider how these proposals fit together as a whole.

The framework will enable us to work in a more integrated way focusing on the environmental risks that matter the most.  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.

This new framework will be delivered through regulations made under section 18 of the Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Act 2014.  It will replace existing legislation which currently implements the existing regimes by re-transposing the requirements of a number of European Directives.

Full details on how to respond and deadlines for responses are available on the SEPA consultation hub.

Reform of charging

Work to reform SEPA charging is being taken forward as part of the joint working with Scottish Government. We are designing a better charging framework; one that it is more risk-based, flexible and joined-up and which helps to encourage good practice. If proposals are supported, the new charging scheme will come into effect on 1 April 2016.

Further information on this joint work, including past stakeholder newsletters, can be found on the Scottish Government’s Better Environmental Regulation web page and our new regulatory charging scheme web page.

The practical changes enabled by the reform of legislation and charging will be implemented over the next few years.

Regulatory evidence strategy

We have developed a new approach to collecting information on the activities that we regulate. The work is part of our drive to reform how we regulate and improve the services we provide the people of Scotland. This will support the delivery of an improved outcome for the environment, health and well-being, and sustainable economic growth.

We intend to roll out this approach on a sectoral basis over the next two to three years. The framework for this approach was agreed by our Board and will be brought into effect after discussion with relevant sectors. The approach builds upon the approach that we use to collect information on industrial and waste sites, and will:

  • provide a consistent approach across those we regulate;
  • allow us to make better use of its resources;
  • improve the information available for making decisions;
  • ensure that operators take more responsibility for monitoring compliance with their licence conditions whilst we ensure a robust, risk assessed audit sampling programme is in place.

Individual sectors will be directly engaged by us to develop our proposals for their sector. This will ensure that the proposals can be taken forward to support work to ensure compliance with licence conditions and to help operators to manage their site to provide even better protection of the environment.

Further information is available in SEPA View.

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 Environmental Regulation (Enforcement Measures)(Scotland) Order 2015 (the Order) makes available enforcement measures that are intended to plug the ‘compliance gap’ between criminal prosecution for the most serious cases, and the use of statutory notices or warnings for other cases.

New enforcement measures are now available for SEPA to use. These measures will be phased in, starting with Fixed Monetary Penalties (FMPs) and enforcement undertakings. The measures are part of a new environmental enforcement framework, developed jointly with the Scottish Government and in partnership with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, are in place. The framework consists of:

  • the Order.
  • an updated SEPA enforcement policy.
  • a guidance document which we are required to produce under the RR(S) Act. The enforcement guidance explains how we will use the new enforcement measures and our approach to enforcement more generally for relevant offences. We must have regard to this guidance when exercising our functions.
  • guidelines from the Lord Advocate, which will be available later in the year, and which we will comply with.

SEPA has published a policy that sets out our approach to publishing information about penalties which have been issued by us and undertakings that have been accepted.

A consultation on how the amount of a variable monetary penalty (VMP) will be determined will also be undertaken in 2016. We will not impose any VMP’s until this consultation is complete and the methodology, with guidance, has been published.

In July 2015 we published a consultation on an updated enforcement policy and guidance. We have now published the summary of reponses.

Waste to Resources Framework

For Scotland to be successful in the 21st century, we need to use resources more sustainably and find ways to achieve success within planetary constraints. 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 SEPA does in this area into one place – from supporting waste prevention through to tackling waste crime.

SEPA is 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.

We will also not relax our approach to compliance. 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.

SEPA will use all its 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.

Contact us

If you are regulated by SEPA then you are likely to be impacted to some extent by these changes. The changes will also be of interest to our partners and those with a broader interest in the environment and better regulation.

If you have any questions or require any further information or advice on any aspect of better environmental regulation, please contact us.