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Our Approach to Regulation

We have reviewed our approach to regulation, evolving our 2016 Regulatory Strategy to better reflect future challenges and opportunities.

Our environment continues to face serious challenges and as a nation we continue to live well beyond the means of our planet. The global crises of climate change, pollution and nature loss are existential threats that Scotland must play its full part in helping to tackle.

Scotland’s environment is central to our identity, success, and development as a nation. It is fundamental to our culture, economy, and quality of life. This means an environment where the quality of our air, water and land is high, where our resources are used fairly and efficiently and where species in Scotland are not at risk of extinction.

We have a leading role to play in making this a reality. One of the most significant ways we do this is by regulating activities that may impact on the environment or communities. We can also help to support businesses that want to innovate and to grow sustainably.

Our Approach to Regulation describes how we intend to target and focus our resources so that we can play our part, with others, to take the urgent action needed to protect and improve Scotland’s environment, and to tackle the climate, pollution and nature loss crises.

Our principles

Our Approach to Regulation is guided by principles that underpin our work. These are drawn from the Scottish Government’s Environmental Strategy and from the principles of better regulation set out in the Scottish Regulators’ Strategic Code of Practice.

What we do

These are the four principles that we apply across our regulatory work:

How we do it

  • We are proportionate and target our work - We focus our efforts on where there are the biggest risks to, or opportunities for, the environment and communities and tailor our approach to the desired outcomes.
  • We act consistently - We have policies and procedures to support consistent regulatory decision making and our decisions are informed by evidence and led by intelligence. We pursue continuous improvement.
  • We are accountable and transparent – We are alive to the interests of others and take account of their views and the impact on them in our regulatory decisions. We are clear in what we expect from others and what they can expect from us.

Protect, Adapt, Improve

We regulate to:

  • ​​​​​Protect the environment and communities from harm.
  • Help Scotland to adapt to our changing environment.
  • Improve the quality of our environment for people and for nature and to help operators transition to net zero. 

Our approach

We Protect, Adapt and Improve by using the following six elements:

Working in partnership

We cannot achieve our outcomes by acting alone. Partnerships have always been a fundamental way of how we deliver regulatory outcomes and of how we help to deliver the best results most efficiently. Sometimes we lead, but equally we also commit to support the leadership of others by being an active partner.

Using all our influences

As Scotland's national environmental regulator, we have a wide range of legislative powers, but also considerable influence. Using this wider influence to protect and improve the environment and communities will yield better outcomes.

Understanding our environment

We know our environment is changing. Understanding how, why and where changes are occurring allows us to focus our efforts on the most critical issues and to take preventative action against emerging threats.

Securing compliance

We expect all regulated operators to understand their impact on the environment and to comply with their obligations in legislation and conditions set out in authorisations. Operators that want to do the right thing will be supported, those that seek to benefit from non-compliance will be targeted.

Tackling environmental crime

Environmental crime impacts the environment, blights communities, and creates risks to legitimate business, health and well-being. Tackling it requires a multi-agency approach that creates a hostile business environment for those that choose not to comply with the law.

Tackling systemic environmental issues

The climate, pollution and nature loss crises are the result of continued overuse of the planet’s resources. Securing compliance alone will not resolve these crises nor tackle the underlying causes of them. We must go further.