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October 23, 2003 12:00 AM

Ross Finnie MSPEnvironment Minister Ross Finnie today announced his intention to legislate for Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).

Addressing delegates at the Sustainable Scotland Network Conference, Mr Finnie outlined plans to bring forward a Strategic Environmental Assessment Bill that will ensure all public sector bodies consider the impact of their decisions on the environment.

The Bill will go beyond the EU SEA Directive by covering all new strategies, programmes and plans set out by public sector bodies. Implementation will involve a two step process with regulations put in place to meet the requirements of the Directive, which will than be revoked by the Bill.

Mr Finnie said:

"The Partnership Agreement had a green thread running through it and I am determined to put the environment right at the heart of government. Strategic Environmental Assessment will mean every public official will have to think about the environmental effects of plans they produce. If these will be significant an assessment must be carried out.

"This will highlight environmental impacts across the range from water, land and air quality, biodiversity and human health to the built and archaeological heritage of Scotland. It will help to ensure the protection and enhancement of our environment is at the heart of public decision making.

"The public will have the right to know about the plans, the right to comment, have their comments taken into account, and be told of the final decision and why it was taken.

"This ensures new opportunities for public involvement and scrutiny, increasing the transparency of public decision making. It will give everyone in Scotland more say in plans that affect their environment and put them at the heart of the drive for environmental justice.

"It will also improve the quality of decision making. Making sure that decisions are based on sound evidence and fully illustrating the consequences of a course of action."

Mr Finnie was giving a keynote address at the Sustainable Scotland Network/Friends of the Earth Scotland Conference at the Tolbooth, Stirling.

The Partnership Agreement made a commitment that:

"We will legislate to introduce Strategic Environmental Assessment to ensure that the full environmental impacts of all new strategies, programmes and plans developed by the public sector are properly considered."

The two-stage process announced today will meet this commitment and implement European Directive 2001/42/EC, which requires environmental assessment to be carried out on certain plans and programmes by 21 July 2004.

We will also bring forward a comprehensive Bill on Strategic Environmental Assessment to apply it to a wider range of strategies, plans and programmes than the European Directive requires.

The announcement was made to Parliament by the answer of Parliamentary Question S2W-03101.

The Scottish Executive will shortly consult on the broad policy of the Bill in conjunction with consultation on the regulations. This will be followed by a further consultation on the detailed proposals before the Bill is introduced next year.