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SCOTLAND: Proposals for Environmental Assessment

December 18, 2003 12:00 AM

A consultation on the Executive's proposals to put environmental concerns at the heart of public policy and programmes was launched today.

The introduction of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) will see a comprehensive system of environmental accountability being applied to all strategies, plans and programmes across the public sector in Scotland.

Public sector bodies will be required to consider the environmental impacts on water, land, air, biodiversity and human health, and on the built and archaeological heritage of Scotland.

Environment Minister Ross Finnie said:

"SEA is a vital tool for putting the environment at the heart of public sector activity. For the public sector the SEA regulations are about better policy making, for the public they are about greater involvement leading to better policy outcomes.

"These regulations will ensure that viable sustainable alternatives for achieving a policy goal are considered fully and transparently before final decisions are taken.

"This will help public authorities to make policy decisions based on a better understanding of environmental consequences, ensuring that the aims of sustainable development are fully considered.

"The responsibilities laid out in the consultation fall mainly on the Public Sector, however the aims of better policy making and therefore better services and fewer unforeseen environmental impacts, affect everyone. I would encourage anyone with an interest in this issue to participate in this consultation.

"When introduced I am confident that SEA will improve public services and deliver better environmental outcomes to the benefit of Scotland as a whole."

The consultation, which will end on 11 March 2004 asks for views on the proposals to implement not only the European Directive on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) but deliver the commitment in the Partnership Agreement "A Partnership for a Better Scotland" which goes well beyond the scope of the European Directive.

The proposed legislation also underpins the public's right to know about plans, comment on them, have their comments taken into account and to have the final decision clearly explained.

A second consultation is planned for next year which will ask for views on the details of the Bill.

The Regulations are to be in place by 21 July 2004 with the Bill to follow in early course.