Scotland: Finnie describes draft Environmental Assessment Bill
A draft Bill expected to be introduced into Parliament in January next year is designed to open the decision-making process on major plans to public comment, a conference was told today.
Environment Minister Ross Finnie said the comprehensive plans for environmental protection would put Scotland at the forefront of European policy.
The proposals went beyond European legislation and ensure ALL public sector plans, strategies and programmes are scrutinised for environmental impact.
Describing the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Bill, Mr Finnie said:
"These proposals put Scotland ahead of Europe in the protection we afford to the environment.
"Environmental Assessment will bring greater public involvement in the decision making process on all major public plans, and give powers to communities and others to challenge those plans on environmental grounds.
"We are placing the environment at the heart of public policy - forcing public bodies to consider any environmental impact at the 'concept' stage.
"With greater public scrutiny we can better avoid the mistakes of the past that have to blighted communities and ensure that the environmental costs of decisions made today are not borne by future generations."
The Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Bill will, for example:
- expose the impact on the environment of the plantation of mass monoculture forests
- save millions of pounds on restoring contaminated land by making it less likely to become contaminated in the first place
- improve the living environment by identifying positive and negative environmental effects of development plans
The Environmental Assessment of Plans and programmes (Scotland) Regulations 2004 came into force in July to transpose EC Directive 2001/42.EC.
These regulations only apply to certain public sector plans - such as forestry, water, energy, town & country planning - likely to have significant effect on the environment.
The draft Bill will be available online later this week.