Plans to modernise funding model for Scotland's environmental protection

date11 October 2012

Options for modernising the funding of environmental protection and improvement in Scotland are outlined in a new consultation launched today (11 October).

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The proposals are part of the wider programme to transform SEPA, Scotland's principal environmental regulator, and make sure it is best placed to tackle the environmental issues facing the country. A new funding regime is vital to the success of delivering an integrated framework for environmental protection and improvement. The consultation from SEPA and the Scottish Government looks at the options for how Scotland's environment watchdog could be funded in the future.

David Sigsworth, SEPA's Chairman, said:

A clean and healthy environment is essential to our health and well-being, as well as to sustainable economic growth. We want to work with businesses to make them more successful, and to support and encourage growth in environmental and clean technologies. We also want to make it simpler and easier to comply with environmental regulations and adopt good environmental practices, but we won't let wanton lawbreakers undermine legitimate business operations.

"To do all this, we need a new approach, access to a range of new regulatory tools, and the flexibility to apply our resources to best effect. The recent announcement of a Better Regulation Bill will help deliver these, and changes to our funding model will enable the necessary flexibility to deploy our resources where the problems are and fix them more effectively, knowing that our funding model provides for that. It will also enable us to work more effectively with businesses to help them improve their environmental performance when it is needed, which is good news for the communities in which they operate.

"We want to send a very clear message to Scotland's businesses. If you perform badly in terms of your obligations to the environment you can expect to pay more. By contrast, if you take your responsibilities seriously and demonstrate that you are reducing the environmental risk you < present, your charges will reflect that."

The model that has been used up until now has served its purpose, but the world is changing and SEPA wants to make sure it continues to be fit for purpose. Scotland needs a responsive, targeted approach to environmental protection and improvement, and needs to make sure that charges and funding associated with environmental protection will fit that approach.

SEPA is funded through a combination of Scottish Government grant and charges to businesses that are subject to environmental regulation. Funding will still come from Scottish Government for the public functions SEPA carries out, such as flooding warning systems such as Floodline. This consultation examines how businesses posing a risk to Scotland's environment, or drawing upon its natural resources, should pay their fair share for the cost of protecting it from harm.

Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Environment and Climate Change, said:

Scotland's environment is vital for so many industries, including agriculture, food and drink, including the Scotch whisky sector, as well as forestry and our increasingly important tourism sector. A good environment is integral to having a good economy, but also to sustaining biodiversity and to maintaining a good quality of life or our population.  We are proposing a fairer, simpler and more transparent approach to funding that will support SEPA in this important role. Rather than being about raising new funding for SEPA, this new approach is instead about modernising SEPA's funding model to ensure that it can deliver environmental protection as effectively as possible. This will allow SEPA to move to a risk-based charging model and focus its efforts on the sites and issues that pose the greatest risk to the environment – an approach that will deliver benefits for our environment, communities and economy. "

The proposal brings together the 14 separate and complex charging regimes that are currently in place, and creates one simpler, integrated framework. Future charges will be based on a combination of environmental risk and operator performance.

The key reason for changing the way SEPA is funded is to help maximise the benefits of the better environmental regulation approach. This will increase the organisation's ability to focus resources where environmental risks are greatest, as well as allowing it to better deal with those who put the environment at greatest risk. The consultation also proposes ways to support business sectors in improving their environmental performance. The proposal was developed after extensive research and builds on previous feedback from industry which expressed a desire for SEPA to tackle poor performers head on.

The consultation is available online and is open until 4 January 2013.

Ends

Notes to editors

  • A previous consultation set out plans for a more joined-up, flexible and targeted approach to environmental protection and improvement in Scotland and also highlighted the need to examine how SEPA's work is funded The Consultation on Proposals for an Integrated Framework of Environmental Regulation can be viewed on the Scottish Government's website at www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2012/05/6822external link