Scottish business urged to have its say on SEPA's next nine sector plans

  23 January 2019
Scottish businesses across agriculture, manufacturing and infrastructure are being urged to have their say on nine ‘sector plans’ currently out for consultation by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).
  • Scottish business urged to have its say on SEPA’s next nine sector plans.
  • Plans remain open for consultation across agriculture, manufacturing and infrastructure.
  • 16 sector plans will be launched this year in line with the regulator’s One Planet Prosperity strategy.

In response to mounting scientific evidence about climate change, environmental impact and resource scarcity, the sector plans set out a range of actions to help all regulated businesses meet – and go beyond –  their compliance obligations.

The sector plans set out how SEPA will ensure all businesses comply with environmental laws.  They also set out series of ‘beyond compliance’ goals to help organisations recognise the economic opportunity of sustainable business models by reducing the amount of materials, energy and water used across the sectors, promote innovation and reduce overall impact.

“We are transforming our regulatory approach in order to create a world-class environment protection agency fit for the challenges of tomorrow, and sector planning will drive this new approach. Our regulatory delivery will shift from working in the different regulatory regimes to being grounded in working across whole sectors,” says SEPA Chief Executive Terry A’Hearn.

“Full compliance with environmental regulations will not, by itself deliver the transformational change required to secure our One Planet Prosperity objectives,” Mr A’Hearn adds. “Our sector plans need to unlock the potential for businesses to gain strengths in resource efficiency and environmental innovation that will help them to succeed in their markets.”

The nine plans, which opened for consultation on 21st December and close on 15th February are:

  • Chemicals manufacturing
  • Crop production
  • Dairy processing
  • Dairy production
  • Housing
  • Leather
  • Nuclear power generation and decommissioning
  • Strategic infrastructure (transport and utilities)
  • Water supply and waste water

Getting feedback from our communities, partners and stakeholders is important and your feedback is critical to the success of our sector planning approach. Everyone with an interest in the environment and involved in these sectors is encouraged to visit our dedicated sector webpage,

Dairy and crops

Dairy production is an important sector for Scotland and dairy processing turns Scottish farm produce into products that are sold in domestic and export markets. Alongside crops, these sector plans focus on the agricultural and land management community and their supply chains.

Tackling the compliance issues across the sectors, the key areas being diffuse pollution, the plans set out a series of actions which SEPA will progress including understanding the causes pathways of diffuse pollution and applying increasing scrutiny, prescription, fees and the use of enforcement and monetary penalties for those who fail to comply.

Opportunities for beyond compliance activities that would benefit the sectors and the environment will also be realised through implanting the plans and SEPA working with the sector to use improved technologies that increase precision and drive efficiencies and sharing best practice and techniques by working with partners and industry bodies to develop guidance and facilitate stakeholder engagement.

Strategic infrastructure, housing, water and nuclear

These plans will support a Scotland that is well connected, resilient and successful. Encouraging investment in innovation that leads to modern infrastructure a strong economy is built on while ensuring that development is compliant with environmental legislation. With around 80% of Scotland’s current housing stock planned to be in use by 2050, delivering home improvements which use materials sourced from a responsible supply chain and which improve environmental performance will be key.

Across the strategic infrastructure (transport and utilities), housing, water supply and waste water the management of waste is a common area of non-compliance and this plan sets out how SEPA will tackle this, and other compliance issues. The agency recognises that to achieve beyond compliance behaviour success will come from working closely with the other regulators and agencies in these sectors and harnessing the influence it has in the boardroom as well as day to day regulation.

SEPA regulates the nuclear power generation and decommissioning sector for its radioactive substances activities involving the management of radioactive waste. Nuclear power continues to play a key role in providing low-carbon energy. The sector has a good record of compliance across all the regimes SEPA regulates it under, and in 2017 achieved 100% compliance. SEPA commits in the plan to continue to have experienced staff to continue to regulate the sector and support continued high levels of compliance.


The chemicals manufacturing plans focuses on chemical and biochemical manufacturing in Scotland, from base chemical manufacture to the formulation and packaging of final products. The operation and development of chemicals manufacturing sites within larger industrial complexes, close to communities, needs to be managed so as not to harm those communities. Key issues contributing to non-compliance in 2017 were due to noise issues associated with unplanned flaring events, and associated operation and maintenance of plant due to noise and vibration issues.

Although the sector is broadly compliant, due to the nature of operations, potential impacts of any compliance issues are significant. SEPA is determined to assist the Scottish chemicals manufacturing sector to be a world-leader in producing products that serve the needs of society in ways that further drive down environment impact that also negatively impacts the communities around sites.

The leather plan also focuses on the manufacturing sector of our economy and builds innovative processes that the Scottish leather sector has already developed. It aims to improve environmental performance throughout the supply chain. Through investment activities, the sector has almost achieved excellent at all sites so the sector plan focused on unlocking beyond compliance behaviours that will realise the benefits of the circular economy and low resource use,

Beyond compliance will be sought through the use of materials, transport, energy, air quality, water use and social responsibility.


Sector plans

SEPA is changing today, creating a world-class environment protection agency fit for the challenges of tomorrow. By moving away from the traditional site by site regulation to grounding our regulation and activities across whole sectors, we will shape our interactions with every sector and the businesses in them.

Sector plans will be at the heart of everything we do and will help regulated businesses operate successfully within the means of one planet. In every sector we regulate, we will have two simple aims.

We will ensure that:

  • every regulated business fully meets their compliance obligations
  • as many regulated businesses as possible will go beyond the compliance standards.

Scotch Whisky was one of three sector plans consulted on in 2018 and is the first to be launched. A draft sector plan for tyres and oil and gas decommissioning will also soon be launched for consultation.

SEPA has launched a new, dedicated space on its website for sector plans