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The inherent tensions arising from attempting to carry out strategic environmental assessments on all policies, plans and programmes

McLauchlan, Anna and Joao, Elsa (2012) The inherent tensions arising from attempting to carry out strategic environmental assessments on all policies, plans and programmes. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 36. pp. 23-33. ISSN 0195-9255

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Abstract

This paper evaluates the tensions that result from routinely applying SEA to all policies, plans and programmes within Scotland. The European Union SEA Directive, effective in many EU member states from 2004, introduced a requirement for environmental assessment of certain plans and programmes. Scotland, a devolved nation within the EU member state of the United Kingdom, aimed to be a ‘world leader in SEA’ by legislating for SEA to be undertaken of all public sector plans, programmes and strategies, with the word ‘strategies’ being equated with ‘policies’. This paper presents detailed data regarding Scottish SEA activity between 2004 and 2007, including responses to consultations on SEA reports. This empirical research found that, reflecting a general difficulty in determining where and when SEA should be applied, engagement with the SEA process was not as widespread as intended (including the pre-screening and screening stages). Eight tensions evident from Scotland's application of SEA are identified, and their broader relevance is examined.