A great deal of polluted land has been inherited from past generations when little or no consideration was given to the impact of industrial activities on the environment. The contaminated land regime demonstrates the Scottish Government's commitment to assist local authorities to tackle this legacy of land contamination and associated dereliction.
A statutory regime for cleaning up contaminated land came into force in Scotland on July 14 2000. The main responsibility for enforcing the regime lies with local authorities, but there is also a major role for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) in dealing with "special sites" and pollution of controlled waters. Legislative provision for the new regime was made in the Environment Act 1995 through a new Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
The statutory regime requires sites to be prioritised to ensure those posing unacceptable risks are tackled first. It therefore provides the best solution to bringing polluted land back into productive use, especially in areas where commercial redevelopment is not likely to bring this about. The amount of contaminated and polluted land has been steadily decreasing as many high value sites have been cleaned up as part of re-development projects. Pollution from existing industrial sites is strictly controlled. The regime intends to build on this progress by providing a route for remediation of sites of low development value or where there are other barriers to redevelopment.
The regime follows the polluter-pays principle. Those responsible for the land or the polluting activity will be expected to pay for remediation wherever practical. The contaminated land regime should help to protect human health and the environment, facilitate the re-use of brownfield sites and promote the regeneration of urban areas.
Guidance on the contaminated land regime has been published.
A separate but closely related regime for radioactive contaminated land has also been established by the Radioactive Contaminated Land (Scotland) Regulations 2007. Guidance on this regime has been published.